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UN sends home Gabonese peacekeepers in CAR over sexual abuse

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday ordered the immediate repatriation of the entire U.N. peacekeeping contingent from Gabon serving in the Central African Republic following credible reports of sexual abuse by some of its 450 members and past allegations.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the U.N. chief made the decision “after what we feel is a demonstrated failure to respond effectively to a history of allegations and sexual exploitations in the Central African Republic by the Gabonese, which include a failure to conduct timely and effective investigations and to report on sanctions for substantiated allegations.”

He said misconduct allegations against Gabonese military personnel date back to 2015. With new reports, the U.N. has received a total of 32 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse concerning 81 alleged perpetrators from Gabon, six of which have been substantiated in investigations, he said.

All allegations involve military contingent members deployed or formerly deployed in the peacekeeping mission in CAR, known as MINUSCA, Dujarric said.

The United Nations has long been in the spotlight over allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Central African Republic and Congo.

Figures released in March 2020 showed a significant rise in allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in U.N peacekeeping and political missions, with allegations against civilian personnel nearly doubling, demonstrating again that sexual misconduct spans the entire U.N. system.

Dujarric said that under a 2016 U.N. Security Council resolution, the secretary-general has the authority to replace an entire military unit in cases of evidence of “credible, widespread and systemic sexual exploitation, abuse, or failure to take action on these allegations or to hold perpetrators accountable.”

He said Gabon has been informed of the decision to send home its contingent in MINUSCA, the only peacekeeping operation the West African nation was participating in.

Dujarric said the United Nations is working with the CAR government and other contingents in the country “to pick up and fill the void” that will be left immediately with the departure of the Gabon troops, and will then need to find replacements in the long term.

By EDITH M. LEDERER
Associated Press

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