Kenya suspends flights to and from Somalia for three months


Wilson Airport in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya on Monday suspended flights to and from Somalia in the latest show that relations between the two countries have not thawed as announced last week.

In a Notice to Airmen (Notam), the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) said flights departing for or arriving from Somalia will not be allowed for three months.

Only humanitarian deliveries and medical evacuation flights will be allowed into the country, the aviation regulator said.

The authority did not elaborate on the 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 are suspended. However, flights from Somalia, passing through the Kenyan airspace to other destinations are exempted. 

The announcement was made just as Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmaajo was overflying Kenya on his way to Uganda to attend the inauguration of President Yoweri Museveni.

Also exempted are military flights which are not within the jurisdiction of the KCAA.

The move dents the latest efforts to revive relations between the two countries. Last week, Qatari special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani helped broker resumptions of relations after Mogadishu announced it was reopening the diplomatic channels it had shut down in December, protesting against Kenya’s alleged interference.

Somali officials clarified the resumed relations will not involve lifting the ban on miraa trade nor discussions about the maritime boundary dispute now before the International Court of Justice and awaiting a verdict.

Somalia, however, has not indicated when its ambassador will resume. Mr Mohamud Nur Tarsan was recalled to Mogadishu and Kenya’s Lucas Tumbo returned to Nairobi after Mogadishu cut ties in December.  Nairobi, however, did not sever the ties.

This isn’t the first time either Nairobi or Mogadishu is suspending flights. Right after the fall of Siad Barre’s regime in 1991, Kenya’s then president Daniel Moi suspended flights and closed borders. A petition from humanitarian agencies, however, allowed a special corridor for aid deliveries.

In later years, Kenya had restricted flight arrivals from Somalia to first land in Wajir for security checks before proceeding to any other airport. A discussion between the two sides saw the move lifted in 2019, after Mogadishu agreed to intensify security checks for its departing passengers.

A few months later, Somalia banned flights carrying miraa into Somalia from Kenya, and restricted all other flights to land in Mogadishu before going to any other port. Most of this directive was, however, ignored by the rebellious federal states.