KAMPALA: The outgoing Chief of Defence Forces, (CDF), Gen Katumba Wamala, has warned of a “serious security lapse” in Somalia if Burundi withdraws its troops.
Gen Katumba, who was recently dropped as CDF in the army reshuffle, told journalists after handing over office yesterday to his successor, Gen David Muhoozi at the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence in Mbuya that the planned withdrawal will give al-Shabaab a lease to re-organise.
“It will have a negative impact on the mission. It also dilutes the African effort of working together to solve its problems,” he said.
Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza announced in December last year that Burundi would withdraw its troops deployed in Somalia unless the European Union mobilises to pay the forces outstanding salaries that have not been cleared for several months.
Ugandan troops have also not been paid since April last year.
UPDF has been fighting Al-Shabaab insurgents since 2007 before Burundi joined in 2009.
At least 5,000 Burundian troops are deployed in Middle Shabelle region while Uganda controls Sector One that has Banadir region, Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle.
“As Uganda contingent, we have been working with Burundians and this will definitely leave a hole in Sector One,” Gen Katumba said.
Earlier, the general had told top UPDF commanders who attended the handover ceremony that he was leaving office without any blemish on his name.
He handed more than 2005 UPDF Act, Ugandan Constitution, UPDF seal, Defence Strategic Investment Plan report, keys to the office, UPDF flag and the UPDF Doctrine document.
Gen Katumba, who is designate State Minister for Works, also received his last military general salute as CDF and Gen Muhoozi was also given the first general salute, played by UPDF music band using saxophone and drums.
Gen Muhoozi said the planned construction of a military referral hospital in Mbuya was among Gen Katumba’s unfished plans and promised to give it a priority.
With 5,432 soldiers in Somalia, Burundi is the second biggest contributor of troops under Amisom after Uganda.
The other contributing countries are Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. The Somali Community in Uganda recently appealed to the European Union (EU) as funders of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) to mobilise salaries for the
Burundi troops now threatening to pull out of Somalia. Burundi has also threatened to sue the African Union (AU) over failure to pay its peacekeeping contingent in Somalia.
President Pierre Nkurunziza said recently that the Burundian forces serving with Amisom have gone for more than one year without salaries.
Source: Daily Monitor