UNITED Nations officials have received disturbing new allegations that peacekeepers in the Central African Republic raped three young women—the latest in a series of recent claims against the UN mission there.
The new allegations came a week after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired the head of the UN’s mission to the country, declaring “enough is enough” after a string of accusations of child sex abuse and other misconduct by the troops.
“These new allegations concern a report that three young females were raped by three members of a MINUSCA military contingent,” UN spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci told reporters on Wednesday.
MINUSCA is the UN mission in the Central African Republic.
One of the alleged victims is a minor.
The rapes allegedly took place in the town of Bambari, northeast of the capital Bangui, in recent weeks. The victims’ families notified the mission on August 12.
Maestracci declined to name the nationality of the accused troops, but sources said they were from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The MINUSCA force, which took over from an African Union mission nearly a year ago, has been plagued by a series of allegations involving its peacekeeping forces.
There have been at least 61 claims of misconduct against them, 12 of which involve sexual abuse.
Morocco and Burundi are also investigating allegations of sexual abuse against their soldiers in MINUSCA, UN officials said.
UN peacekeeping officials have requested an urgent meeting with officials from the Democratic Republic of Congo to discuss the latest allegations and have given them 10 days to decide whether to investigate.
‘Cancer’ in peacekeeping
The fresh allegations come just weeks before US President Barack Obama is to host a summit in New York on UN peacekeeping to try to shore up missions.
The sexual abuse scandal is likely to cast a shadow over the event, to be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting.
The UN Security Council, in the first statement on the matter by the top UN body, expressed outrage and anger Tuesday over the mounting allegations and said troop-contributing countries must investigate the scandals.
Under UN rules, it is up to member states to investigate and prosecute their soldiers who face accusations of misconduct while serving under the UN flag.
Ban told a special Security Council meeting last week that too many countries are slow in responding to accusations against their soldiers and in some cases do not respond at all.
The UN chief has denounced sexual abuse in UN peacekeeping as a “cancer in our system” and has vowed to name and shame countries that fail to take action against their accused soldiers.
The decision to sack mission chief Babacar Gaye of Senegal was described as unprecedented and underscored the United Nations’ move to address mounting allegations of misconduct by the blue helmets.
“This is clearly a signal that this is not business as usual,” a Security Council diplomat said.
In June, Ban appointed a review panel led by former Canadian Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps to look into how the UN handled separate allegations that French and African troops sexually abused children in the Central African Republic beginning in late 2013.
Those findings are expected in the coming months.
The UN has 125,000 peacekeepers deployed in 16 missions worldwide.