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New allegations of child sex abuse by UN peacekeeper force in CAR

By Doug G. Ware
New allegations of child sex abuse by UN peacekeeper force in CAR
The United Nations continues to investigate reports of child sex abuse in the Central African Republic, where peacekeepers have been stationed for about a year. Allegations say some French peacekeepers are sexually assaulting children as young as nine in exchange for food. Photo: United Nations / Catianne Tijerina

BANGUI, Central African Republic, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Already reeling from multiple reports of child sex abuse by United Nations peacekeeping forces in Central African Republic, the agency announced even more allegations of what might amount to ongoing serial sexual assaults by aid workers in the second-poorest nation on Earth.

Reports first surfaced earlier this year that some French members of the UN peacekeeping force were allegedly forcing children in the Central African Republic -- as young as 9 -- to engage in sex acts in exchange for food.

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The peacekeepers' main objective in the destitute Central African Republic is to provide critical assistance, such as food, to the tens of thousands of poverty-stricken residents, many of whom are women and children.

Wednesday, a top official of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA) outlined yet more cases of sex-for-food allegations in the ravaged central African nation.

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"These new allegations relate to a case where three young females -- including one minor -- were victims of rape by members of a MINUSCA military contingent," mission official Diane Corner said. "The mission was informed of these allegations on Aug. 12, 2015, by the families of the three women."

A day earlier, human rights advocacy group Amnesty International reported another case involving MINUSCA "blue helmets" -- a slang term for peacekeepers in the nation often distinguished by the blue helmets they wear, with "UN" written on them.

The Central African Republic, which declared independence from France in 1960, is officially the second-poorest country in the world. UN peacekeeping forces have long had a presence on the continent -- particularly sub-Saharan regions -- to provide aid and prevent exactly the type of activity the troops are accused of participating in.

RELATED U.N. official resigns after claims she ignored child abuse

Tuesday, the UN Security Council emphasized how important the investigations are in this matter. The council's stance followed a "zero tolerance" policy mandated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

MINUSCA's chief, Gen. Babacar Gaye, resigned from his post in response to the allegations.

First word of child sex abuse by French peacekeepers came from a report leaked in April by UN Director of Field Operations Anders Kompass, who notified French authorities because he said the United Nations had failed to take action.

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The report, titled "Sexual Abuse on Children by International Armed Forces," said the peacekeeping troops allegedly raped starving and homeless boys as young as 9 years old in exchange for food. The alleged assaults detailed in the report happened between December 2013 and June 2014.

Kompass was initially suspended for leaking the report but was later reinstated. In June, UN Deputy High Commissioner For Human Rights Flavia Pansieri resigned after admitting she ignored the allegations for about seven months.

Corner said the mission immediately reported the newest allegations to UN headquarters in New York, which notified the Office of the Internal Oversight Services. Within 10 days, the governments of the peacekeepers involved must decide whether to investigate the matter.

"If the country fails to open an investigation or does not respond to the request of UN headquarters, the organization will launch its own investigation," Corner said.

MINUSCA's peacekeeping force has been in the Central African Republic for about a year. In that time, more than a dozen cases of sex abuse have been reported there.

Ban authorized an independent review of the allegations in June.

"I believe the disturbing number of allegations we have seen in many countries -- but particularly in the Central African Republic in the period before UN peacekeepers were deployed and since -- speaks to the need to take action now," he said.

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"Enough is enough."

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