The Burundi government has served notice that it could withdraw its troops from the African Union (AU) force fighting militants in Somalia, citing non payment of troops by the European Union to the tune of US$43.2 million dollars, as the main reason for the threat of withdrawal.
Burundi Defence Minister Emmanuel Ntahomvukiye, on Thursday told parliament that over 5000 soldiers had not received their monthly allowance, US$800 (£640) in arrears for 10 months, which is supposed to be paid by the EU.
The turnaround is surprising given that in March this year the Burundi government through First Vice President Gaston Sindimwibo, assured the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, Ambassador Francisco Madeira, that the Burundi troops will continue serving under AMISOM command along with other troop contributing countries.
“The First Vice President told me that they are determined to be with Somalia and to fight side by side with them come what may,” Ambassador Francisco Madeira, was quoted as saying in an interview then, shortly after the meeting VP Sindimwibo.
Meanwhile, the decision of the EU to cut off its funding for the troops is tied to the ongoing political crisis in Burundi.
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 is in the process of conducting its elections and the issue of security is high on the agenda. Recent withdrawals of troops by the Ethiopian government has led to the retaking of towns by al-Shabaab.
Ethiopia has 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 Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, while police contributing countries include Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.