Kenya announced today Tuesday May 11th, 2021, that flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu had been suspended, just days after Somalia said diplomatic ties with its neighbor had been normalized following months of tension.
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.
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.
“All flights between Kenya and Somalia are suspended expect medevac flights and United Nations flights on humanitarian missions only,” the regulator said.
KCAA director general Gilbert Kibe said the suspension was “a decision by the government” but gave no further details. The directive appeared 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 the media.
The suspension comes a day after Somalia said shipments of khat (miraa) from Kenya remained on hold. Khat is a narcotic leaf popular in Somalia. Last week that bilateral tie between Somalia and Kenya was restored, citing “the interests of good neighborliness” as motivating its decision.
The pair has been engaging in a long-running territorial dispute over security, political unrest and 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.