Kenya and Somalia have agreed to resume direct flights between Mogadishu and Nairobi in two weeks and open two points along the border to ease movement.
President Uhuru Kenyatta made the announcement on Thursday during a visit by Somali leader Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. Abdullahi is in the country for a three-day state visit, his first since taking office last month.
“We have directed the security teams from both countries meet immediately and agree on modalities of re-launching direct flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu within two weeks,” Uhuru said.
“In particular, we agreed to take the following actions within the shortest possible time; open two border posts in Dobley-Liboi, and Mandera-Bulahawa and facilitate the movement of people, goods and services.”
The President and Abdullahi addressed the press jointly after leading the delegations in bilateral talks at State House.
Deputy President William Ruto and CSs Amina Mohamed (Foreign Affairs), Joseph Nkaissery (Interior), Raychelle Omamo (Defence), James Macharia (Transport), Cleopa Mailu (Health), Willy Bett (Agriculture), Mwangi Kiunjuri (Devolution)) and Dan Kazungu (Mining) attended the talks.
Uhuru told a joint press conference that the discussions revolved around security, trade and investment, civil aviation, agriculture, resource sharing and development.
The two leaders also discussed cooperation in livestock development, fisheries, tourism, immigration, labour and health.
Uhuru said they further agreed to that there will be no visa requirements for diplomatic and service passport holders from Kenya and Somalia.
“We also agreed to meet regularly to monitor the progress of our bilateral relations,” he said, terming Abdullahi’s visit a fresh start for close ties.
On the war against terrorism, the heads of state agreed that the fight against al Shabaab terrorists will continue until they are no longer a threat.
“Al Shabaab remains ready to kill innocent people in both Kenya and Somalia,” Uhuru noted.
To support the enhancement of technical skills necessary for rehabilitation upon return, the President said Kenya will establish a technical training institute for youths in refugee camps and their environs.
He said Kenya has also committed to training 200 teachers, 200 nurses and 100 administrators within its institutions, at the government’s cost.
“This region, and this continent, are rising. Together, we are coming closer and closer to the freedom, security and prosperity that our people deserve. But we will achieve that only if we each lift the other,” he said.
“None of us can do it on our own: we will either rise together or fall separately. If Somalia prospers so does Kenya. If Somalia is peaceful so is Kenya. It is up to us then to do all we can to help each other secure these goods for our people.”
The leaders also discussed Somali refugees with a view to helping them return to rebuild their nation. The conversation will continue at IGAD’s Special Summit on Durable Solutions for Somalia Refugees that Kenya will host on Saturday.
Abdullahi praised Kenya as one of Somalia’s strongest partners in East Africa. He noted that the country has hosted the largest number of refugees for decades and contributes to the peace and stability through the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).
He said the resumption of flights will mark a new beginning that will enhance development of trade and economic growth between the two countries.
“Our cooperation is critical to our historic relations and our continuous efforts to fight insecurity and poverty,” he said.
The Somalia leader pointed out that the close economic cooperation between Kenya and Somalia will not only improve the lives of millions of citizens but also enhance security in East Africa.
For that reason, Abdullahi said, his government was ready to work with Kenya to realize the full benefits of the economic cooperation.
“When it comes to trade, I believe the answer is not only to remove barriers to trade but to do trade right, [ensuring] strong labor and environmental standards so the rights of our people are protected,” he said.