Kenya and Somalia have agreed to restore bilateral agreements that would allow free movement of people, a move that signals a possible thaw in relations.
At a meeting in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Somali counterpart Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo said they were defending the relations between the two countries, regardless of an existing maritime boundary case at the International Court of Justice.
The development will see Mogadishu and Nairobi restore visas on arrival for their nationals and that aviation authorities will work to restore direct flights between cities.
“The two principals agreed to bring normality to our bilateral relations and do everything to ensure peaceful relations including obtaining visas on arrival to encourage free movement of our people,” Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary said after the meeting in Nairobi.
“President Farmaajo expressed gratitude for the role of Kenya in Amisom, hospitality to Somalis refugees, and expressed his confidence that the ICJ issue would be resolved in a mutually acceptable manner and not affect our bilateral relations,” the statement added.
“We have a lot of things in common, our people to people, governmnet to government, and trade which is mutually beneficial...that's why ICJ issue would not affect our bilateral relationship,” Farmaajo said during a press conference.
Farmaajo had been attending the three-day International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).
It was Farmaajo's first visit since March when an attempted mediation by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed failed.
It also followed an escalation of tit-for-tat decisions by both sides directly linked to the maritime case.
Somalia sued Kenya at the ICJ in 2014, seeking to have the maritime border redrawn in an area about 100,000km square of sea said to contain hydrocarbons reserves.
The case is due for public hearing in June next year, after the ICJ delayed it twice, on Kenyan request.
In the meantime, Nairobi had been asking for an out of court settlement, something Mogadishu has refused to agree asserting that only the ICJ will be the ultimate arbiter.
Currently, Kenyans or Somalis travelling to either side are required to obtain a visa from local diplomatic missions before travelling.
The initial agreement was suspended abruptly as the heat on the maritime case rose.
On flights restriction Nairobi and Mogadishu argued the decision was for security reasons.