UN orders probe into peacekeepers’ sexual abuse in CAR. Will it be business as usual?

In 2015, the United Nations (UN) Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, released a report saying that from December 2014 to December 2015, children/minors were the most affected by violence and extremism perpetrated in war torn and unstable countries. Express.co.uk reports that Farhan Haq, a UN spokesman, has confirmed an investigation into new reports of sexual abuse perpetrated by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR). “A team from the Republic of Congo arrived in the country to investigate recent allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against their troops,” he said.

Although the UN has dispatched a team to probe the recent accusations against peacekeepers of sexual abuse, this would not be the first time such is happening and, so far, none have yielded any positive results. What will happen this time when these people arrive in Central African Republic and come face-to-face with the victims? What happens when they have to deal with the reality of what has been transpiring between the locals and those who have been commissioned to protect but have instead ended up violating them. Will it be like other times when the perpetrators go scot free?

There are stories emanating from the CAR that several peacekeepers make demands asking minors and young women to grant them sexual favors in exchange for food or clothing items. The real disgust, however, is not the fact that these peacekeepers have decided to become terrorists in their own right, but the fact that the UN has done nothing tangible to punish those guilty of subjecting these locals to mental torture, as they have no one to place their trust in.

Since 2013, peacekeepers have been deployed to the CAR to keep the peace as Christians and Muslims  have been at loggerheads, resulting in the deaths of several citizens. Reacting to fresh sexual abuse allegations in January 2016, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (a post he took up in September 2014), Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said the CAR has recorded a high number of continuous sexual abuse perpetrated by peacekeepers due to the fact that they were not being punished. “These are extremely serious accusations and it is crucial that these cases are thoroughly and urgently investigated. Far too many of these crimes continue to go unpunished, with the perpetrators enjoying full impunity,” he said.

Also in January 2016, the UN Assistant Secretary General in charge of field support, Tony Banbury, was overcome with emotion while naming the nationalities of the peacekeepers who had allegedly been taking sexual advantage of locals in the CAR, while saying the UN was doing everything it could to address the situation. According to him, the alleged abusers were from Bangladesh, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The new probe may just as well be business as usual for the UN. In a February 2016 special release of the Africa Conflict Monitor by James Hall, he says the UN is guilty of covering up the crimes perpetrated by peacekeepers in CAR. According to him, the UN’s nine current peacekeeping operations are all in jeopardy, not just because of the UN-reported MINUSCA sex scandal but because in the CAR, sex abuse scandal is not an anomaly. “Since the 1990s, UN peacekeepers have reportedly been involved in the sexual abuse of civilian populations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in Central Africa, South Sudan in East Africa, and Liberia in West Africa,” he wrote.

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