Donor reimbursements to Kenya for its troops fighting Al-Shabaab militia in Somalia have been cut 66 percent or Sh4.9 billion in the new financial year starting July, as the UN-backed planned date for exit draws closer.
This follows a decision by the UN Security Council to maintain its overall 19,626 uniformed personnel level ahead of the phased handover of responsibilities to Somali security forces, planned for later in 2021.
A report tabled in Parliament by the Treasury showed that the European Union (EU) and its partners are expected to refund Sh2.5 billion for the new fiscal year, down from Sh7.4 billion in the ending 2020/2021 window as funding dries out because of African Union Mission in Somalia’s (Amisom) planned handover to Somali security forces in December.
The grants to Kenya are usually made through the African Union Peace Facility. Soldiers fighting militants in Somalia usually serve for one year, which may be extended by a few months or cut short depending on the situation.
Conservative estimates earlier showed the international community pays $1,028 (Sh112,052) for each soldier per month. Their respective governments then deduct about $200 (Sh21,800) for administrative costs, meaning the soldiers take home about $800 (Sh87,200).
The EU funds largely cater for allowances for the Amisom troops and police, international and local civilian staff salaries, and operational costs of their offices.
The United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), on the other hand, provides logistical field support to the Amisom troops and Somali National Security Forces during joint operations.
The refunds to Kenya have been falling with indications that Nairobi has gradually been reducing its defence forces from the war-torn country.
A leaked audit report by PwC Associates Ltd (Mauritius) earlier this year queried payment of soldiers who had left the mission, pointing to weak accountability measures in the payroll that resulted in the possible loss of millions of dollars between 2016 and 2018.
Funding uncertainty has always been a major issue for AMISOM, but the situation worsened in January 2016 when the European Union (EU) – which pays AMISOM troop allowances – placed a cap on the amount it would provide, while calling for greater burden sharing.
In January 2016 the EU decided on a 20% reduction in AMISOM peacekeeper stipends – from US$1 028 to US$822 per month. The EU started off with a monthly budget of €700 000 – about US$500 for each peacekeeper – when it began contributing to the mission in 2007, pending the envisaged UN takeover in November 2007.
Ten years on, the EU’s financial commitment to AMISOM has expanded in line with increases in authorised troop numbers and individual peacekeeper allowances. By 2016 the EU budget hovered around €20 million per month (about US$1 028 before the reduction to $822); a steep increase from the initial pledge.
Three months ago aid agencies said they were being forced to prepare to suspend health clinics in Somalia serving as many as 2,000 women and children a month, after they were warned they face cuts as high as 40% in their UK funding.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in 2019 threatened to withdraw his troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) if the United Nations insists on reducing the number of troops involved in the mission.
This was after the UN Security Council proposed a phased drawdown of peacekeepers in Somalia with a full pull out by 2020, citing declining and irregular funding. Uganda is the largest troop-contributing country to AMISOM, with more than 6,400, of the total 21,626 soldiers.
The 15-member African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council on May 11 extended Amisom’s stay in Somalia to December 31 from an earlier date of March 14 after the country failed to conduct a presidential poll in February.
The move by the AU’s top decision-making organ on conflict management and prevention was in line with the UN Security Council’s resolution on March 12, reauthorising Amisom to maintain its 19,626 officers in Somalia.
Somalia’s president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmaajo, in late April dropped plans to seek a two-year extension of his term in office and called for fresh presidential polls amid rising tension in the capital, Mogadishu.
President Farmajo’s mandate expired in February but no vote has been held because of regional squabbles over how power is distributed – and a row over a new electoral commission.
US President Joe Biden plans to deploy American special troops to Kenya to help in the region’s counter-terrorism efforts.