Burundi rotates battalion for Somalia’s peacekeeping mission

By Asad Cabdullahi Mataan

The Burundian army has sent the 40th battalion of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), replacing the 34th battalion that had completed one year in Somalia, the Burundian army spokesman said Thursday.

“952 soldiers of the 40th battalion have left for the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), replacing an equivalent number of soldiers of the 34th battalion who have completed one year in Somalia,” Burundian Army Spokesman Colonel Gaspard Baratuza told reporters as soldiers were boarding an aircraft to Somalia.

According to him, there is a rotation of a battalion every year in accordance with a memorandum of understanding signed between the Burundian government and the African Union (AU).

“All our (Burundian) soldiers have received peacekeeping training, and all of them can serve in any peacekeeping mission anywhere in the world,” Baratuza said.

He indicated that the issue of unpaid salaries for Burundian AMISOM troops has been solved.

Baratuza said that the salary arrears for January, February and 14 days of March for last year will be soon available at the Burundi Central Bank before transferring the salary to beneficiaries’ accounts.

“Otherwise, an account has been open in a commercial bank where the rest of salary arrears will be deposited before being transferred to beneficiaries’ accounts,” he said.

Burundi is among the main contributors of troops in the AMISOM.

The issue of salary arrears for Burundian troops of the AMISOM was solved with the visit, last month, of Commissioner for Peace and Security for the African Union, Smail Chergui.

The failure to pay peacekeepers’ salaries for 12 months had forced the Burundian government to threaten to withdraw its troops from Somalia.

Since December 2007, the east African nation has deployed six rotating battalions comprising of about 5,500 troops in Somalia.

Following the outbreak of Burundi’s crisis in April 2015 with Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza bidding and winning a controversial third term, some army and police officers were sent to lead peacekeeping missions in Somalia and the Central African Republic, but were refused for their alleged involvement in violent repression during demonstrations against Nkurunziza’s third term bid.

Source: Xinhua