NEW YORK/UNITED NATIONS
The head of the African Union Mission in Somalia expressed “grave concern” on Thursday regarding the European Union’s recent 20 per cent cut in payments for Amisom troops.
The AU is “doing its utmost” to make up for the loss in pay that was scheduled to take effect at the start of this year, Amisom chief Francisco Caetano José Madeira told the United Nations Security Council.
He cautioned, however, that the AU’s efforts to sustain full compensation are occurring in the context of an economic downturn in many African countries due to global drops in commodity prices.
Speaking via video link from Addis Ababa, Mr Madeira urged the UN’s top decision-making body to seek other means of supporting Amisom, including through contributions by individual member-states.
Tete Antonio, the AU’s United Nations envoy, had warned the Security Council two months ago that the 20 per cent cut in pay to Amisom’s roughly 22,000 uniformed personnel would have a “serious adverse effect on their morale.”
The European Union covers the full cost of payments to Amisom soldiers through contributions it makes to the AU.
The EU’s total yearly payments amount to about $200 million.
Amisom soldiers receive a monthly allowance of $828 after their respective governments deduct a $200 administrative cost per soldier.
The EU cut, which would leave about $165 a month less in each Amisom soldier’s pocket, comes at a time when the force has been suffering major losses at the hands of Al-Shabaab insurgents.
Undisclosed but large numbers of Kenyan, Ugandan and Burundian troops have been killed in Shabaab assaults on Amisom bases during the past seven months.
Mr Madeira acknowledged in his remarks to the Security Council on Thursday that the security situation in Somalia is “volatile”.
Shabaab is targeting Amisom’s “overstretched capacities” through a turn toward guerrilla-type tactics and use of improvised explosive devices, he said.
Amisom has a critical need for helicopters and other military equipment in its efforts to dislodge Shabaab from parts of Somalia that the militants continue to control, the AU official added.
The status of Amisom is among the topics expected to be discussed at this week’s AU summit in Addis Ababa.