United Nations (U.N.) officials said Wednesday that they were investigating “extremely troubling” claims of sexual abuse by international peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR), after a report by an American advocacy said that 98 girls were sexually abused. The report Wednesday comes as the U.N. has been facing several complaints over the past few months of sexual abuse and child rape by its peacekeepers, especially in the Central African Republic and Congo.
The advocacy group, Aids-free World, said in the report by its Code Blue campaign, that the instances of abuse have been recounted from 2013 to this week, according to BBC. It added that last year, there were 69 allegations of child rape and other sexual abuse by peacekeepers from 10 missions. The U.N. recently also said that 25 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation were registered with the U.N. mission in CAR in January and February. Most of them were from previous years. This was in comparison to the total of six allegations in the 15 other peacekeeping missions in these months this year, AP reported, citing the U.N. peacekeeping mission. A U.N. report earlier this month, cited by the Associated Press (AP), said that of the 69 allegations, 22 were in CAR.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement Wednesday that allegations involved some of its employees along with non-U.S. peacekeepers and added, according to BBC, that it was looking into the “exact number and nature” of the allegations.
According to the report by Code Blue campaign, a French commander allegedly tied up four girls and forced them to have sexual intercourse with a dog. The case dates back to 2014 and one of the girls later died due to an unknown disease. Each of them was paid 5,000 Central African francs ($8.60), the report by the Code Blue campaign said, according to BBC.
Dujarric also said, according to AP, that the U.N. team sent to the region has identified involvement of U.N. contingents from Burundi and Gabon, which will now remain confined to the region until the investigation is complete. He added that the allegations against French forces in the same region were also being investigated, while the alleged victims are being given counseling and medical help.
Last Saturday, a delegation from the U.N. peacekeeping mission known as MINUSCA met the local officials and victims in CAR and said that some victims left the region after being stigmatized by the local community. MINUSCA also added that the alleged perpetrators from the international forces who were involved in several cases of rape and sexual abuse, had left the region to return home in 2015.
On Monday, Dujarric also said, according to AP, that MINUSCA is also investigating an alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl by peacekeepers from Burundi, earlier this month. He added that another allegation of sexual exploitation of a woman by a member of the Moroccan military contingent in February was also being investigated. AIDS-Free World said, according to AP, that a mother of a 16-year-old girl in another part of CAR informed the police that a Congolese U.N. peacekeeper sexually assaulted her daughter in a hotel room on Monday.
Earlier in March, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution calling for repatriation of the peacekeeping units, whose soldiers face sexual abuse allegations. The move was made after a report of an independent panel last December said that the U.N.’s response to the allegations was “seriously flawed” and were a gross “institutional failure.”