The European Union plans to cut back its funding for Burundi’s peacekeeping contingent in Somalia.
According to the Reuters news agency, the move is to force president Pierre Nkurunziza into talks with the opposition and to save the country which is on the brink of an ethnic conflict.
Nkurunziza’s government has brushed off aid cuts from western donors seeking a way to pressure the government to stop a year-long political crisis from degenerating into a war in Africa’s volatile great lakes region.
Support for Burundi’s contingent of AMISOM cannot continue as it is.
Top Burundian officers had attempted but failed to topple Nkurunziza’s administration in May but the rank and file of the army has broadly stayed above the political fray.
“Support for Burundi’s contingent of AMISOM cannot continue as it is,” a European diplomat said.
For each African soldier sent to Somalia, the contributing government receives $1,000 a month for wages and logistics. The money is paid from a poll funded by the EU.
In Burundi’s case however, the government takes $200 off each soldier’s wage thus they each receive $800 instead, a bonus better than their regular pay.
Cutting all funding would leave the African Union (AU), which oversees AMISOM’s 22,000-strong force, having to find another donor to pay Burundi’s troops. It is already under pressure as the EU had cut back its overall funding for AMISOM saying it wants other international donors to offer more help.
Another European diplomat said cutting all funding to Burundi’s contingent was “far from being a reality right now”. He said cash would no longer be channeled via the government and the 20 percent kept by the state, worth about $13 million a year, would be scrapped.
“There is no way we will pay that anymore,” he said adding that the EU was conducting negotiations with the AU aimed at finding a mechanism that by-passed Bujumbura.
More than 400 people have been killed since last April when Nkurunziza said he was running for a third term in an election the opposition has described as flawed.
Two percent of the country’s population has since fled to neighboring countries like Rwanda, which was torn apart by genocide in 1994.
Like Burundi, Rwanda has an ethnic Hutu majority and Tutsi minority.