ABIDJAN – Amnesty International on Tuesday accused United Nations peacekeepers of raping a 12-year-old girl and killing a boy and his father during an operation in Central African Republic’s capital Bangui earlier this month.
The U.N. mission, set up to maintain stability as the country struggles to emerge from two years of inter-religious violence, was already facing allegations of abuse, as are French soldiers and a previous African peacekeeping force.
The incidents evoked by Amnesty occurred on Aug. 2 and 3 following an armed clash between soldiers from the MINUSCA mission and residents of Bangui’s PK5 Muslim enclave in which one Cameroonian soldier was killed and nine others were injured.
“Our evidence strongly suggests that a U.N. peacekeeper raped a young girl and that U.N. peacekeeping forces indiscriminately killed two civilians,” Joanne Mariner, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty, said in a statement.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said through a spokesman he was “dismayed” at the allegations.
The rights group interviewed a total of 15 witnesses to the two incidents. It also spoke to the alleged rape victim, who had been hiding in a bathroom during a house search on Aug. 2 when a man wearing a U.N. blue helmet and vest took her outside and raped her behind a truck.
“When I cried, he slapped me hard and put his hand over my mouth,” she told Amnesty investigators.
A nurse who examined the girl found medical evidence consistent with sexual assault, Amnesty said.
The following day Balla Hadji, 61, and his 16-year-old son, Souleimane Hadji, were killed in front of their home by U.N. soldiers, the statement said.
Amnesty investigators were told by a MINUSCA spokesperson that Rwandan and Cameroonian police and gendarmes had carried out the operation in PK5.
Speaking to journalists in New York on Tuesday, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said the allegations would be thoroughly investigated.
“The secretary-general is personally dismayed and disappointed, not just by these latest reports, but by the series of allegations that has surfaced … in recent months,” he said.
In June, the United Nations announced that an investigation had been launched after peacekeepers were accused of sexually abusing street children. And last month MINUSCA sent home 20 peacekeepers for using excessive force against four people, killing two of them.
There are around 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Central African Republic, which descended into chaos after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in 2013, sparking reprisals from Christian militia that have resulted in the country’s de facto partition.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.