U.N. to Investigate Peacekeepers Suspected of Killing Women and Children in Africa

Written by Dionne Searcey 

DAKAR, Senegal — The peacekeeping missions in the Central African Republic have been tainted by allegations that troops from several countries sexually abused children and adults. But on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a report providing new evidence that soldiers from the Republic of Congo had killed civilians.

In the report, Human Rights Watch said it had uncovered new evidence that Congolese soldiers killed more than a dozen people, including women and children, while serving as peacekeepers from December 2013 to June 2015.

The report is the latest in a series of allegations against peacekeepers, who have been accused of rampant sexual abuse, including against more than 100 girls in a single prefecture in the Central African Republic. The United Nations has said it is investigating the sex allegations, which it called “sickening.”

The Central African Republic was torn by sectarian strife in 2013 after the ouster of President François Bozizé. Thousands of people were killed, and nearly a quarter of the population was displaced. Faustin-Archange Touadéra, a prime minister under Mr. Bozizé, was elected president this year.

The report on Tuesday offers more evidence of misdeeds that Human Rights Watch has been looking into for years. In February, remains in a grave discovered near a peacekeeping base were exhumed and identified as 12 detainees who had been rounded up more than two years ago. Peacekeepers had said the detainees escaped captivity.

Witnesses heard screams and gunshots that night and were told to stay away from an area where the grave was eventually discovered.

Human Rights Watch has also documented murders by torture, public executions and beating deaths by Congolese peacekeepers.

In March 2015, United Nations human rights investigators looked into crimes committed by peacekeepers in the area and confirmed the findings of Human Rights Watch, which says the Congolese government has yet to investigate the crimes.

Stéphane Dujarric, the United Nations spokesman in New York, said at a news briefing that the organization had known about the accusations “for quite some time” and that “we’re continuing to follow up” with the Congolese authorities.

Allegations surfaced last year that French soldiers had sexually abused boys in Bangui, the Central African Republic’s capital, starting in December 2013. Troops from Chad and Equatorial Guinea, representing the African Union peacekeeping mission, were also accused of sexually abusing children. The United Nations was in turn accused of mishandling its inquiry into the charges in what became a major scandal that is still reverberating through the organization.

The United Nations human rights official who leaked the allegations against the French soldiers — and was suspended for having violated protocol but reinstated — was reported on Tuesday to have submitted his resignation.

The official, Anders Kompass, the field operations director of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, shared a confidential report about the abuse allegations with the French authorities in what his superiors said they had regarded as a violation of protocol. An independent panel appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon concluded that senior United Nations officials had mishandled the matter.

Mr. Kompass’s resignation was first reported by IRIN, a nonprofit humanitarian news service that once was part of the United Nations. It quoted Mr. Kompass as saying he was leaving because of a lack of accountability and the “unwillingness of the hierarchy to express any regrets for the way they acted towards me.”

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About Nelly Niyonzima

For Africa, International Relations, Geopolitical Trends and Strategic Issues.
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