Financial crisis hits ATMIS as Ugandan soldiers go without pay in Somalia

FILE - An African Union peacekeeper from Uganda provides security as Somali lawmakers arrive to cast their vote in the presidential election, at the Halane military camp in Mogadishu, May 15, 2022.

MOGADOSHU, Somalia - A crisis is looming in the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS] Force, the EastAfrican reports, with details emerging of non payment to troops who have been serving in the peacekeeping mission but have already left for their respective countries across East Africa.

Credible sources said that for the last 27 months, the troops from Uganda who have served in the mission have gone without pay, despite the fact that some of the biggest funders like the European Union [EU] have been disbursing funds for the peacekeepers. EU caters for at least 5,000 soldiers in the country.

According to reports, the cohort which left Somalia in December 2022 was yet to be paid in full while the previous year had nine-month pending arrears. Sources said that Ugandan peacekeepers in Somalia miss a chunk of their pay, with each of 1,500 soldiers – identified in military parlance as a battle group – missing one to three months’ pay in 2020, 2019 and 2018.

A diplomat of an EU country told The EastAfrican that “the problem is elsewhere” and that all money approved for Somalia had been disbursed for all the years in question. This shines a spotlight on Uganda, whose decision to lead the Africa fight against al Shabaab militants in Somalia, won it respect.

The EU confirmed disbursing up to $792.2 million last year to the African Union meant for 2021-2024 operations in Somalia. As a result, the EU Council on July 6 2022 approved an additional €120 million [$130 million] to the resources previously mobilised for Amisom/Atmis in 2021.

The EU explains that ATMIS funds flow from the European Commission to the AU Commission, which is responsible for channelling them to the troop-contributing countries.

“This means that the payment of the allowances to the soldiers is not responsibility of the EU, but of our African partners,” the EU spokesperson said.

Multiple sources in security circles say the problem goes deeper as Battle Groups 32, 31 and 30 also claim arrears, in addition to allowance rates that have shrunk from $1,028 at inception to $460 – which is even not paid.

“It’s true, the soldiers who were in Somalia came back, and have not been paid,” Junior Minister for Defence Jacob Oboth told Parliament on February 2. “The whole mission is funded by the EU, and it has not sent the money.”

Analysts argue that the EU is currently overstretched by the Ukraine war, and is suffering mission fatigue in Somalia, where it has spent €2.3 billion [$2.5 billion] over the past 15 years.

Last week, the leaders from frontline countries led by William Ruto of Kenya, Ethiopia's Abiy Ahmed and Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti met in Mogadishu where they discussed ongoing crackdown against Al-Shabaab militants. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud gave them report about the progress.

Unlike the Uganda People's Defense Forces [UPDF], the Kenyan Defense Forces [KDF] and other forces in the mission first budget the soldiers salaries in their domestic budgetary adjustments and reimburse it once European Union and other partners wire the money to government accounts. This means in some Troops Contributing Nations, arrears might be a thing of the past.


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