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More UN sex abuse allegations in CAR; 60 peacekeepers to be sent home

‘The evidence also points to a breakdown in command and control by commanders over their personnel.’

Civilian women out of focus in the foreground walk in front of a UN tank in Central African Republic. Siegfried Modola/Reuters
Women walk by a MINUSCA armoured vehicle in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, in 2016.

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The UN said Friday it will repatriate 60 Tanzanian peacekeepers from Central African Republic after new allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation surfaced – the latest in a string of sexual abuse scandals involving UN peacekeepers in the country. 

Eleven members of the unit were accused of sexually abusing and exploiting four victims, according to the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, known as MINUSCA. 

It was not immediately clear when the alleged abuse occurred, but some of the victims are believed to have been minors at the time, Guy Karema, a spokesperson with MINUSCA, told The New Humanitarian, adding that the victims’ ages at the time of the abuse had not yet been verified.

The contingent has been confined to their barracks pending the results of an ongoing investigation. Tanzanian troops were also accused of abuse and paternity cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2016. 

“The evidence also points to a breakdown in command and control by commanders over their personnel,” a MINUSCA statement added.

More than 100 women and children have accused peacekeepers of sexual abuse in CAR since 2013, when an alliance of northern rebels known as the Séléka ousted then-president Francois Bozizé and triggered a UN peacekeeping deployment in 2014.

As of this year, some 3.4 million were in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN. The country also has one of the highest proportions of critically food insecure people in the world.

Scandals involving peacekeepers between 2014 and 2015 were particularly damaging to the UN, which introduced a raft of reforms and measures in the years that followed. Still, allegations have continued.  

In one of those scandals, UN whistleblower Anders Kompass – field operations director at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – exposed the abuse of children by French troops to authorities in 2014.

The alleged abuse involved hungry children – as young as eight – in the M’Poko camp for displaced people, coerced into sex in return for food or a little money.

Another separate scandal involved UN peacekeepers from Burundi and Gabon. 

The UN has often said it lacks jurisdiction over UN peacekeepers, who are often repatriated after such abuse allegations. Few ever face prosecution. 

However, the UN has also been accused of failing victims in CAR and elsewhere – either through a lack of assistance to victims or conducting investigations that take too long or often discount victims’ testimonies.

In 2019, The New Humanitarian detailed a litany of blunders that UN investigators made in probing such abuse allegations in CAR. 

In that case, investigators from Gabon and Burundi – the troop-contributing countries accused in the abuse – were also criticised for failing victims during the investigations. More than half of the 130 allegations were ultimately dismissed, according to an internal UN draft obtained by The New Humanitarian. 

In 2021, the UN withdrew 450 peacekeepers from Gabon following abuse allegations. 

Gabon and Burundi continue to contribute peacekeepers to the UN. 

Edited by Andrew Gully.

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