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Amisom troops miss monthly stipends

Tuesday June 28 2016

Kenya Defence Forces under Africa Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) soldiers patrol Afmadow town in Somalia on November 22, 2015. The EU is the main financier of Amisom, committing about €1.2 billion (Sh133.85 billion) since 2007. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Kenya Defence Forces under Africa Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) soldiers patrol Afmadow town in Somalia on November 22, 2015. The EU is the main financier of Amisom, committing about €1.2 billion (Sh133.85 billion) since 2007. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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African Union troops in Somalia have not been paid allowances for more than five months, as the effects of funding cuts by the European Union bite.

On Monday, the EU said it had not released the money to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) due to complex approval procedures that had resulted from a constrained budget.

Mr Gary Quince, the head of the EU Delegation to the AU, told the Nation that a shortage of funds was the reason behind a pile of unpaid allowances.

“Funding cuts means there is a shortage and that has taken time to get the necessary approvals to release the money,” the diplomat said from Addis Ababa.

“It means decision-making takes long but we hope to get funds in a couple of months.”

The EU is the main financier of Amisom, committing about €1.2 billion (Sh133.85 billion) since 2007.

About half of that, €575 million (Sh64 billion) has been used to cover the forces’ allowances, costs for the police component of the mission and international and local civilian staff salaries.

Early this year, the EU cut that funding by 20 per cent citing a constrained budget and new security needs.

Those cuts were to take effect from this month, but it has not released any money. It is supposed to be paying Sh224 million every month.

“We expect to reach an agreement with the AU by September, after which the payment will be backdated to January,” Mr Quince said.

The European bloc cited budgetary approvals, but the BBC on Monday reported that lack of accountability on the part of Amisom was behind the funding delay.

An EU source told the BBC that the six-month payment was being withheld over “accounting issues”.

But Amisom head of Amisom Francisco Madeira told the BBC that the correct papers to account for the last tranche released by the EU had been submitted.

Sources say the EU wants some contingencies in Amisom to account for money allocated in previous disbursements before any new funding is released.

EFFORTS SLOWED DOWN
Uganda has already threatened to pull its troops out of Somalia.

Last evening, Kenya Defence Forces spokesman David Obonyo said the soldiers had no problem with their allowances.

“Our troops are getting their allowances and if there were any issues, we would be the first people to know,” Colonel Obonyo told the Nation by telephone.

An Amisom soldier is entitled to $1,028 (Sh103,828) every month. In the case of the KDF, the government deducts an administration fee of $200 (Sh20,200), meaning every serviceman takes home $828 (Sh83,628).

When the EU cut the budget by 20 per cent, every soldier lost about $160 (Sh16,160) of the basic allowance. This shortage has affected operations.

Last week, a senior US military officer told his country’s senate that AU troops were not battling Al-Shabaab as effectively as was the case in the past.

“In the past six months or so, there’s been a little bit of a slowdown on the initiative of forces that are provided to Amisom from countries like Uganda, Burundi and Ethiopia,” Lt-Gen Thomas Waldhauser said.

“We expect activity to increase across the region during Ramadhan,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is considering his nomination as head of US Africa Command (Africom).

Col Obonyo said he could not determine the situation with other troop contributing countries, but insisted that the momentum against Al-Shabaab had not slowed down.

The KDF, with 3,664 troops in Somalia, is part of the 22,000-strong mission created in 2007 to help stabilise the war-torn country. Uganda has the highest contingent of 6,223 troops, Burundi (5,432), Ethiopia (4,395) and Djibouti (2,000).