Kenya has put in place security measures to pave the way for flights from Mogadishu to land in Nairobi, the Ministry of Transport has said.
Transport secretary James Macharia said yesterday that Nairobi was ready for the resumption of direct flights from the Somalia capital, ending an eleven-year ban in line with a directive from President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“Direct flights from Mogadishu to Nairobi are scheduled to start tomorrow (today) as we have put in place adequate security measures to ensure the safety of our country,” said Mr Macharia.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) said that it had lifted the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) requiring aircraft coming from Mogadishu to come via Wajir.
“We have lifted Notam for direct flights between the two cities starting tomorrow even as we continue to assess the situation and put appropriate measure in place for direct flights,” said KCAA director general Gilbert Kibe.
Kenya in 2006 introduced a stopover in Wajir for all flights coming to Nairobi from Mogadishu. However, President Kenyatta last week said that the Wajir stopover would be removed within two weeks.
“I have directed security teams from both countries to meet immediately and agree on modalities of re-launching direct flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu within two weeks,” said Mr Kenyatta.
Mr Kenyatta was speaking following a meeting with his counterpart, Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo”, in Nairobi.
Kenya has long argued that the stopover in Wajir acts as a buffer against security threats posed by the Al- Shabaab terror group in Somalia.
The challenge facing authorities implementing the directive was the need to balance security and convenience. Mr Macharia said additional security measures had already been introduced in Mogadishu.
The reintroduction of direct flights from Mogadishu to Nairobi is expected to reduce the inconveniences faced by travellers between the two countries.
While direct flights from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to Mogadishu take about one hour and 20 minutes, the return leg takes nearly two- and- half hours, with the screening stretching it by an hour. Passengers stand to benefit the most due if the delays are cut. Although Kenya does not import as much as it exports to Somalia, cargo handlers and non-governmental organisations also expect benefits from the reintroduction of direct flights.
“It is good news for the aid and relief sector as it allows for easy movement of people and cargo in the NGO sector as it gives shorter cargo transit times,” said Siginon Group commercial manager, Jack Mwaura.
Kenya in 2015 exported Sh15 billion worth of goods to Somalia mostly perishable products such as meat and horticulture. On the other hand, Somalia’s exports to Kenya were not significant enough to be registered in the 2016 Economic Survey.
The reintroduction of direct flights would also serve to better diplomatic relations between the two countries. Somalia has been pushing for the direct flights in vain. Last month, Mogadishu claimed that Kenya had promised to allow direct flights by December 13, 2016. “Somalia and Kenya had an agreement to ease these restrictions because both airports in Nairobi and Mogadishu can handle security checks before anyone can board,” an official said last month.