Why Nairobi-Mogadishu direct flights are yet to take off


Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The aviation regulator is yet to provide approval for resumption of direct flights between Kenya and Somalia following the recent meeting between the heads of state of the two countries.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has not issued Notice to the airmen ((Notam), which will set off direct flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu.

KCAA said they will issue the Notam soon after they get some clarification.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Somalia counterpart Mohamed Farmajo agreed last week to restore relations after months of frosty affair between the two nations.

“We have not yet issued the Notam but we will do that soon after getting some clarification,” said KCAA Director General Gilbert Kibe.

Kenya had in May suspended direct flights from Somalia's capital Mogadishu to Nairobi for security reasons but Somalia argued that the measure could have been politically instigated. The move required all the flights from Somalia to first land in Wajir before proceeding to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Mr Kibe had in May said the suspension would last until August 9 when a review would be carried out and a decision made on whether to maintain or lift it.

However, that was not done. But the recent meeting by the two heads of state in Nairobi opened the window for resumption of direct flights between the two countries.

Kenya and Somalia are currently engaged in a row over maritime border on the Indian Ocean coast. The case has ended up at the International Court of Justice.

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, the agreement was honoured in December of the same year.

Freight carriers plying Nairobi–Mogadishu route were hit by the new directive to have all airlines make a stopover in Wajir, saying the move added Sh1 million dent in their operating cost.

The operators, who were previously exempted from the stopover, are now required to make a security stop following a notice issued by KCAA.

Air freight cost had dropped by at least 15 percent between Mogadishu and Nairobi in 2018 following the resumption of direct flights to Somalia in 2017.