The UN has decided to withdraw some 450 Gabonese peacekeepers from the Central African Republic (CAR) following allegations of sexual abuse, the Gabonese defense ministry announced on Wednesday.
“In recent weeks, acts of exceptional gravity, contrary to military ethics and to the honor of the armed forces, committed by certain elements of the Gabonese battalions (…) have been reported,” said the ministry in a press release sent to AFP.
“Following numerous cases of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse which are being dealt with, the United Nations today decided to withdraw the Gabonese contingent from MINUSCA”, the UN mission in CAR, and “An investigation has been opened by Gabon,” the statement said. .
One of the poorest countries in the world, the CAR has been chronically unstable since its independence from France in 1960.
He is currently suffering from the aftermath of a brutal civil conflict that erupted in 2013 after a coup against then-president François Bozizé.
MINUSCA was deployed by the UN in April 2014 to try to end the conflict between the coalition of Séléka armed groups that overthrew Bozizé and the militias that support him.
The conflict has diminished considerably in intensity but MINUSCA, with more than 10,000 people, is still present in the country, mainly to protect civilians.
Allegations of sex crimes involving peacekeepers are recurrent, and although some contingents have been withdrawn in the past, no investigation has resulted in convictions to date, at least publicly.