Miraa business in jeopardy as Kenya-Somalia diplomatic relations worsens

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Just days after Somalia announced that her diplomatic relations with Kenya had resumed, the bad blood between the two neighbors seem not to be ending any time soon.

Somalia had restored diplomatic relations with Kenya on Thursday after five months following mediation by Qatar led by Emir Sheikh Tamim Al Thani.

Somalia’s Ministry of Information said they were resuming the relations “in keeping with the interests of good neighbourliness”.

Acknowledging the development, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs ministry said it looks forward to further normalisation of relations by the Somali authorities.

However, Kenya on Monday suspended flights from Somalia in the latest show that relations between the two sides have not thawed as announced.

A Notice to Airmen (Notam) on Monday indicated that flights departing for or arriving from Somalia will not be allowed for three months from May 11 to August 9 this year. Only humanitarian deliveries and medical evacuation flights will be allowed into the country, according to a notice by the aviation regulator, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA).

The Authority did not elaborate on reasons but suggested there had been a security directive from the government to restrict air traffic between the two countries. The decision means all chartered and scheduled flights to Somalia will not be allowed.

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However, flights from Somalia passing through the Kenyan airspace to another destination will be exempted. The announcement was made just as Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmaajo was flying over Kenya to Uganda for the inauguration of President Yoweri Museveni for the fifth term.

The Somali government in its response on Tuesday regretted the decision by Kenya to suspend commercial flights to and from Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

Somali Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Duran Farah said the decision by Nairobi will jeopardize the recently restored diplomatic relations between the two neighboring countries.

Speaking to Radio Mogadishu, Farah said that there was no direct communication between Mogadishu and Nairobi on the latter’s decision to suspend all chartered and scheduled flights to and from Somalia.

According to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), only medical and humanitarian flights will be allowed.

The Somali minister said that the government will state its position on Kenya’s suspension of all commercial flights at an appropriate time.

Ban on Miraa

Kenya’s decision came a day after Somalia announced Sunday it would continue the ban on imports of Miraa/khat, a traditional herbal stimulant, from Kenya despite a resumption of diplomatic ties.

Somali Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) said in a statement to all operators that the government’s ban on stimulant drugs was still in force.

Tonnes of Miraa wasted

Soon after Somalia announced that her diplomatic relations with Kenya had been restored, Miraa farmers were asked to deliver Sh5 million worth of the produce that was rushed to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) where a supposed cargo plane was waiting.

Nyambene Miraa Farmers and Traders Association (Nyamita) chairman Kimathi Munjuri who spoke to a local daily on Tuesday said 20 tonnes of the produce went to waste.

“Though we blame brokers for rushing the cargo to the airport before we were consulted, our farmers and transporters suffered major losses,” Munjuri was quoted by the local daily.

The association’s coordinator Miriti Ngozi and organising secretary Dan Kiili questioned the essence of restoring diplomatic relations if the two countries are not allowing normal, legal trade to resume.

According to a Kenya Civil Aviation Authority report issued on May 11, all flights between Kenya and Somalia are suspended except Medevac flights and United Nations flights on a humanitarian mission.

Severing of relations

Somalia is amidst a political standoff over elections, which were said to have led to the severing of relations on December 15, 2020.

Mogadishu cited interference in its domestic politics, claims Nairobi denied. There have also been issues over the maritime dispute that is at the ICJ.

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A week after the severing of ties, presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Mohamed Farmaajo met in Djibouti for the 38th Igad Extra-ordinary Summit where the matter was discussed. A team was formed to look into the allegations.

In a report in January, the team reported there was no evidence to confirm Kenya’s interference.

Late April, Somalia further accused Kenya and Djibouti of interference through their AU Peace and Security Council membership.

This was after AU chairman and DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, on Farmaajo’s request, asked the Peace and Security Council to look into the matter

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