The United Nations announced on Wednesday that all Gabonese military units deployed to the peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, are to be sent home immediately, following credible reports alleging that unidentified 'blue helmets' had abused five girls.
MINUSCA said that an immediate response team had been dispatched to the location where the abuse allegedly occurred in central CAR, to assess the situation, establish prevention measures and raise awareness among communities on how to report sexual exploitation and abuse.
The Mission has referred the victims to humanitarian partners for medical, psychosocial and protection assistance, in line with the UN's policies on support to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, the UN Spokesperson told correspondents at the regular daily press briefing in New York.
In a press release, MINUSCA made clear that "in line with the United Nations' global policy of assistance and support to victims of sexual exploitation or abuse by United Nations personnel or related staff, the identified victims received immediate care and support through Mission partners, according to their medical, psychosocial and protection needs."
On September 7, the United Nations Secretariat requested the Gabonese authorities to appoint a national investigator within five working days and for the investigation to be concluded in less than 90 days", said the MINUSCA statement, adding that the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) has also opened an investigation and "stands ready to assist should a national investigator be appointed."
"Due to the serious nature of these latest reported allegations, the United Nations Secretariat took the decision to repatriate the entire Gabonese contingent of MINUSCA", the release continued.
The decision was communicated to the Gabonese Government, on Tuesday, based on a Security Council resolution relating to troops, which makes clear that "in the face of instances of credible evidence of widespread and systemic sexual exploitation and abuse, or failures to take appropriate steps to investigate, hold perpetrators accountable, or keep the Secretary-General informed of progress, the units of the Member State should be replaced."
MINUSCA said that it remains "firmly committed to fighting sexual exploitation and abuse by its personnel and to fully implementing" the UN's zero tolerance policy towards the scourge.