Nairobi – Somalia has agreed to lift a two-year ban on air shipments of khat from Kenya as part of a new trade deal, a Kenyan minister announced Friday, a further sign of rekindled ties after several years of tensions.
The move comes after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta attended the inauguration of Somalia’s newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Thursday, signalling a shift away from the frosty relations under the previous government in Mogadishu.
Ties have been dogged by a long-running maritime border dispute as well as Somali accusations of Kenyan meddling in its affairs, while Nairobi has accused Mogadishu of using it as a scapegoat for its own political and security problems.
Kenyan Agriculture Minister Peter Munya announced that Nairobi would resume exports of khat or miraa, a mildly narcotic leaf popular in Somalia, while its Indian Ocean neighbour was looking to sell fish and other products to Kenya.
He said the agreements would be signed within two weeks.
The ban imposed in March 2020 led to a loss of more than 50 tonnes of Kenyan khat a day valued at around six million shillings ($50 000), according to Kimathi Munjuri, chairman of the Nyambene Miraa Traders Association in central Kenya.
The two countries will also complete an aviation agreement on the sidelines of a regional gathering in Nairobi on Tuesday, Munya said.
Somalia severed diplomatic ties with Kenya in December 2020 after Nairobi hosted the political leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway region not recognised by the central government in Mogadishu.
They agreed to reset relations when Somalia’s Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble held talks with Kenyatta in August 2021.
“A peaceful and prosperous Federal Republic of Somalia is the dream of every Kenyan,” Kenyatta said at Mohamud’s inauguration.
“Your brothers and sisters in Kenya look forward to working with you so that we can all benefit economically and prosper together.”
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Kenyan exports to Somalia of 13 billion shillings (over $110 million) accounted for nearly five percent of its total exports to African countries in 2021, according to government data released last month.
Imports from Somalia meanwhile were just 106 million shillings ($905,000) last year, the data showed.
Kenya and Somalia share a 680-kilometre (420-mile) land border and have been locked in a dispute for years over a potentially oil-and-gas rich chunk of the Indian Ocean.
In October 2021, the UN’s top court handed control of most of the area to Somalia but Kenya rejected the ruling.
Kenya is a major contributor of troops to the African Union military operation against the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab fighters waging a violent insurgency across Somalia.