The United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) reported today that it has identified seven new possible victims of sexual exploitation and abuse in the town of Bambari, just days after the UN revealed which countries' troops have been accused of abusing minors.
In a press release, MINUSCA said the cases were brought to its attention on 21 January by a team of Human Rights Watch researchers, who passed the information to the Mission in the interest of ensuring medical and psycho-social care for the victims and accountability for any alleged crimes.
Upon receipt of these allegations, MINUSCA says it dispatched a fact-finding expert from the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to Bambari, near the centre of the country. OIOS found sufficient initial evidence that five of the victims were minors and had been sexually abused and that one adult had been sexually exploited.
Also, OIOS said it was unable to interview the seventh alleged victim, reportedly a minor. Finally, one of the allegations passed to MINUSCA by Human Rights Watch was previously reported and is currently under investigation.
The soldiers implicated in these cases are from the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Governments of Republic of Congo and DRC have been notified of these allegations and have been asked to launch investigations. The CAR national authorities have also been informed.
“Due to the gravity of these allegations and given the information collected through the initial fact-finding, the United Nations has decided to take immediate measures, including the repatriation of the 120 Republic of Congo soldiers who were deployed to Bambari from 17 September to 14 December 2015,” the Mission announced, noting that this repatriation will occur after an investigation is carried out, and in the meantime the soldiers will be confined to barracks.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MINUSCA, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, today travelled to Bambari with a high level delegation. He expressed his outrage and shame, reminding the troops that “sexual abuse and exploitation is a serious breach of the UN regulations and a human rights violation; a double crime that affects the vulnerable women and children you were sent here to protect.”
He also discussed the sexual exploitation and abuse incidents with affected communities and recommended additional emergency mitigation measures.
Addressing the DRC battalion in the final weeks before its repatriation, MINUSCA's Force Commander Major General Balla Keita urged the soldiers to “honour themselves, their country, and the UN flag by serving with the highest standards of conduct and dignity.”
Speaking with the press at the end of the visit, the Mr. Onanga-Anyanga said that MINUSCA is “in combat mode” and explained that “he will not rest until these heinous acts are uncovered, perpetrators are punished, and incidents cease.”
Finally, he thanked all partners for the important role they are playing in reporting allegations and caring for victims, adding “we will never win this fight unless we work together.”