It is crucial that the overwhelming good being done by peacekeepers and other international forces in the Central African Republic be reinforced by full and complete accountability for the betrayal of trust by some among their ranks who have sexually exploited and abused civilians.
One report, from the international advocacy group AIDS-Free World, cites additional findings by UN officials in the Central African Republic, or CAR, of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. and non-U.N. personnel there between 2013 and 2015. One hundred and eight women and girls, the majority of them minors, claim to have been sexually abused, reportedly by UN and African Union peace keepers, and French forces whose presence in the CAR was meant to ensure civilian protection. It is the latest in a series of such accusations against international peace-keeping forces in the country.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein called the new accusations “sickening,” and the UN Stabilization Mission in the CAR – MINUSCA – has launched a full investigation into the alleged conduct by U.N. and French troops, as well as local armed groups. “We are taking these allegations --- some of which are particularly odious –- extremely seriously.” It is vital, he said, that victims are protected and the abusers be punished: “There has to be accountability and there has to be credible deterrence.”
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, who was in the Central African Republic to attend the inauguration of the country’s new president, Faustin-Archange Touadera, had the opportunity to meet with some of the families of victims of abuse in the town of Bambari. “It was gut-wrenching to hear them speak about how the peace keepers they had looked to as protectors became perpetrators,” she said.
Ambassador Power noted that the people of the Central African have witnessed the potential for peacekeepers to do tremendous good, and also for them to inflict tremendous harm…This plague of sexual abuse…must stop,” she insisted.
“Would-be perpetrators have to know that they cannot get away with such abuses…UN Member States must thoroughly and impartially investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute individuals alleged to have committed sexual exploitation and abuse,” said Ambassador Power. “The U.N. Security Council, and all Member States, must see to it that we live up to the standards we have set. We are seeing the devastating consequences when we do not. The stakes of addressing this problem – for the victims, for nations like the Central African Republic, and for the UN and its Member States – could not be higher.”