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Kenya, Somali tiff escalates as ministry threatens to ban humanitarian flights

Kenya is threatening to ban the operation of flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu should the UN and other international organisations fail to use flights between the two nations for the humanitarian purposes only.

In a statement seen by The Standard on May 31, 2021, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned the UN agencies and other international bodies against using their humanitarian flights to transport passengers and other banned items.

“The ministry has noticed the misuse of the humanitarian flights for bilateral and political matters contrary to the May 11, NOTAM filed by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA),” read the statement.

The ministry said it will now clear all passengers and goods transported by the UN agencies and other international bodies before they leave Nairobi for Somalia.

“For humanitarian flights, UN bodies and other agencies must furnish the ministry with a list of passengers and goods to be transported to Somalia for clearance,” said the ministry.

According to the NOTAM, Kenya banned all commercial and cargo flights to and from Somalia except for United Nations Humanitarian Air Service relief flights, medevac flights, and humanitarian missions.

Airlines that were affected by the suspension include African Express Airways (XU, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta), Freedom Airline Express (4F, Nairobi Wilson), Jubba Airways (Kenya), Ocean Airlines (Somalia) (Mogadishu) and cargo carriers Astral Aviation (8V, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta), Skyward Express (OW, Nairobi Wilson) and Safe Air (K3, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta).

Somalia on May 6 announced it was restoring diplomatic ties with Kenya after it severed relations in December, accusing Nairobi of meddling in its affairs.

“The Federal Government of Somalia announces that in keeping with the interests of good neighbourliness, it has resumed diplomatic relations with the Republic of Kenya,” the Ministry of Information said in a statement on May 6.

After the announcement, Nairobi pledged to normalise its relations with Mogadishu but never did with the flight ban coming a week after.

Somalia cut ties on December 15 after Kenya hosted the leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by the central government in Mogadishu.

Mogadishu has accused Kenya of meddling in its internal affair, while Nairobi has maintained that Mogadishu is using it as a scapegoat for its own political problems.

In November, Somalia expelled Kenya’s ambassador and recalled its own from Nairobi after accusing Kenya of interfering in the electoral process in Jubbaland.

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