The Gabonese Ministry of Defense said a number of “extremely serious acts contrary to military ethics and the honor of the military” had been reported in recent weeks.
Gabon’s Ministry of Defense has said the United Nations is withdrawing the country’s peacekeeping force of 450 people from the Central African Republic (CAR) over allegations of sexual abuse.
“Extremely serious acts against military ethics and the honor of the army, committed by certain elements in the Gabonese battalions, have been reported in recent weeks,” the ministry said in a statement sent to the AFP news agency on Wednesday.
“After many cases of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse being processed, the United Nations today decided to withdraw the Gabonese contingent from MINUSCA,” the UN mission in the CAR said, and “an investigation has been launched by Gabon,” it said. the statement.
Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, who has dealt extensively with allegations of sexual abuse against the Blue Helmets, which has tarnished their reputation worldwide, said the lawyer representing the victims described the news as “a small victory – but it is not.” not enough ‘.
“What she wants to see is the prosecution of those involved in cases of sexual abuse in the CAR itself,” he added.
“As far as the UN conventions are concerned, the soldiers involved in the allegations of sexual abuse are not prosecuted in the country where the crimes are committed, but rather in their homeland. That’s why we saw the Gabonese prosecutors [the CAR’s capital] Bangui has been investigating soldiers under the auspices of the UN for the past two years. ”
CAR, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been chronically unstable since it became independent from France in 1960.
It is currently suffering from the aftermath of a brutal civil conflict that erupted in 2013 following a coup against then-President Francois Bozize.
MINUSCA was deployed by the UN in April 2014 to end the conflict by the Seleka coalition of armed groups that overthrew Bozize against militias supporting him.
The conflict has diminished dramatically, but MINUSCA has 15,000 personnel in the country, of which 14,000 are in uniform.
Their main mission is to protect civilians.
Allegations of sexual crimes involving peacekeepers have returned frequently, and although some conditions have been withdrawn in the past, no investigations to date have been convicted, at least in public.
If the “alleged facts … are proven, the perpetrators will be brought before the military courts and judged with the utmost severity”, the Gabonese Ministry of Defense said.
“Gabon has always demanded impeccable and exemplary conduct from its military, both in its territory and abroad,” he added.
In early 2017, judges in France decided not to file charges against French soldiers accused of sexually abusing minors while on a peace mission in the car. After an investigation, the prosecutor dropped the case, saying there was not enough evidence to allegedly involve the soldiers.
The UN has been struggling for years with allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers around the world.
Since 2010, it has posted 822 such allegations on its website.
According to nationality, the peacekeeping force with the most allegations since 2015 was Cameroon, with 44 cases, South Africa (37), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (32), Gabon (31) and the Republic of the Congo (26).
In March 2018, Gabon said it planned to withdraw its contingent as the conflict subsided.
Three months later, however, on the orders of the president of the CAR, Faustin-Archange Touadera, his Gabonese counterpart Ali Bongo Ondimba said that the contingent would remain.