BANGUI, Central African Republic -- Eleven U.N. peacekeepers stationed in Central African Republic have been accused of sexual exploitation and abuse, the United Nations said Friday.
Investigations were still underway, but preliminary evidence gathered by the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services revealed that the members of a Tanzanian peacekeeping unit deployed in the country's west were implicated in the exploitation and abuse of four victims, according to a statement by the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, also known as MINUSCA.
“Upon learning of the allegations, MINUSCA immediately deployed a rapid intervention team to assess the allegations and identify and listen to the alleged victims," the statement said. "Immediately afterwards, MINUSCA relocated the unit concerned to another base, where it is confined to barracks, in order to protect the victims and the integrity of the investigation.
"Victims received immediate care and support through the mission’s partners, according to their medical, psychosocial and protection needs.”
The evidence also points to a breakdown in command and control over personnel, and once the investigation is complete, the entire unit of 60 peacekeepers will be repatriated. Some of the victims are believed to be minors, but that is yet to be confirmed, the U.N. said.
The mineral-rich but impoverished Central African Republic has faced deadly intercommunal fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power and forced President Francois Bozize from office. Mostly Christian militias later fought back, also targeting civilians in the streets. Untold thousands were killed, and most of the capital’s Muslims fled in fear.
A U.N. peacekeeping mission was deployed the following year and now has nearly 17,500 uniformed personnel. In November, the mission's mandate was extended for a year.
The United Nations has long been in the spotlight over allegations of child rape and other sexual abuse by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Central African Republic and neighboring Congo.
In 2021, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres ordered the immediate repatriation of a contingent from Gabon operating in the country, following credible reports of sexual abuse by some of its 450 members, and past allegations.
Sam Mednick contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.