UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic said on Tuesday it was investigating new allegations of sexual abuse of minors by peacekeepers in the conflict-torn African nation.
Last month, an independent review panel accused the United Nations and its agencies of grossly mishandling allegations of child sexual abuse in 2013 and 2014 by international peacekeepers in the Central African Republic.
While those allegations did not involve U.N. troops or police wearing blue helmets or berets, charges later emerged of misconduct by U.N. peacekeepers in Central African Republic (CAR).
The mission in CAR, known as MINUSCA, said in a statement it was “investigating fresh allegations concerning both sexual exploitation and abuse and other misconduct by U.N. Peacekeepers and international forces in Bangui.”
It said that staff of the U.N. Children’s Fund based in Bangui have had four visits with four alleged child victims.
The statement said the head of MINUSCA, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, was discussing with the U.N. human rights office in Geneva ways of combating sexual abuse, including through the formation of a police brigade that would identify perpetrators and deter such abuse.
It was not clear how many peacekeepers were involved in the alleged abuse or what countries they were from.
“The mission continues to investigate each and every allegation of a misconduct,” MINUSCA said. “A fact finding mission is currently underway in this regard.”
New Zealand’s U.N. ambassador, Gerard van Bohemen, told reporters he was “really sick and tired” that such allegations keep surfacing.
Uruguay’s ambassador, Elbio Rosselli, president of the Security Council this month, said that as a troop contributor, his country expected “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse.
Onanga-Anyanga said: “There is no place in U.N. peacekeeping for those who betray the trust of the people we are here to help.”
In its report last month, the independent review panel harshly criticized how the United Nations and its agencies dealt with alleged abuse charges in CAR, calling it “seriously flawed” and a “gross institutional failure.”
It said three senior U.N. officials had abused their authority by failing to take action on the charges of abuse by international troops from France, Equatorial Guinea and Chad.
France intervened in Central African Republic, a former colony, over two years ago to stem violence between Christian militias and largely Muslim Seleka rebels who had seized power. It started withdrawing some of its 2,000 troops last year, handing over to U.N. peacekeepers.
Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Peter Cooney