United Nations peacekeepers in the Central African Republic raped or sexually exploited at least eight women and girls between October and December 2015. Among the survivors are a 14-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman who said peacekeepers gang-raped them near Bambari airport in the center of the country.
This should include maintaining confidentiality to reduce risk of stigmatization, minimizing repeated trauma due to multiple interviews, and ensuring rapid access to medical and psychosocial care.
The UN and troop-contributing countries should take urgent steps to end ongoing sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic and put into operation effective measures to investigate these crimes, bring those responsible to justice, and provide services and support to victims.
“Peacekeepers who rape, exploit, or kill should not simply be sent home with no commitment to justice, The UN should use its full leverage with troop-contributing countries to ensure that those who abuse victims and tarnish the UN and its mission face justice befitting their crimes.”
For detailed accounts of the abuse cases Human Rights Watch documented, please see below.
Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by Peacekeepers in Bambari
Human Rights Watch documented the following cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers in late 2015. They include two cases of gang-rape, one of them a child; four cases of rape, including two of children; and four cases of sex in exchange for food or money, one of which involved a child. Two of the rape survivors said they had also engaged in transactional sex, fitting the UN definition of sexual exploitation.
Case 1: A 14-year-old girl said that two peacekeepers attacked her in November as she was returning home from the MINUSCA base at the airport. They are presumed to be from the Republic of Congo contingent who were guarding the airport. She told Human Rights Watch:
The men were dressed in their military uniforms and had their guns. I walked by and suddenly one of them grabbed me by my arms and the other one ripped off my clothes. They pulled me into the tall grass and one held my arms while the other one pinned down my legs and raped me. The soldier holding my arms tried to hold my mouth, but I was still able to scream. Because of that they had to run away before the second soldier could rape me.
Case 2: A 30-year-old woman said that a peacekeeper raped her in Bambari in November while she was cutting wood in the bush near the airport:
I raised my head and saw a person. He was in his uniform with a gun…. He took me by force and said, ‘We are going to have sex like a man and wife.’ I was afraid and I tried to resist and he punched me in the face. I fell on the ground behind me. He took my clothes and had forced sex with me… Since then I am afraid to go to this part of the [displacement] camp… Emotionally, I think about it a lot. We fled to come here [to the displacement camp]. We lost everything.
Case 3: An 18-year-old woman said that armed peacekeepers forced her into the bush and gang-raped her when she visited the base of Republic of Congo troops near the airport in late 2015 seeking food or money. She said: “When someone refuses [to have sex with] the soldiers, they say their chief is going to come. They sometimes come in groups and rape her.” In the months before she was raped, this woman also engaged in sex with peacekeepers based at the airport in exchange for food. She said:
Before, when we would go there, we had to have sex before they gave us things…They would ask us to go in the bush and there they would ask us to have sex with them…. It was always after sex that they gave us things.
Case 4: A 14-year-old girl said she was walking by the MINUSCA base at an old cotton factory in late December when a peacekeeper from the Democratic Republic of Congo attacked her:
I was on a path in the bush and had walked by the MINUSCA guards when a soldier jumped out at me. He was in a uniform like the other soldiers from the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo. He had his gun with him. He slapped me in the face and made me continue to walk on the path… We walked for a while, then he ripped off my clothes and used them to tie my hands behind my back. He threw me on the ground, placed his gun to the side and got on top of me to rape me. When he was done he just left. I had to put my clothes on and I went home…. There should be some justice done to this man.
Case 5: A 29-year-old woman said that a soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo raped her in October 2015:
It was at night and I was washing myself in my hut. I heard a knock on the door and I said I was busy. But a man said, “No, open the door…. I have come to see you.” I ignored it and thought a few minutes later that he had left. But as I finished washing he just came in. It was a MINUSCA soldier in a blue hat. I said, “What are you doing here?” and I told him to leave. But he forced himself on me and as he was stronger I had no choice.
The woman also engaged in sexual relationships with MINUSCA peacekeepers in exchange for food and money earlier in 2015. She said:
The conditions of life at the [displacement] camp were precarious. I did not know what to do so I started having sex with the international forces. For this they gave me fish, chicken, jam and bread. Sometimes they give me between 1,000 and 2,000 CFA (approximately $1.60 to $3.30 USD)…. Before [the conflict], things were not like this…. I had to make decisions because life was so difficult so I chose to enter into these relations for survival.
Case 6: A 16-year-old girl said that a peacekeeper from the Republic of Congo who was based at the airport gave her food and money in exchange for sex from October to December. She said that soldiers instigated sexual relationships with her when she and a friend went to the base to sell alcohol: “I met him when he was on guard duty at the airport. We had sex there. After that he would come to my hut.” She said that the peacekeeper would give her food or 1,000 CFA (approximately $1.60 USD). The girl said that when the conflict started in Bambari she had no choice but to move near the airport for her safety and that of a family member with a disability. Once there, she said she had no means to provide for herself and her relative and felt she had no option but to exchange sex for food and money.
Case 7: An 18-year-old woman said that in November she exchanged sex for food and money with soldiers presumed to be from the Republic of Congo, who were based at the airport. Her friends, who were already trading sex for basic supplies, and a family member encouraged her to approach the contingent because her family had “problems of food and money.” She said that her friends told her, “Instead of staying in your situation you should go with the Congolese so they will give you money to feed your family.” She said: “I got it in my head to go there. I already knew they were asking for sex. I said to my friends, ‘Ok, my father is dead, my mother is dead. I can’t just die.’ I followed my girlfriends, and the things they did, I did.”
Case 8: Human Rights Watch received credible information from multiple sources, including a parent of the survivor, about the rape of a 13-year-old girl in mid-November by two MINUSCA peacekeepers near the Bambari airport. The girl had sex with one peacekeeper in exchange for food. Then two other peacekeepers appeared and raped her.
UN Measures to Combat Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA)
Rape, sex in exchange for money, goods or services, and sex with anyone under 18 by UN military, police, or civilians qualify as sexual exploitation and abuse, and are prohibited by the UN. The UN professes a zero tolerance policy with respect to sexual exploitation and abuse.