The African Union has sent its Peace Commissioner to Burundi to broker a deal with the East African nation following threats by President Pierre Nkurunziza to withdraw his troops serving under Amisom in Somalia.
Ambassador Smail Chergui arrived in Burundi Wednesday on a two day shuttle diplomacy as concerns abound over the risks of a drawdown of the Amisom force by 5,400 should Burundi make good its threat.
President Nkurunziza this past week instructed the Ministry of External Relations and International Cooperation to notify the African Union Commission of his country’s intentions to withdraw troops from Somalia following what it termed as failure by the EU to honor its bargain to pay the Burundi soldiers.
The EU withheld payments to the Burundi force last March following the political developments in Burundi which led to deaths of hundreds of citizens and displacement of thousands after Nkurunziza held to office for the third term in disregard of constitutional terms limits.
The EU fired its first salvo at Bujumbura by cutting off payment to Burundin troops through the government arguing it could only make direct payments to the troops. The two parties are yet to agree on modalities of payments as the Burundi troops battle in Somalia for a year now without pay.
The EU pays stipends to Amisom troops out of which the troops contributing countries deduct a 20% administrative fee. Burundi first sent its troops to Somalia in 2007 and has since contributed six battle groups to Amisom.
The African Union is yet to fill in the deficit in the stipends following the EU’s 20% cut in February 2016. A withdrawal of the troops could further compound the challenges of the Mission which is requesting a further 9,000 troops to bolster its operations in Somalia.
The African Union called on the EU Monday not to discriminate in payment procedures relating to all Amisom troops.