Head of UN CAR force resigns after murder, rape allegations against peacekeepers

© Adama Diarra
The head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) was forced to resign after human rights groups called for an investigation into murder and rape allegations against his peacekeepers.

A general from Senegal, Babacar Gaye, submitted his resignation on Wednesday at the request of UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.

“Today I have accepted the resignation of my special representative Mr. Babacar Gaye, head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA,” Ban is cited as saying by Reuters.

According to the UN head, Gaye worked “so honorably” for many years, but left his post in order “to show a strong example.”

The move came as Amnesty International blamed MINUSCA peacekeepers of raping a 12-year-old girl and murdering a boy along with his father during an operation in Bangui, the CAR’s capital, earlier in August.

The alleged perpetrators “should be brought to justice in accordance with their national laws,” Ban said.

The UN head said that he’ll hold a special meeting with all UN envoys, police commissioners, and force commanders on the issue.

Countries should not only teach their peacekeepers about human rights and preventing crime, but also insure justice if crimes are committed, he added.

“Ultimate responsibility rests with governments who send their people,” Ban stressed.

The UN head’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, later said that despite the CAR incident Ban maintains “full confidence” in UN peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous.

Earlier on Wednesday, Amnesty International said that accounts of the rape of a 12-year-old girl and the indiscriminate murders of a 16-year-old boy and his father by UN peacekeepers require an urgent response.

“Our evidence strongly suggests that a UN peacekeeper raped a young girl and that UN peacekeeping forces indiscriminately killed two civilians,” said Joanne Mariner, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International.

The alleged incidents are reported to have occurred August 2-3 inside the PK5 Muslim enclave of the Central African capital, Bangui, where the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) was on assignment.

© Adama Diarra

The girl had been hiding in a bathroom when UN peacekeepers were searching for a suspected criminal on August 2, she told Amnesty. One of them allegedly entered, dragged her outside and raped her behind a truck.

“When I cried, he slapped me hard and put his hand over my mouth,” she said, Amnesty reported. She said that the peacekeeper first groped her and then tore her clothes off, showing the interviewer the torn underwear.

“He threw me to the ground and lay down on top of me,” she said.

A nurse later examined the girl and found evidence of sexual assault.

‘They were going to shoot at anything that moved’

According to witnesses interviewed by Amnesty, violent clashes between residents and the peacekeepers had resulted in the death of one peacekeeper and nine others were injured. A number of them reportedly showed up the next day and started “shooting indiscriminately in the street where the killings had taken place,” according to Amnesty.

On that day, 61-year-old man Balla Hadji and his 16-year-old son were shot in the back and the chest, respectively. It is reported that the man was having breakfast with his wife when the peacekeepers arrived and left the family compound to call for his daughter. He was shot in the back. The boy ran to help him and was also shot.

A neighbor testified that the peacekeepers were “going to shoot at anything that moved.” They reportedly did not help anyone transport their wounded.

A total of 15 witnesses and victims were interviewed, apart from the 12-year-old girl and her family.

An initial investigation has been begun by the UN, the mission’s spokesman, Hamadoun Toure, told Amnesty. “We got the report from Amnesty International today regarding the killing of two people and the alleged rape. We take it seriously. We take seriously anything related to allegations of sexual abuse. We have a zero tolerance policy.”

© Adama Diarra

The preliminary external investigation is expected to report its results on August 16.

It is suggested that the peacekeepers had been from Cameroon and Rwanda, but Toure said: “I don’t know. I can’t confirm, I can’t deny anything at this stage.”

Commenting on the evidence, Amnesty’s Joanne Mariner called for a thorough investigation.

“These allegations of rape and indiscriminate killing committed by UN troops are supported by physical evidence and multiple witness accounts. There must be a prompt and thorough investigation by a competent civilian authority and the girl must receive full support, including medical and psychological care.”

The UN deployed peacekeepers to the Central African Republic in September 2014, trying to patch things up between its Muslim and Christian population, who had been engaging in sectarian attacks since 2013. A force of 10,000 peacekeepers currently operates there.

The latest reports of crimes by UN personnel are only the latest in a series of similar allegations against peacekeepers.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “personally dismayed and disappointed, not just by these latest reports, but by the series of allegations that have surfaced in the [Central African Rrepublic] mission in recent months,” according to his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, on Tuesday.

Earlier in 2015, French peacekeepers were also implicated in rights abuses in the Central African Republic. An investigation was launched into disclosure of details to French prosecutors, which led to the firing of a senior UN official at the mission.

“We would like to emphasize once more that no conduct of this nature can be tolerated and that every allegation will be taken seriously,” Dujarric said. He added that no immunity from prosecution would be offered to the troops if the allegations hold up.