By AGGREY MUTAMBO
Saturday, September 25, 2016
Gary Quince, European envoy to the African Union
The European Union has agreed to disburse more than Sh20 billion to the African Union forces in Somalia following protracted negotiations on funding.
The agreement signed on Thursday means the African Union Mission in Somalia soldiers would receive their allowances for the past nine months from the €178 million (Sh20.16 billion) EU boost.
On Friday, Amisom said the money would be used to pay salaries for soldiers and other personnel working for the mission.
“The union welcomes this encouraging development, which is the result of continuous and fruitful consultations between AU and EU on the enhancement of the logistical and financial support to the mission,” Amisom said in a statement.
“The EU fund will be used to cover allowances for Amisom troops and police, international and local civilian staff salaries, as well as operational costs of the mission.”
The agreement was signed by Algerian diplomat Smail Chergui who is the Commissioner for Peace and Security at the AU, and Stefano Manservisi, the European Commission’s Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development.
Chergui said the new funding would be a motivation to the soldiers at the time when Somalia was gearing up for elections from next week and the fight against extremists intensified.
“We thank the EU for its continued support to Amisom. This latest contract is a big morale booster for the troops,” he wrote on his Twitter page.
The new announcement means that the mission that costs about Sh50 billion annually could pay up arrears owed to personnel since January.
But it does not cover for the uncertainty that faces the mission in future.
In January, the EU cuts its annual allocation to Amisom by 20 per cent, claiming budgetary constraints and the emergence of other conflicts on the continent had thinned its Africa Peace Fund.
Those cuts were to take effect from June although EU did not release any money from January.
But it made the AU to demand the United Nations to plug the deficit as soldiers missed part of their allowances.
The UN has not yet agreed to fill the hole but has refused to convert Amisom into a peacekeeping force.
In June, EU’s envoy to the African Union, Gary Quince, 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 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“It means decision-making takes long but we hope to get funds in a couple of months.”
With Amisom forces expected to provide security during Somalia’s upcoming elections, missing allowance could affect the entire programme.
The EU has been the main financier of Amisom, committing about €1.2 billion (Sh133.85 billion) since 2007 when the mission was established to pursue violent extremists in Somalia.
It disburses Sh224 million every month to Amisom.
About half of that total funding since 2007 — €575 million or 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.
Each of the 22,000 Amisom soldiers is entitled to $1,028 (Sh103,828) every month.
In the case of Kenya Defence Forces, the government deducts an administration fee of $200 (Sh20,200), meaning a soldier takes home $828 (Sh83,628) every month.
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 and morale, to some extent.
KDF, with 3,664 soldiers 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 soldiers, Burundi (5,432), Ethiopia (4,395) and Djibouti (2,000).