Somalia has allowed the resumption of miraa exports from Kenya and permitted Kenya Airways to start scheduled flights to Mogadishu in the latest sign of improving ties between the two neighbouring countries.
The decision was made during the second meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Somali counterpart Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, this time in Nairobi. The two had met last month during the inauguration of Mr Mohamud in Mogadishu after he won the presidential polls in May.
And on his first visit to Kenya since he took the mantle, he told a press conference he was ready to “repair” relations with Kenya based on mutual respect and to be able to tackle common challenges. They agreed to reopen their land border, which was closed more than ten years ago but remains porous with terrorists moving between their territories.
“There is a lot to bring us together than to divide us,” President Mohamud said in a joint press briefing with Mr Kenyatta. “The common challenges we have are not limited to terrorism or droughts. We have a lot more challenges.”
A joint communique between Kenya and Somali delegations had earlier indicated miraa exports from Kenya and fish imports from Somalia will resume “with immediate effect.”
They “agreed to facilitate, diversify and promote trade and economic cooperation between the two countries….and directed the immediate market access of fish and fish products from Somalia to Kenya and vice versa and the resumption of trade in khat (miraa) from Kenya to Somalia, to resume with immediate effect.”
The dispatch said Kenya Airways flight schedules “will resume immediately based on existing bilateral air services agreement (Basa). The Basa will be reviewed by relevant authorities.”
The Kenyan national carrier’s approval to fly to Mogadishu had been pending for years, and Somalia initially pulled a plug in protest to Nairobi’s strict aviation rules that required stopovers in Wajir, in northeastern Kenya, for security checks. The matter was not helped after relations worsened during the administration of President Mohamed Farmaajo, who at one point cut diplomatic ties with Kenya before resuming them last year in July. Farmaajo lost to Mohamud in May.
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Yet Mohamud’s trip was also significant because he was the leader in power when Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice back in 2014. The case was determined last year, largely in favour of Somalia. Kenya had said it would not obey the decision.
But the two countries have now reactivated their diplomatic channels, and it is expected they would discuss the verdict's implementation, one of the likely first foreign policy tasks of whoever replaces President Kenyatta after the August 9 general elections.
On Friday, the two sides agreed to give courtesy visas to holders of diplomatic passports, as well as letters from their respective ministries of Foreign Affairs. They will be issued free of charge on arrival. Other holders of service passports will receive free visas but must apply online before arrival alongside letters from the ministries of Foreign Affairs.
However, ordinary passport holders will apply for visas and have them processed within 10 working days. They also agreed to iron out all their diplomatic issues through a common organ known as the Joint Commission on Cooperation.