The Burundian government has instructed its Foreign and Defence Ministries to start the withdrawal of its troops from the African Union (AU) force fighting militants in Somalia. The withdrawal threat largely over the non payment of troops was made months back.
The Defence Minister, Emmanuel Ntahomvukiye, in November 2016 told parliament that the soldiers had not received their monthly allowance which is supposed to be paid by the European Union (EU).
“We decided to launch the procedure, as we had already announced for a long time, because our troops engaged in Amisom can not continue to work without being remunerated,” the first vice-president Gaston Sindimwo told AFP news agency.
The AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) receives the EU funds and in turn pays governments of contributing nations, but AMISOM is no longer paying the monthly amount of 5 million euros to Bujumbura to pay the Burundian soldiers in Somalia.
According to the Minister, as at November last year, the $800 (£640) allowance was in arrears for 10 months – January makes it a year since the payments have been in arrears. Over that period, soldiers are only receiving their low army wages. The decision of the EU to cut off its funding for the troops is tied to the ongoing political crisis in the country.
Burundi is the second largest contributor to AMISOM the AU intervention force fighting al-Shabab insurgents in Somalia. Their over 5400 troops come behind Uganda who have over 6000 troops.
Somalia recently conducted its elections and the issue of security was high on the agenda. Neighboring Ethiopian also withdrew some of its troops leading to the retaking of towns by al-Shabaab.
Ethiopia have flatly denied that the withdrawal of troops funded by their government is linked to internal anti-government crisis. An al-Shabaab leader however said recently that protests back home informed the move.
AMISOM troop contributing countries include Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Police contributing countries also include Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda.