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UN troops in Central African Republic hit with new sex abuse claims

AFP file photo | Peacekeepers from the UN's MINUSCA force in Bangui.

The UN mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) was hit with fresh sex abuse allegations on Wednesday when the UN said that three young women, one of them a minor, had reportedly been raped by peacekeepers.


in New York

"These new allegations concern a report that three young females were raped by three members of a MINUSCA military contingent," UN spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci told reporters in New York on Wednesday, referring to UN peacekeeping forces in war-torn CAR, which took over from African Union troops almost a year ago.

The latest claims, which were confirmed to FRANCE 24 by a UN source ahead of the announcement, increases the total number of allegations of misconduct by peacekeepers in the country to 61, with 13 cases of purported sexual exploitation and abuse.

UN spokesperson Eri Kaneko told FRANCE 24 that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was “anguished, angered and ashamed” following the latest reports allegations.

Ban has described sex abuse by peacekeepers as a “cancer in our system” and last week fired the head of MINUSCA, Babacar Gaye, in response to the scandal, saying: “I will not tolerate any action that causes people to replace trust with fear.”

Gaye, who is Senegalese, was forced to resign on the same day that the three women's parents reported their alleged rapes to the UN. But the allegations did not emerge until a week later.

A source in the department of peacekeeping confirmed to FRANCE 24 on Wednesday that the newly appointed head of MINUSCA, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga of Gabon, is travelling to Bangui and will take the helm on August 21.

Growing scandal

Under new measures aiming to tackle sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers, the soldiers accused in Bambari had their pay suspended immediately after the allegations were made, Maestracci said. Under UN regulations, it is up to the home country of the peacekeepers to launch an investigation into the claims. If no action is taken within 10 days, the UN will launch its own investigation, but is unable to exercise criminal jurisdiction over its soldiers.

Maestracci said that the UN had requested to meet with officials from the accused troops' country of origin to discuss the allegations.

Questioned by FRANCE 24, Maestracci declined to disclose the nationalities of the peacekeepers involved. However, the only troops stationed in the town where the rapes are said to have taken place, Bambari, are from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The nationalities of those previously accused already span five countries (France, Morocco, Burundi, Rwanda and Cameroon), fuelling concerns that sexual abuse among UN peacekeepers is rife.

In June this year, a UN watchdog revealed that peacekeepers engaged in “transactional sex” with more than 200 women in Haiti and elsewhere, around a third of them minors.

Ban ordered a review in June of the UN's handling of separate sex abuse allegations.

The UN’s deputy high commissioner for human rights, Flavia Pansieri, admitted earlier this year that the UN "failed to follow up" on sex abuse allegations against French soldiers, in part because she believed French authorities were investigating.

Additional reporting by Antoine Goldet.

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