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Nairobi-Mogadishu direct flights delayed week after Uhuru's order

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi

NAIROBI- A week after an executive order by President Uhuru Kenyatta for immediate resumption of Nairobi-Mogadishu direct flights, status quo seems to be reigning after all.

Uhuru, who held a joint press conference with his Somalia counterpart Mohamed Abdullahi, agreed to lift suspension imposed on Nairobi-Mogadishu direct flights as part of 'normalising' bilateral relations.

He ordered Kenya Airports Authority to immediately effect his order, almost six months after suspension of the flights which Somalia termed 'political'.

"We have also discussed flight issues from Mogadishu into Nairobi. Currently they go through Wajir. We have agreed that within a week, authorities should put measures to ensure we have direct flights from Mogadishu to Nairobi," he had said.

But the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has not issued Notice to the airmen ((Notam), which will set off direct flights between the two cities, a week later.

According to KCAA Director General Gilbert Kibe, his team is seeking 'clarification' before issuing 'Notice to airmen' as required by the Kenyan law.

“We have not yet issued the Notam but we will do that soon after getting some clarification,” Kibe told reporters on Wednesday in Nairobi.

Currently, all aircrafts destined to either of the cities must be first cleared at Wajir airport in what Kenya had insisted was part of elaborate security measures.

But Mogadishu had linked the ban to Indian Ocean maritime dispute with Kenya, a case which is currently before International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Last week's meeting between Uhuru and Abdullahi resolved to issue Somalis visas at the airport upon arrival, a swift divergence from bureaucractic procedures that required them to process then in Kenyan embassy.

"Our brothers and sisters from Somalia will be able to obtain visas at the airport when they arrive. No more referral visas. We want to encourage our people to do business and visit their friends and families," Kenyatta added.

The indirect sanctions were slapped on Mogadishu following reports that the Federal Goverment had auctioned disputed Indian Ocean oil deposits to a London-based company.

In response to lifting of the sanctions, President Mohamed Abdullahi hailed Kenya for hosting thousands of Somalis, many of whom are renowned entrepreneurs.

The Federal Goverment leader said restoration of direct flights to Mogadishu from Nairobi will boost trade and business between the two nations by substantially reducing time spent in security checks.

"We appreciate for restoration of direct flights to Nairobi and issuance of visas at the airport. We have a lot of things in common that revolves around business, trade and family ties," Farmajo said.

Delaying of implementation of Uhuru's orders would further subject aircraft operators to continued loss emanating from extra expenses incurred in Wajir stopover.

The diplomatic ties between Nairobi and Mogadishu further deteriorated in October this year when an aircraft landed at Kismayo Airport without going through routine security check at Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu.

Somali reported Kenya at International Civil Aviations for 'violating' her airspace. Federal Goverment had banned direct flights to Kismayo due to squabbles with Jubaland President Ahmed Madobe, a key ally of Kenya.

The reinstatement of direct flights could be the beginning of solving sea row dispute currently at the International Court of Justice even though Somalia maintains that it's 'okay with court process'.


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