Sierra Leone Troops Pull Out of Somalia as Ebola Blocks Rotation
Sierra Leone is withdrawing troops from the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia as the Ebola outbreak at home prevents it from sending replacements.
A total of 850 soldiers departing after a 20-month tour of duty won’t be replaced, in a step to prevent any spread of the virus, Elio Yao, a spokesman for the African Union Mission in Somalia, or Amisom, said today by phone from the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Sierra Leone is the country with the most reported cases in West Africa’s yearlong Ebola outbreak, in which about 19,000 people have been affected and more than 7,300 have died, according to the World Health Organization.
“Usually our troops rotate on a yearly basis so that there can be a break,” Yao said. “The African Union is finding a way to fill in the gap” left by the soldiers’ departure, he said. A statement on Amisom’s website said Sierra Leone would be replaced by other troop-contributing countries until Ebola has been “fully contained.”
The African Union has about 22,000 security personnel in Somalia trying to rein in al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked militant group that seeks to topple the country’s government and impose Islamic law.
Sierra Leone’s troops were based in Somalia’s Lower Juba region, including the port city of Kismayo, according to Yao.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu at [email protected]
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at [email protected] Michael Gunn, Sarah McGregor