Kenya has suspended direct flights from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu to Nairobi for security reasons but Somalia has asked for reconsideration, saying the decision was politically motivated.
The BBC reported on Friday that the flights had been suspended and that planes will now land in Wajir for security checks.
Kenya’s Interior ministry was not immediately available for comment on the matter but Captain Gilbert Kibe, Director-General of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, told the Nation that the decision was “purely for security reasons”.
On phone on Saturday, he said the suspension will last until August 9 when a review will be carried out and a decision made on whether to maintain or lift it.
In a statement on Friday, however, Somalia’s Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation asked Kenya to reconsider the decision, saying it was bad for their strong relations.
Somalia said it was “deeply concerned” by the move and regretted that Kenya was being “unneighbourly”; it said the move was against “our tenets of good neighbourliness and strong relations”.
“The Federal Government of Somalia believes this action places undue burden on Somali citizens and other travellers,” the statement said.
“This act also creates [an] unnecessary barrier on trade and movement of people between the two countries.”
Somalia said it asked Kenya to reconsider the decision in line with its mandate to “protect and safeguard its sovereignty and the dignity and wellbeing of its citizens”.
“The FGS will, in the meantime, work with all relevant authorities to resolve this issue and take appropriate action as deemed necessary,” the statement said.
In 2006, Kenya imposed a strict security policy requiring flights from Mogadishu to land in Wajir for security checks before heading to any other part of the country.
The idea, Kenya argued, would ensure the safety of passengers and cargo, as Al-Shabaab militants had taken control of vast areas of the country.
In September 2016, Kenya and Somalia signed an agreement to lift the ban, after both sides certified security arrangements for departing flights at Aden Abdille International Airport, formerly known as Mogadishu International Airport.
Kenya took about four months to implement the agreement signed that year.
It turned out that Kenya signed the deal to protect the miraa business – at the time, Somalia had threatened to ban the sale of miraa from Kenya.
The then Meru Governor Peter Munya, who is now Trade Cabinet Secretary, travelled to the breakaway region of Somaliland and offered to influence its recognition if it assured miraa sales.
Kenya and Somalia were recently engaged in a row over their border – an Indian Ocean maritime territorial dispute escalated with claims that Mogadishu auctioned oil and gas blocks in a contested area.
As a result, the Kenyan government asked Somali ambassador Mohamoud Ahmed Nur alias Tarzan to return to his country for consultations and summoned its own envoy to Somalia, Lt-Gen (Rtd) Lucas Tumbo.
In March, a search for an out-of-court solution hit a snag, paving the way for a legal battle at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Nairobi therefore put together final touches on papers for the case which will begin in September in The Hague.
In 2016, Kenya failed to convince the ICJ that it was not within its jurisdiction to determine the matter.