Kenya has permitted two aircraft to fly to Somaliland to deliver electoral material in spite of a ban on air traffic with Somalia.
A diplomatic clearance MFA/PRO.91/002 (052) on Thursday said two aeroplanes operated by Astral Aviation will be allowed to deliver the material from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi through Djibouti and to the Somaliland capital Hargeisa.
A MacDonnell Douglas DCC-9F and a Boeing B727-727F, both registered in Kenya, will deliver the cargo between May 13 and 15 with a possibility of extension should there be delays.
“Kindly note that the clearance is granted with a 72-hour window to cater for any delays,” the note from Kenya’s Foreign Ministry to the Somaliland Liason Office said on Thursday.
Somaliland is a breakaway region of Somalia, which is currently lobbying for international recognition, a move that has escalated tensions with Mogadishu.
The region is due to hold local and parliamentary elections on May 31 in a further signal of its growing democracy, while Somalia faces a deep political stand-off, with parties failing to agree on when to conduct elections, three months since the expiry of President Mohamed Farmaajo’s four-year term.
Mogadishu has sustained a diplomatic tiff with Kenya, accusing Nairobi of interference in Somalia’s internal affairs, charges Kenya denies. Last week, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority suspended flights between Kenya and Somalia for three months, with the exception of medical evacuation and humanitarian deliveries.
The decision means all chartered and scheduled flights to Somalia are suspended. However, flights from Somalia, passing through the Kenyan airspace to other destinations are exempted.
The move, Business Daily learnt, came after Somalia grounded two aircraft owned by Kenyan firm Bluebird Aviation which the Somali Civil Aviation Authority accused of delivering miraa from Kenya despite an existing ban.
But Kenya rejected the decision, arguing the operator flew into Somalia after Mogadishu restored diplomatic ties it had cut in December, and only clarified the ban was still on days after the aircraft had landed.
Nairobi’s move on Thursday could likely anger Somalia more, even though the flights are scheduled to avoid the Somali airspace. Kenya has been trying to build ties with Somaliland, which considers itself independent of Somalia.
In December, President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted Somaliland leader Muse Bihi Abdi where they declared an "unwavering commitment to deepen the cordial bilateral relations.”
“During their discussions, the leaders focused their attention on the expansion of bilateral trade, enhancing collaboration in air transport including enabling direct flights between Nairobi and Hargeisa, as well as cooperating in Agriculture, Livestock Development, Education, Energy and cooperation between the ports of Mombasa and Berbera,” a dispatch said on December 15, 2020.
Somalia cut ties with Kenya on the same day, although President Bihi has also visited Ethiopia and Djibouti.