France sent troops to Central African Republic (CAR) to help stabilize the war-torn country, but the nation is now facing accusations that soldiers raped or sexually assaulted children as young as 9 years old.
French President François Hollande promised to “show no mercy” to those soldiers if found guilty of these horrific crimes. Some allegedly raped the children in exchange for food.
“If some soldiers have behaved badly, I will show no mercy,” he exclaimed.
The United Nations did not stop the abuse in the refugee camps, which forced senior UN aid worker Ander Kompass to submit the report to French authorities. Even though Kompass was trying to help the victims, the UN decided to suspend him as director of field operations.
To raise more awareness about the brutal environment, aid worker Paula Donovan gave the report to The Guardian. The publication “stated the report details the rape and sodomy of starving and homeless young boys by French peacekeeping troops who were supposed to be protecting them.”
“The regular sex abuse by peacekeeping personnel uncovered here and the United Nations’ appalling disregard for victims are stomach-turning, but the awful truth is that this isn’t uncommon,” Donovan told The Guardian. “The UN’s instinctive response to sexual violence in its ranks – ignore, deny, cover up, dissemble – must be subjected to a truly independent commission of inquiry with total access, top to bottom, and full subpoena power.”
The incidents against 10 young children in the report occurred between December 2013 and June 2014.
“The children were saying that they were hungry and they thought that they could get some food from the soldiers,” explained Donovan. “The answer was ‘if you do this, then I will give you food.’ Different kids used different language.”
The French defense ministry claims they identified a few of the accusers. Those still on the loose should turn themselves in.
“If someone has sullied our flag – because that’s what it is – he must say so right now, because it’s a betrayal of comrades, the image of France and the army’s mission,” stated Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. “When a French soldier is on a mission, he is France. If one of them has committed such acts, they must immediately give themselves in.”
The Central African Republic broke out in violence between the Christian majority and Muslim minority in 2013. France warned the United Nations that year that the country was “on the verge of genocide.” The BBC visited CAR in February 2014 and witnessed “mosques and Muslim property which had been burnt.” The reporters rescued over 2,000 Muslim evacuees by the end of their trip.