EXCLUSIVE: Kenya used IGAD’s Mogadishu summit as leverage to lift Somali khat ban

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By Jeff Mwaura,jeff@alleastafrica.com

NAIROBI
– One day before Somalia hosted its first regional summit of African heads of state in 30 years this week, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has used the summit as a leverage to ensure Somalia lifted the ban on Kenya’s multimillion daily Khat imports, sources told Alleastafrica.

In an attempt to ease a domestic pressure to lift the ban, the Kenyan government has opted for Ethiopia’s alliance to step up a behind scenes pressure to cancel the summit to force Somalia to abandon its khat ban decision.

The move has seen Somali president who is seeking a re-election to back down the plan, enabling his government to hold the summit in the long-chaotic capital on Tuesday which earned him a much-needed credit.

“Kenya’s message was like a warning for (Somalia): lift the ban or face the consequences of having the summit cancelled in return.” A senior Kenyan official told Alleastafrica.

In response, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Somali president has phoned his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta, affirming his government’s willingness in lifting the Khat ban, urging leaders not to cancel the summit, a source of pride in the Horn of Africa country after decades of chaos and deadly attacks by militants, sources said

Pleased by Somali president’s assurance, Kenyatta scrambled to ensure holding the summit by asking all IGAD leaders to fly to Mogadishu to attend it, an attempt that proved success for both nations that saw Khat ban lifted by Somalia in exchange for holding the historical summit.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Mogadishu after the summit, Kenyatta and Mohamud declared that the khat ban has been lifted, paving way for the resumption of dozens of daily khat flights that started coming to Mogadishu on Wednesday.

Khat which is largely transported to Somalia by neighboring countries was estimated to be worth $100 million to the Kenyan economy while it counts over £160m a year for Ethiopia alone, making the drug its fourth largest export.

With over 20 million users in horn of Africa, the stimulant green leaves that produce a sense of euphoria in users become a major business export for khat farmers that turned their once agricultural farms into drug lands.

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