The continued closure of the miraa market in Somalia has hurt thousands of people financially, Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi has said.
According to Kiraitu, export restrictions to the high-value market have wreaked havoc on the livelihoods of nearly 700,000 Igembe residents, and thousands who depend on the crop in Meru and other areas.
Speaking when he held talks with a 100-member ad-hoc committee working on issues affecting the crop, Kiraitu said Kenya has started negotiations with the Somali Government.
"We understand there is a diplomatic hitch. There are allegations by Somalia officials that the Kenya Government is interfering with elections in Somalia. We have talked with our government officials and they are surprised by those allegations. They said they have not interfered in any way with the elections. We are waiting for the issue to be resolved diplomatically,” he said.
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Kiraitu expressed optimism that the dispute will be resolved amicably. "We firmly believe that this market will be finally opened. This is just a small pothole on our journey. We are going to get there."
Meru leaders had met Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i on November 1 to discuss when Somalia would allow miraa imports. A 14-day target that was agreed on was complicated by the diplomatic spat.
Deputy Governor Titus Ntuchiu said they had made progress following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s intervention.
“The whole of Meru is affected. Income from miraa sustains many and supports the local economy. Many cannot raise fees and buy food,” Ntuchiu said.