Further Allegations Of Sexual Abuse By Peacekeepers Emerges From The Central African Republic

A recent report issued by the United Nations shows that, despite efforts to combat the issue, allegations of sexual abuse committed by UN Peacekeepers have continued, with new reports of sexual abuse emerging from the Central African Republic.

Since January 2017, over 55 UN Peacekeepers have been accused of abuse and sexual exploitation of civilians. In response to repeated reports of violence against civilians, in June of this year, the United Nations announced the withdrawal of Congolese Peacekeepers from the Central African Republic. Since this announcement, two further reports of sexual violence have been made. The Congolese participation in the CAR has been their only contribution to peacekeeping missions. As well, 140 Congolese police officers will remain in the nation despite the withdrawal of troops.

Moreover, sexual abuse committed by peacekeepers has been reported on multiple occasions. To expand, a report released by the Associated Press (AP) earlier this year detailed approximately 2,000 cases of sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA) that occurred between 2005 and 2017.

This year, United Nations Secretary Antonio Gutierez announced a range of measures to work towards the alleviation of this issue, but little has been done. A leaked internal memo obtained by the Code-Blue Campaign, a New York-based campaign centred on the prosecution and justice for those who have been the victims of SEA at the hands of peacekeepers, affirmed that the Congolese forces in the CAR had not been subjected to any disciplinary action, despite numerous complaints concerning their behaviour. Meanwhile, a leaked memo to the United Nations Headquarters affirmed that Lieutenant-General Balla Keita, current head of the UN peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic, has personally penned six letters raising concerns around the behaviours of the Congolese forces. Although this leak prompted the withdrawal of the Congolese forces from the mission altogether, this action has also been criticized as being insufficient in addressing the wider issue. In 2015, former Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon dismissed the then-head of the mission due to the mishandling of misconduct. However, this course of action remains the exception.

With that said, repeated calls for the prosecution of offending peacekeepers continue to be met with an inadequate response. Currently, it is the responsibility of the home nation to prosecute criminal activity including peacekeepers accused of wrongdoing, despite reiterated calls for the United Nations to alter its policy. At present, it is uncertain whether an investigation of the allegations will be completed before the troops are withdrawn. However, the withdrawal of troops fails to represent justice for those who have been wronged and investigations are notorious for delays. Should the case make it to trial, it would proceed without testimony from the witnesses or the victims, thereby further weakening the case for prosecution.

Ashleigh Streeter-Jones