The European Union has decided to cut funding for the African Union’s (AU) peacekeeping mission in Somalia by a fifth. The move has been criticized by AU’s leadership as it comes at a time when the mission’s troops are entrenched in deadly fights with terrorist militants. The AU has been sending troops to Somalia for almost a decade to help fight Al Shabaab, a faction of al-Qaeda operating in the Horn of Africa. At the moment, about 22,000 troops seconded from the military forces of Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda are deployed in the country under the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
The EU has been so far covering most of the costs of the mission, which is about $200 million annually. The block, being AMISOM’s biggest donor, now intends to decrease the budget by 20 percent. AU leaders have expressed their concerns of what impact a lower budget could have on the mission’s day-to-day operations. “This measure will no doubt affect the personnel who are making the ultimate sacrifice in service of Africa. Especially now, when more is expected of AMISOM. It is my view that we should pursue various funding mechanisms to sustain the current support for AMISOM,” Ambassador Francisco Caetano José Madeira, head of AMISOM, said.
Al-Shabaab, which literally means “the youth” or “the youngsters”, is a jihadist group aligned with al-Qaeda having been active in Somalia for a number of years aiming to establish an Islamic theocracy. In 2014, its troop strength was estimated between 7,000 and 9,000 militants. AMISOM is the only peacekeeping mission in Somalia supporting transitional government structures, implementing national security plan, training Somalian forces and assisting to create safe conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance. The EU’s decision to cut funding will mean that the pay of AMISOM soldiers will decrease from $828 a month to less than $165.