Less than a week after the head of the UN's mission in the Central African Republic was booted amid accusations of peacekeeper sexual abuse, the UN has announced new allegations involving the rape of three young women, one of whom was a minor.
Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci told reporters on Wednesday that the mission, the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, or MINUSCA, was made aware of the alleged incidents, which took place in the central town of Bambari, on August 12 — one day after Amnesty International reported a 12-year-old girl had been raped, and two civilians murdered by peacekeepers earlier in the month.
On August 12, Ban Ki Moon announced the forced resignation of MINUSC chief Babacar Gaye, saying "there should be some accountability on the part of our leaders."
"Enough is enough," Ban told reporters.
Maestracci said she could not offer a precise date for the latest alleged incidents, which were perpetrated by three peacekeepers, only describing them as occurring in the "weeks" prior to August 12. Though UN officials say they are not able to release the nationality of peacekeepers, the only troops in Bambari are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Diplomatic sources further confirmed to VICE News that the troops who are accused of rape are from that country.
"The troop contributing country has been asked to indicate within ten days if it intends to investigate the allegations itself," said Maestracci. "Should the member state decline to investigate or fail to respond, the United Nations will rapidly conduct its own investigation."
A diplomatic source at the UN told VICE News there was concern that Congolese authorities would not establish a sufficient investigation in that timeframe.
Maestracci said she was unsure of the whereabouts of the accused troops in Bambari.
In September of last year, the mission officially took over peacekeeping duties, and absorbed many of the African contingents that were already in the country as part of an African Union mission. The latest incidents bring the number of sexual misconduct allegations at MINUSCA to 13 since it was officially formed in April 2014, out of a total of 61 misconduct accusations made against the mission. Misconduct can include use of force violations, or theft. Details of some of the allegations, including the number of victims in each case, have not been made public by the mission or UN headquarters.
Maestracci said four peacekeepers and two members of the missions' police units have been repatriated to their countries at the Secretariat's request.
"A further 20 military contingent members were repatriated on administrative grounds, for excessive use of force leading to civilian deaths, pending completion of the investigation," she added.
Sexual abuse allegations against international peacekeepers date back to the period before MINUSCA's establishment and deployment.
Starting in December 2013, according to UN human rights investigators, French and African peacekeepers sexually abused boys in the Central African Republic's capital of Bangui over a period of several months. The handling of those allegations remain a point of contention, and led Ban to establish an independent review panel tasked with evaluating those allegations and the response of UN human rights officials in similar incidents.
Despite the light shed on MINUSCA — by no means alone among missions plagued by sexual abuse allegations — incidents continued.
Last week, Amnesty International released a report detailing the disturbing rape of a 12-year-old during security operations in Bangui in the early hours of August 2. During the operation in the predominantly Muslim enclave of PK5, armed assailants fired on the peacekeepers, leaving one "blue helmet" dead. The next day, peacekeepers returned and shot residents, seemingly at random, leaving a father and his young son dead.
In his resignation letter to Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Gaye wrote that despite efforts to clamp down on such crimes, "abuses continued."
"Going forward, you may wish to consider that there could be a systemic problem," wrote Gaye.
MINUSCA Deputy Head Diane Corner said the allegations were conveyed to UN headquarters in New York, which in turn notified the UN's Office of the Internal Oversight Services, and the troop contributing country, in this case, the DRC.
In New York, Maestracci said Ban was not aware of the new allegations when he announced Gaye's resignation — which he had requested — on August 12.
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