President Pierre Nkurunziza has called for the African Union to urgently convene a meeting of the countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) to review the decision to withdraw its soldiers.
The President made the remarks after a closed-door meeting between President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” of Somalia at State House Bujumbura on Tuesday.
President Farmajo was in Burundi for a two-day State visit accompanied by a delegation that included his minister of defence and the Somalia National Army (SNA) chief of staff.
“There is a decision which was taken by the peace and Security Council of AU which we Burundians didn’t welcome and we know Somalia wasn’t pleased with it. That’s why we have called for an urgent summit so as the decision can be reconsidered,” President Nkurunziza said during a press briefing.
Last December, the African Union’s Peace Support Operations Division directed that the planned drawdown of a further 1,000 soldiers come exclusively from the Burundian contingent.
The withdrawal, first directed by the United Nations Security Council in 2017 and scheduled for February 28, has however been opposed by Burundi.
The Somali government is also uncomfortable with the planned phased drawdown arguing that its army is not ready to take charge of the country’s security.
Praising Burundi’s contribution in restoring peace in Somalia, President Farmajo said: “as a result, the capital city of Mogadishu was freed and liberated from Al-Shabaab by Burundian forces, Ugandan and Somali national forces.”
“Burundi soldiers in Somalia have made ultimate sacrifice and I assure the people of Burundi your soldiers’ sacrifice will not go in vain,” he added.
Burundi says that since it was elected to the African Union Peace and Security Council on February 14 to serve as a member for three years, it should have its troops stay in the mission.
It also argues that Amisom troops be withdrawn on a proportional basis from each of the five troop-contributing countries, as it happened when the first batch of 1,040 troops was withdrawn in December 2017.
Burundian troops in Amisom are a source of hard currency for the country, and the government receives $18 million from the AU quarterly, as compensation for the soldiers.