Kenya has banned all commercial and cargo flights to and from Somalia until August, despite the two countries agreeing to restore diplomatic relations a week ago.

According to a NOTAM filed by the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) on May 11, 2021, the only exceptions would be United Nations Humanitarian Air Service relief flights, medevac flights, and humanitarian missions. No reason was given for the suspension. The Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs had not yet commented on the ban by the time of publication.

However, the announcement appeared to be related to the long-held dispute between the countries about the import from Kenya to Somalia of miraa/khat, a leafy green plant with psychoactive properties, after Somalia's Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) announced that shipments of the stimulant remained prohibited.

"Somali Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) has the honour to inform all the operators that carrying Mirra to Somalia is still prohibited, and the policy of the Federal Government of Somalia did not change regarding the transportation of Miraa to Somali airports."

"Transporting Miraa without clearance from the SCAA will be considered an unlawful act and violation of Somali airspace. Thus, Somali Civil Aviation Authority would like to strongly advise all operators to not act on transporting Mirra to Somalia until further notice from the authority," the SCAA said.

Somalia banned miraa exports from Kenya in early 2020 after accusing Kenya of interfering in its internal affairs. Kenya conservatively estimates the Somali market to be worth half a million dollars a day. Ethiopian miraa has been cleared for import in lieu of the Kenyan stimulant.

Since the miraa ban on Kenya was implemented, those involved in the supply chain of the stimulant have moved their operations to Ethiopia. Almost all of the aircraft ferrying Ethiopian product from Dire Dawa are Kenyan registered aircraft.

The new tension followed thawing recent relations resulting in Somalia on May 6 announcing it was restoring diplomatic ties with its neighbour after having cut relations in December. Qatar was credited with mediating the talks. Following Somalia's announcement, Kenya announced it was looking forward to further normalisation of relations with authorities in Mogadishu.

Airlines likely to be affected by the suspension include those plying routes between the two countries, including African Express Airways (XU, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta), Freedom Airline Express (4F, Nairobi Wilson), Jubba Airways (Kenya) (JBW, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta), Ocean Airlines (Somalia) (Mogadishu) and cargo carriers Astral Aviation (8V, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta), Skyward Express (OW, Nairobi Wilson) and Safe Air (K3, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta), according to the ch-aviation schedules module.