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Burundi Says It Will Not Withdraw Peacekeepers from Somalia

  • Michael Onyiego

Burundian officials say they will not withdraw peacekeeping forces from Somalia, despite threats from insurgent group al-Shabab.

The deputy spokesman for Burundi's National Defense Force, Colonel Gaspar Baratuza, condemned the twin attacks Sunday in Kampala, which Ugandan officials attribute to al-Shabab as retaliation for Ugandan peacekeeping troops in Somalia

Colonel Baratuza said Burundi has taken measures to prevent a similar attack in the central African nation, and will continue its support of AMISOM, the African Union Peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

"We were aware that al-Shabab was planning for a long time to make some suicide attacks in Burundi and in Uganda also. We have taken measures in order not to allow them to do that. According to the mission for peacekeeping in Somalia, we should not withdraw troops from there because the reason why we have deployed there is not to fight but to support the Somali government," Baratuza said. "So our troops will remain there and we will take measures in order to protect our population here."

Baratuza reaffirmed Burundi's support for the United Nations-backed Transitional Federal Government in Somalia and said the country's peacekeeping troops had been given orders to maintain high alert in the wake of the Ugandan blasts.

No group has claimed responsibility for the deaths, but Ugandan officials, including Police Chief Kale Kaihura, say they believe Islamist group al-Shabab was behind the attacks.

The suspicions are based on threats issued by al-Shabab leader Abdirahman Abu Zubeyr against the Ugandan and Burundian troops that constitute the AMISOM force.

A spokesperson for the Uganda People's Defense Force dismissed those threats in an interview with VOA last Monday.

Al-Shabab has been battling the Transitional Federal Government since 2007 to create an Islamic state on the Horn of Africa. The group, which has sworn allegiance to al-Qaida, controls much of southern and central Somalia as well as large portions of the capital, Mogadishu.

According to Ugandan Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba, 64 people have been confirmed dead and nearly 70 injured in the Kampala attacks. Three blasts occurred in two locations where fans had gathered to watch the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands.

The United States Embassy in Uganda confirmed that at least one American was killed in the attacks; Nabakooba added that citizens of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda were among the dead.

According to officials in Washington President Barack Obama condemned the attacks as "deplorable and cowardly" and pledged to provide Uganda with any assistance it requested.