Burundi Troop Deployment
Since 2014, Burundi has contributed hundreds of troops to international peacekeeping missions, earning millions of dollars in the process. The vast majority of Burundian troops are currently deployed to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).
As of 31 March 2019, 761 of the 766 Burundian UN peacekeepers are deployed in CAR as part of MINUSCA (740 troops, 12 staff officers, and 9 experts on mission). Of the remaining five, two are in Mali under MINUSMA, two are with UNISFA in the Abyei region border between Sudan and South Sudan, and one police officer is with the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (Yemen) - a special political mission.**
From October 2016 to February 2019, approximately 5,400 Burundian troops were deployed to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), apparently making close to $72 million annually.
In July 2018, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2431, demanding that AMISOM reduce its force by 1,000 troops (spread among the eight countries contributing troops) by 28 February 2019. This reduction would be in anticipation of a complete withdrawal of AMISOM from Somalia by 2020. In November 2018, Burundian soldiers were accused of arbitrarily killing four unarmed Somali civilians by shooting them at close range. In December 2018, AU leadership announced that all 1,000 troops to be withdrawn would be taken from the Burundian contingent. Given the initial count of 5,432 troops, this would leave 4,432 remaining Burundian troops.
Despite the government of Burundi’s official call on 20 February 2019 for an emergency summit to renegotiate the cuts, 201 of the required 1,000 Burundian troops left Somalia on 21 February. The next day, Burundian leadership—claiming their troops had been unfairly targeted by the withdrawal—threatened to repatriate all Burundian troops unless the cuts were split among other contingents. However, on 23 February, a further 171 Burundian troops left the mission, and 28 soldiers were put “on leave” back in Burundi. This brought the number of vacated troops up to 400.
On 28 February 2019, an anonymous source told AFP that, beginning on 1 March 2019, “the 600 soldiers Burundi refused to withdraw from Somalia would no longer depend on the AU for money, repatriation or in cases of accident.” The same day, the Burundian government agreed to withdraw the rest of their 1,000 troops (600 people) by “early March.” However, as of 4 March 2019, no additional troops had been withdrawn. On 16 March 2019 the Burundian army spokesperson claimed that the 600 troops would be repatriated “very soon.” On 20 March 2019, the 600 troops had not yet returned to Burundi. As of May 2019, it is unclear whether the remaining 600 Burundians have been repatriated.
Figure 1. Number of armed personnel deployed to AMISOM by countries with significant troop contributions.
Figures are taken from the AMISOM website (accessed 16 May 2019). *Burundi troop number calculated assuming the contested 600 troops have not yet been repatriated as requested by the AU.
**Figures are taken from the UN Peacekeeping website under “By Mission and Personnel Type” (accessed 16 May 2019). Searching the same webpage “By Country” gives slightly different results (767 total personnel).
UN Photo / Harandane Dicko