Published On: Mon, Dec 24th, 2018

Burundi opposes AU calls to withdraw troops in Somalia

Burundi has opposed calls by the African Union (AU) to scale back its troops in Somalia serving as part of the African peacekeeping mission.

Instead, Burundi has thrown back a counter offer instead of asking the AU to task other African nations with withdrawing a proportionate number of soldiers.

This has set up new battle lines between the east African nation and the African Union who already have tense relations.

Burundi army spokesman Colonel Floribert Biyereke on Sunday said that the military would ask the government to argue for a proportionate number of troops be withdrawn from each AU member country, rather than solely Burundian soldiers.

The AU has called on Burundi to ease its hard-line stance on dissent and talk with its exiled opposition.

Burundi is the second biggest contributor to the 21,500 strong peacekeeping force with 5,400 soldiers, behind Uganda with 6,200 but ahead of Djibouti, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

The African Union is gradually scaling back its Amisom force as Somalia’s nascent armed forces are trained and deployed to replace them.

Amisom was first deployed in 2007 to support Somalia’s fragile internationally-backed government and fight Al-Shabaab jihadists blamed for scores of bloody attacks.

A key consequence of an eventual troop drawdown is financial.

Participation in Amisom is a valuable source of hard currency, and the scale back is likely to have a big impact on Burundi, every quarter, the AU pays it around $18 million.

That represents a major source of foreign currency for Burundi, which has seen funding from the European Union suspended over human rights issues.

Burundi soldiers also earn much less once they return from serving with Amisom, and an AU official who asked not to be named said they were poorly equipped, and thus logical candidates for the first phase of departures.

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