A senior United Nations aid worker has been suspended for disclosing to prosecutors an internal report on the sexual abuse of children by French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic.
Entitled Sexual Abuse on Children by International Armed Forces and stamped “confidential” on every page, the report details the rape and sodomy of starving and homeless young boys by French peacekeeping troops who were supposed to be protecting them at a centre for internally displaced people in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic.
Donovan said: “The regular sex abuse by peacekeeping personnel uncovered here and the United Nations’ appalling disregard for victims are stomach-turning, but the awful truth is that this isn’t uncommon. The UN’s instinctive response to sexual violence in its ranks – ignore, deny, cover up, dissemble – must be subjected to a truly independent commission of inquiry with total access, top to bottom, and full subpoena power.”
The boys, some of whom were orphans, disclosed sexual exploitation, including rape and sodomy, between December 2013 and June 2014 by French troops at a centre for internally displaced people at M’Poko airport in Bangui.
The children described how they were sexually exploited in return for food and money. One 11-year-old boy said he was abused when he went out looking for food. A nine-year-old described being sexually abused with his friend by two French soldiers at the IDP camp when they went to a checkpoint to look for something to eat.
The child described how the soldiers forced him and his friend to carry out a sex act. The report describes how distressed the child was when disclosing the abuse and how he fled the camp in terror after the assault. Some of the children were able to give good descriptions of the soldiers involved.
The report contains interviews with six children who disclose sexual abuse predominantly at the hands of French peacekeepers. Some children indicated that several of their friends were also being sexually exploited.
The interviews were carried out by an official from the OHCHR justice section and a member of Unicef between May and June last year. The children, who are aged between eight/nine and 15, disclosed abuse dating back to December 2013. Entitled “Sexual abuse on children by international armed forces”, it is stamped confidential on every page.
The allegations include claims that Chadian soldiers, who are part of the peacekeeping mission, were also involved in abuse.
The children all talk of being abused in return for food rations handed out by the soldiers. One interview details how two nine-year-old children were sexually exploited together by two French soldiers.
The child goes on to describe how he and his friend were told to carry out a sex act on both soldiers before being given three packs of military food rations and some money.
Another nine-year-old child described how he went to ask for food from the French military at the IDP camp at M’Poko airport.
He says the soldier told him to carry out a sex act on him first. The report states: “He [the child] had friends who had done it already, he knew what he had to do. Once done, the military gave a military food portion and some food. X said the military had forbidden him to tell anything about him to anybody and that if he would do so he would beat him.”
A French judicial source revealed that a number of French soldiers accused of the abuse had been identified from the descriptions provided by the children.
In Bangui on Thursday, the mother of one child told Associated Press her son was just nine when he was assaulted by French soldiers. Her family had fled to the airport on the first day of the sectarian clashes in December 2013 and she and her son are still living there.
“The children were vulnerable because they were hungry and their parents had nothing to give them, so the children were forced to ask the soldiers for food,” she said.
“They took advantage of the children forcing them to perform oral sex and also sodomising them,” she said. “The moaning of children in the area often started around 10 pm or 11 pm.”
Another resident said other abused children ranged in age from 10-13.
“In exchange for cookies, the soldiers demanded oral sex,” she said, recounting what the children told her. “Afterwards, they were given bottles of water. They even sodomised the children.”