By Nep Journal Correspondent:
The Somali government has announced it has suspended all Khat flights from Kenya to Somalia.
Minister of Civil Aviation, Ali Ahmed Jangali, said the government has decided to suspend temporarily all Khat exports to Somalia from Tuesday, September 6, 2016 but gave no further details.
Analysts however attribute the temporary ban to security measures Somalia was putting in place ahead of the IGAD summit expected to be held in Mogadishu on 10th of September.
Khat, a stimulant Somalia mainly imports from Kenya and Ethiopia is a trade worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Somalia is the largest market for Kenyan stimulant plant largely chewed by Somalis and Arabs after several European states banned the export years ago.
More than 16 planes carrying miraa enter Somalia every day.
The move by Somali government is a big blow to Kenyan farmers who are already struggling to retain the market.
“While considering special circumstances, Somali Civil Aviation and Meterorology Authority on behalf of the Federal Republic of Somalia is hereby informing all miraa cargo operators and any one it may concern that Mira cargo flights and its operations into Somalia have been cancelled effective September 6, 2016 until further notice” reads a notice by the Somali aviation body dated September 4.
But in a quick rejoinder, self-rule seeking Somaliland has distanced itself from the directive saying its airports were open for Khat business disregarding the announcement by the federal government of Somalia.
Somaliland’s Minister of Aviation has said that the decision from the federal government in Mogadishu has nothing to do with Somaliland airports.
Peter Munya, Governor of Kenya’s Meru County where the stimulant is largely grown recently visited Hargeisa in a bid to urge Somaliland increase Miraa imports from Kenya.
Munya called for recognition of the breakaway Somali region by his country in exchange for the increased miraa trade. There was however no official response from Kenya to his request.
Somaliland’s miraa market is dominated by the Ethiopian grown miraa.
The latest announcement is set to trigger diplomatic row between Somalia and Kenya given the fact that President Uhuru Kenyatta has been spearheading efforts to open up more markets for the stimulant following its ban in Europe.
Uhuru signed a bill categorizing the stimulant as a cash crop and gave Ksh1 billion cash incentive to the farmers in a bid to cushion them from the dwindling markets for their produce.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and a huge Somali delegation were in Nairobi recently where they held bilateral talks with their Kenyan counterparts.
The talks were dominated by the miraa trade and Kenya’s decision to close down the World’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab which is home to refugees mainly from Somalia.