SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 25 June 2021, Friday |

Kenya suspends Somalia flights for three months

Kenya has suspended flights to Somalia just days after its neighbour said diplomatic ties between the two countries had been normalised following months of tension.

On Tuesday, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) said, without giving a reason, that commercial flights to and from Somalia would be paused for three months.

“All flights between Kenya and Somalia are suspended except medevac [medical evacuation] flights and United Nations flights on humanitarian missions only,” the regulator said.

KCAA director general Gilbert Kibe told AFP news agency the suspension was “a decision by the government”.

The directive appeared to catch some Somali aviation officials and travel agents by surprise.

“We had not been given a prior notice, and there’s been no explanation about the reason so far,” an airport tower operator in Mogadishu told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The suspension comes a day after Somalia said shipments of khat – a narcotic leaf – from Kenya remained on hold.

Restoration of ties

Somalia announced last week that bilateral ties with Kenya had been restored, citing “the interests of good neighbourliness” as motivating its decision.

Nairobi said it took note of the statement and was looking forward “to further normalisation of relations by the Somali authorities”.

In December, Mogadishu cut off diplomatic relations after Nairobi hosted the political leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by Somalia’s central government.

Somalia has long bristled over what it calls Kenya’s meddling in regions over its border, while Nairobi has accused Mogadishu of using it as a scapegoat for its own political problems.

The two countries have also engaged in a long-running territorial dispute over a stretch of the Indian Ocean, claimed by both nations, believed to hold valuable deposits of oil and gas, and have sought international arbitration over the matter.