By Journalists For Justice
An online campaign to force France to withdraw its troops from Central African Republic for alleged gross sexual abuse of girls and women has picked up momentum.
The campaign on the social platform, Avaaz Community Petitions, is also demanding for UN’s action on reports of rampant rape by its peacekeepers in CAR.
Avaaz ((voice in Farsi) rallies mass outrage on the internet, via online petitions and email campaigns.
“We want the French government to withdraw all its troops from the CAR and investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the horrific abuses of children. The victims should also receive proper care and support in rebuilding their future and prevent further abuse,” say the lead campaigners Samantha Asumadu and Guilaine Kinouani.
“The testimonies coming out are simply too horrific for us to stand by. Those who are accused of having committed those crimes must face criminal charges and a trial. These latest revelations about soldiers stationed by the UN are evidence that it is untenable for French troops to continue to be based in Africa,” they say.
The UN has been blamed for inaction on sexual abuse by its peacekeepers in various stations like Haiti and Liberia.
“Let’s not add the CAR to the long list of countries in which cases of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers have gone unpunished,” say the campaigners.
Last year, details of the abuse by the French troops, who were deployed independent of the UN mission, were leaked to the public. It was reported that a commander in the battalion was forcing girls to have sex with dogs for Sh650 (£6) each.
The leaked confidential report entitled Sexual Abuse on Children by International Armed Forces, showed that children told human rights investigators they were sexually exploited, including rape and sodomy, in the capital Bangui in early 2014.
One nine-year-old boy reportedly described how French soldiers at a camp for internally displaced people forced him and his friend to perform a sex act when they went to look for food.
According to AIDS-Free World’s Code Blue, which has been working in CAR, widespread crimes and abuses in CAR by so-called “peacekeepers” have recently come to light.
Since the start of the UN peacekeeping mandate in September 2014, more than 40 suspected cases of sexual attacks and abuse have been reported.
The UN said in a 2015 report that 480 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse had been made between 2008 and 2013. Of these, a third involved minors in countries where UN peacekeepers operated, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Haiti and South Sudan.
Chaos erupted in the country after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels toppled the president in 2013, leading to the formation of the Christian anti-Balaka militia, unleashing sectarian fighting that forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes.
The UN sent a 10,000-strong force in the following year to help restore order and France launched its intervention at the request of the Bangui government.
In December 2015, The Report of an Independent Review on the Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by International Peace Keeping Forces in the Central African Republic described the manner by which the UN had responded to the allegations as ‘seriously flawed’ and called for reforms to protect the victims.
Read the report Taking Action on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by Peacekeepers: