New allegations of sexual abuse emerge against MINUSCA peacekeepers
The UN Mission in Central African Republic has identified seven new possible victims of sexual exploitation and abuse in Bambari. These cases were brought to the Mission’s attention on 21 January by a team of Human Rights Watch researchers, who passed this information to MINUSCA in the interest of ensuring medical and psycho-social care for the victims and accountability for any alleged crimes.
Upon receipt of these allegations, MINUSCA dispatched a fact-finding expert from the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to Bambari. OIOS found sufficient initial evidence that five of the victims were minors and had been sexually abused and that one adult had been sexually exploited. OIOS was unable to interview the seventh alleged victim, reportedly a minor. Finally, one of the allegations passed to MINUSCA by Human Rights Watch was previously reported and is currently under investigation.
The soldiers implicated in these cases are from the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Governments of RoC and DRC have been notified of these allegations and have been asked to launch investigations. The CAR national authorities have also been informed.
Due to the gravity of these allegations and given the information collected through the initial fact-finding, the United Nations has decided to take immediate measures, including the repatriation of the 120 RoC soldiers who were deployed to Bambari from 17 September to 14 December 2015. This repatriation will occur after an investigation is carried out; in the meantime the soldiers will be confined to barracks.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central African Republic and head of MINUSCA, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga today travelled to Bambari with a high level delegation. The SRSG expressed his outrage and shame, reminding the troops that “sexual abuse and exploitation is a serious breach of the UN regulations and a human rights violation; a double crime that affects the vulnerable women and children you were sent here to protect”. He also discussed the sexual exploitation and abuse incidents with affected communities and recommended additional emergency mitigation measures.
Addressing the DRC battalion in the final weeks before its repatriation, MINUSCA’s Force Commander Maj. Gen. Balla Keita urged the soldiers to “honor themselves, their country, and the UN flag by serving with the highest standards of conduct and dignity”.
Speaking with the press at the end of the visit, the SRSG said that MINUSCA is “in combat mode” and explained that “he will not rest until these heinous acts are uncovered, perpetrators are punished, and incidents cease.”
Finally, he thanked all partners for the important role they are playing in reporting allegations and caring for victims, adding “we will never win this fight unless we work together.”