BUJUMBURA – Members of Burundian Parliament have said they support government’s threat to withdraw all its soldiers from African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, arguing the withdraw of 1,000 of its soldiers as requested by AU by February 28 will endanger their troops remaining on ground.
Burundi is one of the nations in Africa contributing thousands of troops to restore peace in the troubled Somalia, where fighters of Al-Shabaab jihadists have been blamed for scores of bloody attacks.
Last December, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union requested exclusive withdraw of 1,000 Burundian soldiers serving under AMISOM.
But the East African nation is protesting the decision, proposing that 341 of its troops be pulled out instead and other contributing nations withdraw the rest.
Burundi Senate chairman, Reverien Ndikuriyo said a smaller contingent left behind will not be able to handle militants of Al- Shabaab in case of an attack. Troops from Burundi guard the Middle Shabelle region in Somalia.
AU wants all troop contributing nations to gradually withdraw troops until 2021 and then AMISOM hands over the country to the Somali army.
This week, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza requested African Union to urgently call for a meeting of the countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia to discuss the planned withdraw of its 1,000 troops.
The call came after President Nkurunziza met Somali President, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo who visited Burundi on Monday.
Burundi is the second biggest contributor to the 21,500-strong peacekeeping force with 5,400 soldiers, behind Uganda with 6,200. Other contributing countries include Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia.
The EU has been the main financier of AMISOM, committing about €1.2 billion since 2007 when the mission was established to help end violent extremists in Somalia.