UN withdraws Gabon peacekeepers from CAR over intercourse abuse claims

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Gabonese defence ministry says various ‘exceptionally serious acts that go against military ethics and the honour of the armed forces’ reported in latest weeks.

Gabon’s defence ministry has stated the United Nations will withdraw the nation’s 450-strong peacekeeping contingent from the Central African Republic (CAR) over sexual abuse allegations.

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“In recent weeks, exceptionally serious acts that go against military ethics and the honour of the armed forces, committed by certain elements in the Gabonese battalions … have been reported,” the ministry stated in a press release despatched to the AFP information company on Wednesday.

“Following many cases of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse that are being processed, the United Nations today decided to withdraw the Gabonese contingent from MINUSCA”, the UN mission within the CAR, and “an investigation has been opened by Gabon,” the assertion learn.

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Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, who has extensively coated the allegations of sexual abuse in opposition to the Blue Helmets that has tarnished their status globally, stated the lawyer representing the victims described the information as “a small victory – but it’s not enough”.

“What she wants to see is prosecution of those involved in cases of sexual abuse happening in the CAR itself,” he added.

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“As for the UN conventions, the soldiers involved in the allegations of sexual abuse are not prosecuted in the country where the crimes are committed but rather in their home country. That’s why we saw Gabonese prosecutors in [the CAR’s capital] Bangui for the last two years, investigating soldiers of that nation under the supervision of the UN.”

UN peacekeepers from Gabon patrol within the Central African Republic city of Bria on June 12, 2017 [File: Saber Jendoubi/AFP]

One of the world’s poorest international locations, CAR has been chronically unstable because it gained independence from France in 1960.

It is at present affected by the aftermath of a brutal civil battle that erupted in 2013 after a coup in opposition to then-President Francois Bozize.

MINUSCA was deployed by the UN in April 2014 to finish the battle pitting the Seleka coalition of armed teams that overthrew Bozize in opposition to militias supporting him.

The battle has dramatically diminished in depth however MINUSCA has 15,000 personnel within the nation, of whom 14,000 are in uniform.

Their principal mission is to guard civilians.

Allegations of sexual crimes involving peacekeepers have been recurrent, and whereas some contingents have been withdrawn prior to now, no investigations have resulted in convictions to this point, not less than publicly.

If the “alleged facts … are proven, the perpetrators will be brought before the military courts and judged with extreme rigour”, Gabon’s defence ministry stated.

“Gabon has always demanded irreproachable and exemplary behaviour from its army, both on its territory and abroad,” it added.

In early 2017, judges in France determined to not convey prices in opposition to French troopers accused of getting sexually abused minors whereas on a peacekeeping mission within the CAR. Following an investigation, the prosecutor dropped the case saying there was not sufficient proof to cost the troopers allegedly concerned.

The UN has struggled for years with allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers around the globe.

Since 2010, it has posted 822 such allegations on its web site.

By nationality, the peacekeepers with probably the most allegations in opposition to them since 2015 have been Cameroon, with 44 instances, South Africa (37), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (32), Gabon (31) and the Republic of the Congo (26).

In March 2018, Gabon stated it deliberate to withdraw its contingent as a result of the battle was abating.

However, three months later, on the behest of the CAR’s President Faustin-Archange Touadera, his Gabonese counterpart Ali Bongo Ondimba stated the contingent would keep on.

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