The UN on Wednesday ordered the withdrawal of Gabon’s 450-person peacekeeping contingent from the Central African Republic (CAR) over sexual abuse allegations, a scourge that has long tarnished UN interventions.
The UN said it has received 32 allegations of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation against soldiers from Gabon, which are part of an international peacekeeping force numbering thousands in the CAR.
Gabon said it had opened an investigation following the UN decision to withdraw Gabon’s contingent to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
“In recent weeks, exceptionally serious acts that go against military ethics and the honor of the armed forces, committed by certain elements in the Gabonese battalions ... have been reported,” the Gabonese Ministry of Defense said.
“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 ministry said in a statement.
MINUSCA confirmed the news, citing what it called the “serious nature of these latest reported allegations.”
It said the decision was based on a UN Security Council resolution that stipulates that where there is “credible evidence” of such abuse, or a failure to properly investigate such matters, “the units of the Member State should be replaced.”
“Since 2015, with this new allegation, we have received a total of 32 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse concerning 81 alleged perpetrators from the Republic of Gabon,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
All concerned military members deployed or formerly deployed in MINUSCA, he said, adding that six of the 32 allegations had been substantiated after an investigation.
One of the world’s poorest countries, CAR has been chronically unstable since winning independence from France in 1960. It is still reeling in the aftermath of a brutal civil conflict that erupted in 2013 after a coup against then-CAR president Francois Bozize.
MINUSCA was deployed by the UN in April 2014 to try to end that conflict, and while it has dramatically reduced in intensity, MINUSCA still has 15,000 personnel in the country, 14,000 of whom are in uniform.
Allegations of sexual crimes involving peacekeepers in CAR have been recurrent.
If the “alleged facts ... are proven, the perpetrators will be brought before the military courts and judged with extreme rigour,” the Gabonese Ministry of Defense said.
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