Kenya has warned foreign diplomatic missions including the United Nations that they risk being stopped from flying into and out of Somalia from Nairobi.
This is as the Nation learnt that a high powered delegation from Mogadishu will be arriving in Nairobi sometime this week in an attempt to restore diplomatic relations that have been on a free fall for years.
Ahead of the visit, however, Nairobi has realised that diplomatic flights are being used to fly political figures between the countries in contravention of an existing ban on flights.
More on this: Kenya suspends flights to and from Somalia in fresh row
Also read: Kenya allows two flights to Somaliland despite ban
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) stopped flights between Kenya and Somalia for three months two weeks ago.
The reason for closing the airspace has never been given but it appears that a refusal by Somalia to allow the resumption of commercial and cargo flights, even after the announcement of a ceasefire in early May, could have been the trigger.
Humanitarian and military flights were, however, exempted from the ban through a Notice of Airmen (NOTAM) as they don’t fall under the jurisdiction of KCAA.
Full lockdown possible
It appears, from a letter seen by the Nation, that political leaders from Somalia are still getting access to Kenya through humanitarian flights.
“The ministry regrets to inform you that it has noticed the misuse of humanitarian flights for bilateral and political matters contrary to the NOTAM and notice to foreign missions that air communication between Somalia and Kenya had been stood down,” says a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to all missions.
“The ministry reiterates that humanitarian flights must strictly be used for humanitarian purposes to avoid a possible declaration by the government of Kenya on a full lockdown of flights,” says the letter sent on May 27.
Read: Somalia restores diplomatic ties with Kenya
Also read: Suluhu visit to Kenya, Somalia action improve ties
Somalia and Kenya temporarily restored diplomatic relations on May 6 following intervention by Qatar.
Qatari special envoy Mutlaq Bin Majed Al Qahtani even flew to Nairobi and met President Uhuru Kenyatta in an effort to broker peace. His efforts now seem to have gone up in smoke as Nairobi and Mogadishu have gone back to their previous grandstanding against each other.
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On the receiving end are businessmen and Somali refugees residing in Kenya whose fate has been in limbo for the last few years.
More on this: Kenya to close Kakuma, Dadaab refugee camps by June 2022
Also read: Ethiopian doctor who fled Tigray faces deportation from Kenya
The threat by Kenya to stop humanitarian flights from Nairobi to Somalia came as the UN welcomed an agreement by the Mogadishu leadership to finally hold elections.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged all political stakeholders to implement an agreement made last week, saying “It is a critical step towards the holding of a consensual and transparent electoral process without delays”.
He also reiterated the importance of dialogue and consensus to resolve any issues that may arise, while calling for the quick establishment of a credible body to handle the upcoming election.