The United Nations Secretariat has ordered the repatriation of Gabonese peacekeepers serving in its mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) after becoming aware of allegations of sexual abuse against five girls in that country.

In a statement, the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR pointed to the organisation’s zero tolerance policy with respect to sexual exploitation and abuse.

“The UN Mission in the CAR announced a decision by the secretariat to repatriate all Gabonese military units from the CAR effective immediately. This decision follows credible reports received by the mission of sexual abuse by the Gabonese military contingent deployed to the peacekeeping mission and the history of pending allegations involving Gabonese contingents in the country. Gabon has been formally notified of this decision. The mission also dispatched an immediate response team to the location to assess the situation, established prevention measures and raised awareness among communities on how to report SEA. The mission has referred the victims to humanitarian partners for medical, psychosocial and protection assistance in line with our policies on support of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse,” says the UN Secretary General’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

Insecurity and violence in CAR

The Central African Republic, a small landlocked country in the centre of the African continent, has long been beset by conflict with dire humanitarian consequences for civilians.

The country’s citizens are currently trapped in the grip of an unprecedented increase in violence sparked by the contested December 2020 presidential elections.

The insecurity caused by the fighting and fear of attacks has forced many to flee towards larger towns.

The violence has also severely impacted the ability of organisations to provide healthcare.