The European Union intends to stop funding Burundi’s peacekeeping contingent in Somalia’s AMISOM force in an attempt to make the country’s President Pierre Nkurunziza start talks with adversaries and thus prevent a looming ethnic conflict. Mr Nkurunziza’s government has largely ignored other cuts in aid from international donors, who have been trying to pressure the government to end a year-long political standoff that could lead towards a new armed conflict in Africa’s volatile Great Lakes region.
Burundi’s 5,400-strong peacekeeping contingent earns the country about $13 million and its soldiers a combined $52 million a year. The decision to scrap the funding may be a decisive motive to persuade Bujumbura to negotiate, as the government wants to keep its military forces satisfied and happy with the extra pay that they make from peacekeeping. However, a European diplomat commented that “support for Burundi’s contingent of AMISOM cannot continue as it is”. Currently, for each African soldier sent to Somalia, the respective government receives $1,000 a month for wages and logistics paid mostly by Brussels. In Burundi, each soldier gets $800 and the government $200.
Although the EU would like to see all funding cut, this would force the African Union (AU) overseeing AMISOM’s 22,000-strong force find another donor to pay for Burundi’s troops. The AI is already under pressure as it has to lower its funding for the Somalia’s peace-keeping mission suggesting that more donors should be involved. The EU is currently in talks with the AI to find a way to bypass the current Burundi cabinet altogether. While admitting that cutting all funding is far from a reality now, Brussels proposes that the money will no longer be channelled via the government and the fifth that is kept by the state, worth about $13 million a year, will be scrapped.