Kenya, Somalia tiff hurts Sh16m-a-day miraa trade

Miraa trader

A Somali trader takes khat (miraa) meant for exports to Somalia, out of bags at Wilson Airport in Nairobi.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The diplomatic row comes at a time when Kenya has been engaging with their Somalia counterparts to resolve the stalemate.
  • Somalia currently allows Ethiopia to export its khat to the country, technically locking out Kenya out of this crucial market.

Miraa farmers will have to wait longer before they regain access to the Sh16 million-a-day Somalia market following the latest move by the Horn of Africa state to severe diplomatic ties with Kenya.

The diplomatic row comes at a time when Kenya, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been engaging with their Somalia counterparts to resolve the stalemate that has seen Kenya lose millions of shillings in foreign earnings after the stimulant was banned from accessing that market.

Somalia yesterday announced that it had cut diplomatic ties with Kenya, just a day after President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted Somaliland leader Muse Bihi, with Mogadishu claiming that the move was an affront to its sovereignty.

Somalia currently allows Ethiopia to export its khat to the country, technically locking out Kenya out of this crucial market.

“The latest move is a blow to farmers as they will have to contend with the current situation of a lack of market for their crop,” said Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) chairman Kimathi Munjuri.

Single largest market

He added that Mogadishu is the single largest market that Kenya has for its miraa and that Somaliland has no capacity to absorb thousands of tonnes that Mogadishu buys as most of its market is served by Ethiopia. Kenya only provides about five tonnes at most when there is unrest in the Oromo region.

“We do not understand the dalliance between Nairobi and Hargeisa as this is just rubbing salt in the wound of Mogadishu, which will not help in solving the current stalemate,” he said.

The Foreign Affairs and Department of Trade had already dispatched a comprehensive bilateral trade agreement to Mogadishu to address the current standoff.

Kenya’s miraa export to Somalia stopped in March following the suspension of flights following the outbreak of Covid-19. In August, Mogadishu allowed resumption of flights except those carrying miraa.

Somalia said Kenyan diplomats in Mogadishu will have seven days to leave the country. But this came just a week after Mogadishu actually expelled the Kenyan ambassador to Somalia, Lucas Tumbo, and recalled theirs to Nairobi, Mohamud Ahmed Tarzan, following a similar complaint of interference.

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