Burundi seeks troop recall

2009-09-20 19:12

Bujumbura - Burundi's opposition parties on Saturday urged the recall of troops from Somalia, after a rebel attack on African peacekeepers killed 12 soldiers from the central African nation as well as nine others.

"If the mandate of our soldiers does not change and if the international community does not give them the means to defend themselves, the government should repatriate all soldiers," said Leonce Ngendakumana, head of the main opposition Frodebu party.

"There is no peace there to safeguard or maintain."

The Union for Peace and Development wants "an immediate and unconditional return of Burundian soldiers deployed in Somalia," party spokesperson Chauvineau Mugwengezo added.

"These soldiers were illegally sent to Somalia and parliament was not consulted," he said. "The government must bring them back at once."

Leonard Nyangoma, the vocal head of another party said: "In the current state of affairs, keeping our soldiers in Burundi is like asking them to commit mass suicide."

On Friday, the Burundian government declared a five-day national mourning, a day after twin suicide attacks on the African Union peacekeeping forces' headquarters in Mogadishu claimed 21 lives in the deadliest strike against the force since its deployment in March 2007.

The bodies of the soldiers arrived on Saturday at a military base north of the capital Bujumbura. The dead included the number two of the peacekeeping force Amisom, general Juvenal Niyonguruza from Burundi.

The soldiers will be buried on Sunday.

Burundi and Uganda are the sole contributors to the 5 000-strong Amisom force, which is far smaller than the 8 000 soldiers envisaged.

Twenty-nine Burundian soldiers have been killed in Somalia since 2007.