UN ignores sexual abuse in the Central African Republic

In April it was reported in The Guardian that 14 French soldiers sent to the Central African Republic (CAR) as part of international ‘peacekeeping’ efforts after the state collapsed in December 2013, were involved in sexually abusing at least ten hungry and homeless children, some as young as nine, in exchange for food and money. The rape and sodomy took place at a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) at M’Poko airport near the capital Bangui, between December 2013 and June 2014. Six children had testified against the soldiers, four were direct victims while two others witnessed the abuse. The kids fled the IDP camp in terror after the assault. France was made aware of the abuse in July 2014 and has belatedly agreed to ‘investigate’. The UN had tried to cover-up the abuse, and is busy persecuting the whistleblower, UN director of field operations Anders Kompass, who leaked the report to French authorities because his superiors had failed to take any action. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The UN has a long history of covering-up and ignoring sexual exploitation and abuse by its ‘peacekeeping’ militarised missions across the world. A leaked 2013 internal report that the UN never intended for public release, exposed abuse at UN ‘peacekeeping’ missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Haiti, Liberia and South Sudan, where 85% of all sexual abuse cases against ‘peacekeepers’ come from, 30% involving minors (www.AIDSFreeWorld.org). Despite the UN's ‘zero-tolerance’ policy towards sexual exploitation and abuse, UN workers have been exposed running paedophile rings in DRC, Kosovo and Bosnia, and brothels in Haiti. UN ‘peacekeeping’ missions in impoverished countries frequently encourage a predatory sexual culture, with poor refugees the victims of UN troops who demand sexual favours in exchange for food and money, and rape women at gunpoint. Allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct by UN personnel stretch back to at least 1995, to operations in Cambodia, East Timor, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Despite previous UN investigations, its ‘zero tolerance’ policy has changed little. In 1996 UNICEF reported that in 50% of countries, ‘the arrival of peacekeeping troops has been associated with a rapid rise in child prostitution.’ In 2004, it concluded that prostitution and sexual abuse followed most UN interventions. Needless to say Kosovo, Liberia, South Sudan, Haiti and DRC have not become oases of peace and tranquillity following UN ‘peacekeeping’ missions. Below is a flavour of UN crimes that we know about:

  • Between 2013-2014, imperialist–backed Somali soldiers as well as soldiers from the UN, British, US and EU-backed African Union (AU) force in Somalia (AMISOM) gang-raped and abused hundreds of women and girls as young as 12 and traded ‘food aid’, money and medicines for sex at IDP camps and military bases.
  • January 2012 - two British soldiers serving with NATO in Afghanistan were arrested over allegations of sexual attacks on Afghan children.
  • January 2012, UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) police officers sexually abused children in Port-au-Prince and Gonaives.
  • September 2011, four MINUSTAH peacekeepers raped a 19-year-old man, Johnny Jean, at a Uruguayan military base in Port-Salut in Haiti. Later, reports emerged of children fathered by UN troops born to underage Haitian women. Under an agreement between MINUSTAH and the Haitian government, UN troops have immunity from prosecution under Haitian law.
  • From 2000-2012, the UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO) repeatedly engaged in significant, widespread and ongo­ing patterns of sexual exploitation and rape of Congolese women and girls, including running child prostitution rings with impunity. While abuse by armed groups, and the DRC army in particular, has received widespread coverage and condemnation, abuse by UN (and French) troops in DRC has received scant coverage. (A French UN mechanic carried out sexual attacks against 23 minors in CAR between 1998-2000, and in DRC between 2000-2004).
  • In 2007, 2008 and 2011, the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) was responsible for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers in the country. Children as young as six were abused. The UN expressed ‘shock’ and ‘deepest regrets’ each time they were exposed.
  • January 2007, four UN peacekeeping soldiers from Bangladesh were suspended following accusations of sexual exploitation of children in southern Sudan.
  • November 2007, 114 Sri Lankan UN soldiers ran a brothel and sexually abused children in Haiti.
  • May 2006, UN staff with its mission in Liberia (UNMIL) abused girls as young as eight in Liberian refugee camps.

While the UN is responsible for ignoring and covering-up barbaric sexual abuse in CAR, France is ultimately responsible for all the violence in the country. France and it neo-colonial ally Chad have long interfered in CAR’s internal affairs. France sees CAR not as a country but as a base for defending its imperialist interests in Africa. French companies have been extracting most of the natural resources from CAR for many decades. Chad and France brought former president Bozize to power in a 2003 coup and then removed him in another coup in 2013. Things haven’t quite gone according to plan: the Seleka rebels who replaced Bozize disintegrated, and violence between splintered armed groups engulfed the country (see FRFI 237 February/March 2014). About 25% of the country’s population was displaced over 1 million people. 870,000 people remain homeless; 50,000 people have been displaced in 2015 so far. Despite the presence of thousands of useless UN, AU and French ’peacekeepers’, violence continues unabated. According to medical NGO Medecin Sans Frontieres, people continue to suffer ‘a terrible mix of violence, displacement and a lack of access to even basic health care.’ This is the price the people of CAR are paying to maintain French imperialist control and eliminate unwanted economic competition from China and especially South Africa, trapping CAR in unending poverty and dependence. All the violence, sexual abuse and rape stems from this ongoing imperialist intervention. It’s time for France to finally leave Africa.

Charles Chinweizu


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