NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 10- Kenya re-opened its airspace to Somalia flights Thursday following closure in May.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the move was geared towards pursuing the full normalization of bilateral relations of both countries, which were severed when Mogadishu recalled its envoy in Nairobi and sent away Kenya’s.
“The Government of Kenya has taken due consideration of intercessions made and has decided to re-open Kenya’s airspace to all flights originating from Somalia and emanating from Kenya to Somalia,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
The COVID-19 protocols will however remain in place for all passengers traveling to and from Somalia, as is the case to other countries.
This includes the requirement for all passengers to have a valid COVID-19 certificate indicating they are negative and conducted within 96 hours prior to travel.
“All travelers below the age of 5 years will be exempted from COVID-19 negative PCR test to enter Kenya,” MFA said.
Kenya suspended flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu on May 11, just days after Somalia said diplomatic ties with its neighbour had been normalised following months of tension.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) said at the time that commercial flights to and from Somalia would be paused for three months, without giving a reason.
“All flights between Kenya and Somalia are suspended expect medevac flights and United Nations flights on humanitarian missions only,” the regulator said.
The directive appeared to catch some Somali aviation officials and travel agents by surprise.
“We had not been given a prior notice, and there’s been no explanation about the reason so far,” an airport tower operator in Mogadishu told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The suspension followed the suspension of Somalia shipments of khat from Kenya. Khat is a narcotic leaf popular in Somalia and imported from Kenya.
Somalia announced last week that bilateral ties with Kenya had been restored, citing “the interests of good neighbourliness” as motivating its decision.
Mogadishu cut off diplomatic relations in December after Nairobi hosted the political leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognised by Somalia‘s central government.
Somalia has long bristled over what it calls Kenya‘s meddling in regions over its border, while Nairobi has accused Mogadishu of using it as a scapegoat for its own political problems.
The pair have also engaged in a long-running territorial dispute over a stretch of the Indian Ocean claimed by both nations believed to hold valuable deposits of oil and gas, and have sought international arbitration over the matter.