Burundian peacekeepers serving in Somalia to get salary arrears: AU official

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Burundi President Piera.
Burundian soldiers of the African Mission in Somalia are to get their salaries after spending almost 12 months without payment, a senior African Union official said here Thursday while concluding a two-day visit in Burundi.

“We want to respect Burundi’s sovereignty. We have signed a new memorandum of understanding whereby we (the AU) agreed to transfer salaries of Burundian troops of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the benefit of the Burundian National Defense Force (FDN),” the Commissioner for Peace and Security for the African Union, Smail Chergui, told a press briefing at Bujumbura International Airport before departure.

According to him, money will be released “very soon.”

Chergui said, “We believe that this is a good thing that will allow troops to work in serenity as they work in a delicate environment at this very moment when we are preparing a strong attack against al Shabaab terrorists.”

He indicated that both the European Union (EU) — which is the AU’s partner — and the Burundian government are both satisfied about the new memorandum of understanding linking Burundi to the AU.

Chergui held the press briefing after meeting with Burundian First Vice-President Gaston Sindimwo.

“We are glad that our soldiers are going to get their payment. The AU did a great job by negotiating salaries of our soldiers of the AMISOM,” Sindimwo said after meeting with Chergui.
During his two-day visit in the east African nation, Chergui also met AU human rights observers and military experts.

Upon landing at Bujumbura International Airport on Wednesday afternoon, Chergui visited Mpanda cemetery, 12km west of the Burundian capital Bujumbura where he paid tribute to peacekeepers who were killed while serving in the AMISOM.

Those who died on the battle field in Somalia include Major General Juvenal Niyoyunguruza, former deputy-commander of the AMISOM, killed on Sept. 17, 2009 in a suicide attack in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

Chergui’s visit in Burundi happened amidst the country’s threat to withdraw its peacekeepers from Somalia.

Earlier this week, Sindimwo had announced a possible pullout of Burundian troops serving in the AMISOM over failure by the AU to pay Burundian troops.

In his message to the nation at the New Year’s Day, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza said that the Burundian government was going to sue the AU over unpaid salaries for Burundian troops serving in the AMISOM.

Since 2007, Burundi has sent six battalions, comprising of about 5,500 troops into Somalia to restore security in that country where al-Shabaab terrorists are active.

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