France has donated body armour to Burundi in order to support its peacekeeping efforts in Somalia.
General Jean-Jacques Toutous, commander of French forces in Gabon, handed over the military equipment to Burundi on Wednesday. The hardware included 890 bullet-proof vests and 890 helmets, Xinhua reports.
“We’ve donated the military equipment because the work Burundian peacekeepers are doing in Somalia is great,” Toutous said.
Burundi and Uganda have committed the most troops to African Union peacekeeping operations in Somalia as part of the mission there (AMISOM).
Major General Godefroid Niyombare, the Chief of Staff of the Burundian Army, thanked France for its assistance, saying that Burundian troops with AMISOM will be able to operate more easily with the new equipment.
“The military equipment will be given to a battalion soon to be sent to Somalia. It’s very modern because these vests are very light and will thus allow our troops to move easily on the ground,” Niyomabare said.
He noted that the equipment was a sign of the increasingly tight relationship between France and Burundi and their respective militaries.
“This also shows that France supports our hard work in Somalia,” he added.
Created in 2007, AMISOM is made up of close to 10 000 troops drawn from Uganda and Burundi, well under the 12,000 authorised by the United Nations which helps fund AMISOM, Reuters reports. However, last month the African Union indicated its intent to bolster the size of the force to nearly 18 000, mainly to combat al Shabaab militia in the troubled Horn of Africa nation.
Burundi and Uganda will deploy additional troops, Djibouti will send a contingent, while Kenyan soldiers who are battling al Shabaab in the south of Somalia will join AMISOM, taking its size to 17 731, the African Union said last month.
Last Wednesday the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) approved the plan to integrate some 4 000 Kenyan troops into AMISOM. This “rehatting” initiative would save Kenya billions of shillings as the UN appropriated US$304 million to support AMISOM in the fiscal year ending this June. However, under the plan endorsed on Wednesday, UN support for Amisom could increase to more than US$500 million a year.