More than 100 girls and women have come forward with new sexual abuse accusations against international peacekeepers in Central African Republic, the U.N. said Thursday, calling certain allegations–one of which was an incident where a peacekeeping forced a young girl to have sex with a dog–“shocking to the core.”
This recent wave of allegations has rapidly expanded the scandal of troops acting as predators instead of protectors.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that 108 alleged victims of sexual abuse have been interviewed by a U.N. team in Kemo prefecture, east of the capital Bangui, a pool of primarily minors. Dujarric said the U.N. can’t confirm a report by the U.S.-based advocacy group, AIDS-Free World, that three girls told the U.N. they were taken to a French military camp, tied up, undressed, and forced by a commander to have sex with a dog — but he said the investigation will continue.
According to the group, each girl was “reimbursed” for the act with the payment of 5,000 Central African Francs, the equivalent of about $9, after having sex with the dog, including a fourth girl who later died of an unidentified illness. France’s U.N. ambassador, Francois Delattre, called the allegations “sickening and odious” and promised “exemplary disciplinary action” in addition to a criminal sentence if the allegations are true.
AIDS-Free World, which first reported the new allegations Wednesday night, said 98 girls in Central African Republic had reported being sexually abused between 2013 and 2015 by individuals who have since then left the country. The group also said information on the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl by a Congolese peacekeeper only three days ago in a hotel room in a different part of the country has been turned over to the United Nations. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “shocked to the core by the latest allegations,”
“Yesterday, the Central African Republic inaugurated a new democratically elected President, marking the end of a transition period,” he said. “The interventions of the international community helped save the CAR from an unspeakable fate. Yet we must face the fact that a number of troops who were sent to protect people instead acted with hearts of darkness.” The U.N. human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, echoed Ki-moon’s thoughts, saying that the recent accusations were “sickening” and said all three countries whose peacekeepers are accused — Burundi, Gabon and France — have been “formally notified.”
He demands more action from governments on this topic, fearing that “otherwise this awful cycle of abuse will never end.” The secretary-general said the U.N. “is shining a spotlight on these despicable, depraved and deeply disturbing allegations” and emphasized the importance of action from member states, “who alone have the power to discipline their forces with consequences.”
“This is essential to restoring trust in the invaluable institution of peacekeeping and — even more importantly — to provide a full measure of justice and healing to the affected communities,” Ban said.
The United Nations currently has upwards of more than 100,000 peacekeepers based in 16 missions around the world.
Dujarric said last week that a U.N. team was deployed to collect information about allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by U.N. and non-U.N. forces as well as civilians in the Kemo area. He also mentioned that this would be the first time that the United Nations would collaborate with Burundi and Gabon who combat the alarming issue and restore peace.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power was recently in CAR for the president’s inauguration and visited the town of Bambari Thursday to discuss the recent events with members of the town. Congolese soldiers based there had been accused of sexual abuse and exploitation and last month the Congolese battalion was sent home. Power said she was “sickened” by the latest allegations and it was “gut-wrenching” to listen to family members talk about the victims’ “pain and suffering — and the acute sense of betrayal.”
AIDS-Free World has reported the mother of a 16-year-old girl informed local police that a Congolese U.N. peacekeeper had raped her daughter in a hotel room Monday afternoon. The police interrogated the soldier in the presence of his commander, and he confessed to having “had sexual intercourse” with the victim multiple times, paying her between 2,000 and 5,000 Central African Francs.