MOGADISHU - The African Union Mission to Somalia might have to work without Burundian soldiers who form the second largest contingent there.
The African Union and the United States have proposed a cut in funding to the Burundian mission in Somalia, which might prompt Bujumbura to pull out of Somalia. The 5,432 Burundian soldiers await feedback from the African Union, which has delayed the deployment of a fresh contingent of soldiers, and the United States which has cut military funding to Burundi.
The Burundian contingent in Somalia is actively engaged in safeguarding sector three that covers the area of Baidoa and also provides backup support for sector 1 where Ugandan forces operate, covering the capital Mogadishu.
In a statement on their defence website, the US government said it will cut military funding to Burundi until the country’s army has steered clear of ‘human rights violations’ as it hunts down the masterminds of last week’s failed coup d’etat.
“The United States also stresses that, under US law, we cannot provide military training or assistance to military units that commit gross violations of human rights. We support the recent decision by the African Union to delay the next deployment of Burundian troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia,” the statement reads.
The withdrawal of funding to the Burundian contingent will have a direct impact on the operations of the Ugandan forces (UPDF) in Somalia who have previously relied on their Burundian colleagues to provide backup support.
It was not possible to get a comment from the AMISOM spokesman as e-mails to him went unanswered. Burundi has been gripped by riots, protests, fire fights and a failed coup d’etat over the last couple of weeks.
The United States government, which has openly advised President Nkurunziza to drop his third term bid, accuses the Burundian army of teaming up with the notorious Imbonerakure militia to crack down on suspected coup leaders and protesters.
“The United States is alarmed by reports of retaliatory attacks in Burundi following the attempted unlawful seizure of power on May 13 and the growing risk of greater violence and atrocities. The United States urgently calls on President Nkurunziza to condemn and stop the use of violence by the police and the ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth militias against those who participated in protests against a third term,” the statement said.
Contacted for a comment on May 18, Ugandan army spokesman Lt Col Paddy Ankunda said he was not aware of such developments regarding the Burundian soldiers in Somalia.
Additional reporting by Siraje Lubwama.