United Nations peacekeepers affiliated with the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, or Minusca, have been accused of rape, officials said Wednesday. U.N. spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci said the alleged events involved three young women, one of whom is said to be a minor, and took place in recent weeks. The families of the victims reported the incident earlier in August.
Maestracci did not mention the nationality of the accused, but official sources told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that they belonged to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“The Troop Contributing Country has been asked to indicate within ten days if it intends to investigate the allegations itself. Should the member state decline to investigate or fail to respond, the U.N. will rapidly conduct its own investigation,” Maestracci said in a statement.
The news comes after the head of Minusca was dismissed last week amid allegations of rampant sexual abuse by peacekeeping forces that had led U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to declare: “Enough is enough.”
"When the United Nations deploys peacekeepers, we do so to protect the world’s most vulnerable people in the world’s most desperate places," Ban said in a statement earlier in August. "I will not tolerate any action that causes people to replace trust with fear."
Since the Central African Republic (CAR) mission was established in 2014, 13 sexual abuse allegations have been brought against its peacekeepers. Minusca, which took over from an African Union mission last year, has witnessed over 50 claims of overall misconduct. Minusca is also investigating rape allegations involving troops from Morocco and Burundi.
The U.N. Security Council expressed its outrage over the assault accusations in the country Tuesday and called on nations that contribute peacekeeping troops to investigate the matter, Agence France-Presse reported. The U.N. itself cannot prosecute peacekeepers, and can only repatriate the accused to their home countries.
In June, Ban appointed a review panel headed by former Canadian supreme court justice Marie Deschamps to look into the U.N’s handling of separate allegations that French and African troops had sexually abused children in the CAR since 2013.
Other U.N. peacekeeping missions also have been marred by allegations of sexual abuse, including Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Overall, the U.N. received 480 substantiated sexual exploitation and abuse allegations between 2008 and 2013.