DAKAR (Reuters) - The military commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Central African Republic (CAR) wants hundreds of troops from the Congo Republic accused of sexual abuse sent home if discipline does not improve, a memo seen by Reuters showed on Wednesday.
The U.N.’s 13,000-strong mission in CAR is seeking to contain violence in a multi-year conflict driven by ethnic and religious grievances and vying over vast diamond resources.
More than 100 peacekeepers from Congo’s 630-strong battalion were sent back last year in relation to a series of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) allegations, some of the dozens of such accusations against the U.N. mission since 2014.
In the memo, dated May 12 this year and sent to a military official in the U.N. headquarters responsible for liaising with troop contributing countries, Lieutenant General Balla Keita said that the situation had deteriorated.
“Congo should commit itself to improving without delay the standard of its unit. If not, (a) decision should be made to repatriate and replace the Congolese battalion,” it said.
The memo was released by Code Blue, a campaign led by a non-governmental organization seeking greater accountability for peacekeepers.
Keita, who could not immediately be reached by Reuters for comment on Wednesday, did not give details of the violations in the memo but said he had sent six complaint letters to the battalion commander so far this year.
Herve Verhoosel, spokesman for the MINUSCA mission, said that the memo followed an internal assessment of the contingent in March whose findings had been shared with Congo. A spokesman for Congo’s defense ministry was not available for comment.
A U.N. database of SEA allegations showed three reported incidents involving troops from Congo Republic in Central African Republic so far this year. Nine were reported in 2016.
The battalion, based in the western Central African Republic town of Berberati, has in the past been involved in trafficking fuel and Keita noted in the May memo that only a few of its 114 vehicles were serviceable.
“U.N. peacekeeping is committed to the highest standards of performance and conduct. We will spare no action in order to meet this goal,” MINUSCA’s spokesman Verhoosel told Reuters.
Under U.N. rules, member states are responsible for bringing their own charges of misconduct against individuals serving in overseas missions.
Reporting by Emma Farge and Joe Bavier; Editing by Aaron Ross and Louise Ireland