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5 Apr, 2016 09:49

Paternity claims on top of sexual abuse accusations for 11 UN peacekeepers in DR Congo

Paternity claims on top of sexual abuse accusations for 11 UN peacekeepers in DR Congo

The UN has registered paternity claims from alleged victims of 11 Tanzanian peacekeepers accused of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The mission previously received allegations of sex with minors and sex for money.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters that troops from the mission's Force Intervention Brigade in the village of Mavivi, eastern DRC, have been confined to the mission's base camp pending investigation. According to Dujarric, the 11 accused peacekeepers include four from the mission's current deployment and seven from a previous contingent.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC is the world's largest, with around 20,000 uniformed personnel. It was initially put in place during a civil war that took place in 1998-2003. The UN's Force Intervention Brigade has an unprecedented mandate to take offensive military action against rebel groups to help end the ongoing conflict.

"Initial results suggest that there is evidence of transactional sex and sex with minors," the UN mission said in a statement. "There are also a number of paternity claims."

The statement did not say how many cases of abuse had been registered.

The UN’s DR Congo mission first announced that it had received allegations of sex with minors and sex for pay against the Tanzanians on Friday. A response team was immediately dispatched to investigate. The UN has pledged to provide medical and psychological support to victims.

Ban's spokesman said it was impossible to say whether more allegations against the Tanzanian contingent could emerge, encouraging victims of alleged abuses to "to feel free” to come forward.

"We want to make sure that the communities and those members in the communities who may have been abused feel free and safe enough to come forward," Dujarric said.

The UN said on Thursday that over 100 girls and women had also come forward with fresh sexual abuse accusations against foreign peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR), a landlocked country in Central Africa with an estimated population of 4.7 million. UN officials said they have interviewed some 108 alleged victims, most of them minors, Reuters reported.

UN peacekeeping missions have been plagued by accusations of sexual abuse for months.

Last week an advocacy group released horrific details of how at least 98 CAR girls were allegedly sexually abused by international peacekeepers.

The report, released an international advocacy organization, said that MINUSCA (the UN’s peacekeeping mission in CAR) met with local leaders and victims “who reported that troops from France and Gabon have sexually abused several girls in their province.” The group cited three CAR girls who said that they, along with a fourth girl, were raped by UN peacekeepers. The girls said they “were tied up and undressed inside a camp by a military commander from the Sangaris force (the French military intervention in CAR) and forced to have sex with a dog. Each girl was then given 5,000 Central African Francs (USD $9),” the group wrote.

Last August the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR was forced to resign after human rights groups called for an investigation into murder and rape allegations against his peacekeepers. Babacar Gaye submitted his resignation at the request of the UN secretary-general. 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.

Last December, an independent panel called the UN response to allegations that peacekeepers sexually abused children in the CAR a "gross institutional failure." It found that the accounts by children as young as nine of trading oral sex in exchange for food in the middle of a war zone in 2014 were "passed from desk to desk, inbox to inbox, across multiple UN offices, with no one willing to take responsibility.”