Somalia imposes Kenyan khat import ban

Kenya khat traders Image copyright AFP
Image caption About 15 cargo planes full of khat arrive in Mogadishu from Kenya each day

Somalia's ban on Kenyan flights carrying the herbal stimulant khat has come into force, with no explanation as to why or how long it will be in place.

But the semi-autonomous region Puntland region is among some federal states defying the ban.

Khat is popular in Somalia but it is grown in Ethiopia and Kenya.

Hundreds of Kenyans, including farmers, could be affected by the decision, which has been criticised for coming without any warning.

BBC Somali Service editor Farhan Jimale says it is equivalent to a major city like London banning imports of alcohol overnight.

But as khat has to be taken fresh, there are no stockpiles.

Economic hit: Analysis by BBC Somali Service's Ahmed Adan

Image copyright AFP

More than 15 cargo flights full of khat arrive in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, every day from Kenya. According to Somali anti-khat campaigner Abukar Awale, they bring in about 12,000 bags of khat a day, which have a total retail value of $400,000 (£298,000).

Mr Awale, a former khat addict, argues that the stimulant contributes to domestic violence and other abuses.

The normally bustling Beerta khat market in Mogadishu has been practically deserted because of the suspension.

One khat seller in Mogadishu, Fartun Mohamed, told the BBC that her family's livelihood has been put in jeopardy because of the suspension as this was the only way she managed to feed her 10 children.

The planes from Kenya arrive in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, in the morning and the leafy stimulant, which is not cheap, is usually chewed after lunch, mainly by men, in the afternoon and into the evening.

Image caption Beerta khat market in Mogadishu was empty on Tuesday

Civil Aviation Minister Ali Ahmed Jangali, who announced the ban on Monday, did not give a reason for the suspension, which is understood to be temporary.

He denied that it was because Somalia was hosting a meeting on Saturday for the regional body, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad).

Workers at a khat-exporting company in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, were told not to report to work on Monday.

The Kenyan government has in the past pledged to support the growers of khat, which is also known as miraa in Kenya, after it was banned in much of Europe.

Khat is also banned in a number of other countries, including the US and Canada.

Khat - its effects and risks

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption About 15 cargo planes full of khat arrive in Mogadishu each day
  • The two main stimulants in khat speed up the user's mind and body, like a less powerful amphetamine
  • It makes people happy and talkative but can cause insomnia and temporary confusion
  • Chewed for a few hours it leaves users with a feeling of calm, described by some as "blissed out"
  • The drug could make pre-existing mental health problems worse and it can provoke feelings of anxiety and aggression
  • It can also inflame the mouth and damage teeth, and there are concerns about the long-term risk of mouth cancers.

Source: Talk to Frank

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