There are now 13 reported sexual misconduct allegations against UN Peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic
Amnesty International has called for an investigation of United Nations peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic, also known as Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), on allegations of rape and indiscriminate killings of civilians.
The last alleged crime was against two young women and one minor, in the Northeastern part of Bangui, CAR. Although the UN did not reveal the nationalities of the troops, according to UN spokeswoman, Vannina Maestracci, who made the announcement last week Wednesday, sources suggest they could be from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
13 cases, explained
The latest incident brings the number of sexual misconduct allegations at MINUSCA to 13 since it was officially formed in April 2014, out of a total of 61 misconduct accusations made against the mission. The peacekeepers who have been in CAR since the sectarian violence started between Christians and Muslims erupted, have repeatedly violated human rights, with reports of rape, sodomy, transactional sex and indiscriminate killings.
One of the alleged rape victims, a 12 year old girl, was hiding in a bathroom during a house search on Aug. 2 when a man wearing a U.N. blue helmet and vest took her outside and raped her behind a truck. “When I cried, he slapped me hard and put his hand over my mouth,” she told Amnesty investigators. A nurse later examined the girl and found medical evidence consistent with sexual assault.
During a June 18 interview, a 13-year-old boy said he couldn’t count all the times he had been forced to perform oral sex on soldiers but the most recent had been between June 8 and 12, 2014. Balla Hadji, 61, and his son Souleimane Hadji, 16, were struck by bullets in front of their house. Balla was apparently shot in the back, while Souleimane was shot in the chest. A neighbor who witnessed the killings told Amnesty International that “they [the peacekeepers] were going to shoot at anything that moved.”
One 11-year-old boy said he was abused when he went out looking for food. A nine-year-old described being sexually abused with his friend by two French soldiers at the IDP camp when they went to a checkpoint to look for something to eat.
The United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said earlier in the year, “If the allegations are substantiated, this would constitute a grave violation of UN principles and the code of conduct for UN peacekeepers. The member state would be requested to take swift and appropriate punitive action.”
India commanded global attention in June 2015, for bringing legal action against 3 of its own soldiers who were guilty of sexual abuse during their peacekeeping endeavor in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
Transactional sex is a recurrent factor in countries like CAR, despite the 2003 ban by the UN. It has also been alleged in a UN report, that between December 2013 and June 2014, 14 French soldiers and five troops from Chad and Equatorial Guinea forced children to perform sex acts in exchange for food or money. The implication of this problem is the destruction of trust which is supposed to exist between the citizens and the peacekeeping troops.
How proactive is the UN and MINUSCA?
Although UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, appointed a review panel in June 2015 to look into how the UN handled separate allegations of sexually abused children in the CAR, many sexual abuse cases are still being thrown at the UN. Why are many perpetrators still roaming free?
The selection process for MINUSCA could be called into question. As Joanne Mariner of Amnesty International states, “We have serious concerns about the vetting process for U.N. peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic, particularly the inclusion of troops from the D.R.C. — a force that the U.N. itself has listed as responsible for the sexual abuse of children.”
The United Nations needs to put measures in place to check peacekeepers’ activities. MINUSCA has expressed its commitment to thorough investigations and prosecution of its personnel on sexual abuse. While that is commendable, actual prosecution of perpetrators will restore a little faith in peacekeeping missions.