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Injured AMISOM Soldiers, Families Go Years Without Compensation

FILE - Soldiers serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) patrol outside a Mosque during Eid al-Fitr prayers, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan at a Mosque in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, July 17, 2015.

Last month, the United Nations Security Council authorized the African Union to maintain the deployment of its peacekeeping mission in Somalia, AMISOM, until next May. The Council also extended the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia, UNSOM until 2016. Some injured soldiers and families of dead soldiers say they feel abandoned and that it has taken years to receive benefits.

Thirty-year-old Nkunzimana Jeanette goes through a file full of papers, looking for two certificates that show the death of her husband, who served with the AU mission in Somalia.

Her husband was deployed in Somalia when militant group al-Shabab controlled much of the country, including most of the capital, Mogadishu.

He died in June 2011 after serving six months.

Jeanette remembers the day he was killed.

“He called me in the evening, telling me that he was not feeling well; at around 8 in the evening I was called by one of his friends, a soldier telling me that he was shot but he was not yet dead,” she recalled. “At around 10 in the evening, I was called again and told he was dead.”

Jeanette does not like the way she was treated after her husband's death. “Family members of the dead soldiers were supposed to be taken back home, but me, my brother and mother-in-law; we spent one more night in Bujumbura waiting for the death certificate. We went back home the following day and we paid for our bus fare,” she said.

Fifteen months later, Jeanette received $30,000 that was shared among the families, including her mother-in-law and other relatives. She ended up getting $5,000.

An injured Burundian soldier who didn’t want his name used for fear of intimidation told VOA he didn’t receive proper care after he was shot in 2011 while on patrol in Mogadishu.

“If you get shot while serving, you should be compensated for you to have a good life, but it’s not for our course. We don’t have enough means; no one is taking care of us. I am not able to pay school fees for my children. That’s why we are not happy,” he said.

The injured soldier said it took years to receive $10,000 from the AU.

Ambassador Maman Sidikou, the AU special representative for Somalia and head of AMISOM, acknowledges problems with the welfare of injured soldiers, but said it is up to their governments to bring up these issues so they can be addressed.