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UN says 41 peacekeepers suspected in Central Africa sex abuse


UN peacekeepers. PHOTO:

UN peacekeepers. PHOTO:

The United Nations has identified 41 peacekeepers from Burundi and Gabon as suspects in sexual abuse in the Central African Republic in recent years, a UN spokesman said Monday.

The sexual abuse and exploitation allegedly committed by the members of the MINUSCA force occurred in the CAR’s Kemo prefecture in 2014 and 2015, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

A four-month joint investigation by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and national investigators in Burundi and Gabon gathered evidence of the abuse against 25 Burundians and 16 Gabonese serving in MINUSCA.

It is now up to the two UN-member countries to conduct complementary investigations and to punish their nationals if they are found guilty. The suspects have left the CAR.

“The United Nations has shared the OIOS report with both member states, including the names of the identified alleged perpetrators and has requested for appropriate judicial actions to ensure criminal accountability,” Dujarric said.

In total, 139 potential victims of sexual abuse were interviewed, including 25 minors.

The 41 suspects were identified by photos or other evidence by 45 interviewees, while 83 were not able to identify their perpetrators or provide corroborating evidence.

A total of eight paternity claims were filed, including by six minors.

The UN said that investigators relied primarily on the testimony of possible victims and witnesses given the lack of medical, forensic or any other physical evidence of alleged incidents that happened at least a year ago.

The first accusations of sexual abuse surfaced in May 2016. The UN was informed of sexual abuse committed by peacekeepers in 2014 and 2015 in Dekoa in the Kemo prefecture, where MINUSCA contingents of Burundians and Gabonese were stationed.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired the commander of the MINUSCA force last year amid the mounting allegations of rape of under-age girls.

MINUSCA, which has about 12,000 peacekeepers, took over from an African Union force in September 2014 as the country was still reeling from a wave of sectarian bloodshed.

One of the world’s poorest countries, CAR has scarcely emerged from the chaos of civil war which erupted in 2013 following the overthrow of former president Francois Bozize, a Christian, by Muslim rebels from the Seleka coalition.

UN chief Ban’s latest annual report fund 69 cases of sexual abuse committed by UN peacekeepers in 2015, half of them in two missions: the MINUSCA and the MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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