Kenya Free to Reopen Embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia Says

Somalia says Kenya can reopen its embassy in Mogadishu and have diplomats resume duty, in what could finally end the feud between the two countries.

Two days after Kenya reopened the airspace to Somalia flights, Mogadishu says there is nothing more preventing the two sides from resuming full diplomatic relations.

A note sent to Nairobi on Saturday says Somalia has, for the second time in a month, "normalised" relations with Kenya, bringing to an end six months of diplomatic row between the two countries.

"In the spirit of good neighbourliness, the Federal Republic of Somalia calls on the Republic of Kenya to re-open its diplomatic mission in Somalia, and the Federal Government of Somalia will reciprocally re-open its embassy in Kenya," said Abdirizak Mohamed, Somalia's Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, in a note seen by Nation.Africa.

Diplomatic relations

"The resumption of full diplomatic relations will be a positive start to the commencement of bilateral discussions between the two countries," he added.

The new development now means Kenya's Ambassador to Somalia, Maj-Gen [Rtd] Lucas Tumbo, who was ordered back to Nairobi, can get back to his station. Somalia's Mohamud Nur Tarzan could also report to Nairobi.

The two countries had been at loggerheads since December 15 last year when Mogadishu abruptly cut ties, blaming Kenya for what it called "constant interference" in Somalia's internal Affairs. Kenya rejected the claims, but a team formed by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) to investigate claims returned a 'no guilty' verdict, which Somalia rejected.

Things then escalated fast with Somalia constantly issuing public allegations against Kenya. In May, Qatari special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani helped broker talks where Somalia initially agreed to resume ties. But after Somali authorities detained Bluebird Aviation aircraft, Kenya closed the airspace between the two countries.

On Thursday, Kenya said the decision to reopen the skies was reached after "intercessions made" to have the flights resume. Somali officials on Friday confirmed to the Nation.Africa they had made a request to Nairobi to reopen and ease travel and delivery of goods.

Mutual interest

"This goodwill measure has been made in the mutual interest of our two countries and in the hope that it will cause the full normalisation' [of] bilateral relations between Kenya and Somalia, including diplomatic, trade, and people to people linkages that have undergone undue strain," Kenya said.

"The government and the people of Kenya remain true partners for the peace and prosperity of Somalia and look forward to a renewal of the enduring bonds of friendship and partnership between Kenya and Somalia," the Ministry indicated.

Although Nairobi had indicated 'regret' after Somalia cut ties, it was unclear now how soon both sides will resume their diplomatic services. It was clear, though, the reopened airspace will ease travel and bring down the cost. At the height of the tiff, a one-way (connecting) air ticket cost up to $1000, up from the average $300 usually charged when booking a direct flight.

Reopening could also allow both sides to expand their focus areas. When the relations were severed in December, both countries had reopened their new embassies in their respective capitals. Somalia had rebuilt an embassy last year on a plot that had initially been grabbed, before the High Court ruled in favour of Mogadishu nearly 11 years ago. Kenya, which had been constructing its own embassy premises, had just opened them in November.

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