Burundi, AU resolve AMISOM pay dispute

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Burundi and the African Union (AU) reached an agreement on Thursday on the modalities of payment of Burundian troops deployed in Somalia as part of the African Union force (Amisom), the first vice – President of Burundi Gaston Sindimwo has announced.

“We are satisfied, we have discussed well with Mr. Chergui and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed,” Mr Sindimwo said after a meeting with the AU’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smaïl Chergui.

The memorandum was signed on Thursday morning between the AU envoys and a Burundian delegation which included the Foreign Affairs, Public Security and Defense Ministers.

Burundi had pressured the AU by announcing on Monday that it would begin the process of withdrawal of its troops deployed in Somalia if no agreement was reached on the payment of the salaries of its soldiers.

“It is clear that the issue of the withdrawal of our (Somalian) soldiers is no longer on the agenda,” Sindimwo said. “We have found a solution that safeguards our national sovereignty and therefore the issue of the withdrawal of our soldiers from Amisom no longer arises.”

Amisom’s salaries are financed by the European Union (EU), but the payment arrangements are governed by an agreement between the AU and the contributing countries.

For months now, the EU had not remitted the monthly 5 million euros that is paid to the Burundian soldiers in Somalia.

It had asked the AU to find a way to pay these soldiers directly, without going through the Central Bank of Burundi, in order to prevent Bujumbura’s government, economically suffocated by international sanctions, from using this money for other purposes.

According to the agreement, the money devoted to the payment of wages and their arrears will instead pass through a Burundi commercial bank, explained Sindimwo, speaking of a “good compromise” with the government.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the European Union will be convinced by the new proposed mechanism. No European diplomat in Burundi could be reached for comment.

“This does not change much for the Burundian government, since it has the upper hand on most commercial banks,” said a senior Burundian official.

Amisom has a strong 22,000 soldiers stationed in Somalia to fight Al Shabab militants

Burundi has the second biggest AMISOM contingent – after Uganda – of some 5,400 soldiers.

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