UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ordered all Gabonese peacekeepers out of the Central African Republic (CAR) for failing to address sexual abuse allegations, a spokesman of the world body said.
All Gabonese military units, about 450 personnel, were ordered to return home immediately, Xinhua news agency quoted Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesman for Guterres, as saying here on Wednesday.
According to Dujarric, the Security Council authorised the Secretary-General to repatriate whole units in such a case.
The UN Secretariat formally notified Gabon of the repatriation decision, Dujarric said.
The CAR mission was Gabon’s only peacekeeping assignment.
“The decision taken by the Secretary-General comes after what we feel is a failure to respond effectively to a history of allegations of sexual exploitation in the CAR by the Gabonese, which includes a failure to conduct timely and effective investigations and to report on sanctions for substantiated allegations,” said the spokesman.
“This decision follows credible reports received by the (UN) mission of sexual abuse by the Gabonese military contingent deployed to the peacekeeping mission, and the history of pending allegations involving the Gabonese contingent in the country,” he said, adding that six of 32 allegations have been substantiated.
He said misconduct allegations go back to 2015 and concern 81 alleged perpetrators from Gabon, all military contingent members deployed or formerly deployed to the peacekeeping mission in the CAR.
The mission dispatched an immediate response team to the location to assess the situation, establish prevention measures and raise awareness among communities on how to report sexual exploitation and abuse, the spokesman said.
The mission referred victims to humanitarian partners for medical, psychosocial and protection assistance, in line with UN policies on supporting victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, he added.
The UN peacekeeping unit is working on a contingency plan to temporarily replace the Gabonese in the CAR and find permanent replacement troops, he said.
Dujarric said his heart goes out to all the sexually abused and that all perpetrators have to face justice.
When only men are in authority, power issues must be addressed, he said.
While the spokesman did not describe any circumstances in the allegations, peacekeepers in earlier abuse cases were known to promise access to food, commodities or favours in exchange for sex.