Dar es Salaam. The United Nations announced Friday that it would repatriate an entire unit of 60 peacekeepers from Tanzania, which was based in the western part of the Central African Republic (CAR), following serious allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Tanzania is one of the countries contributing troops to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), established on April 10, 2014, following the deterioration of the country’s security, humanitarian, human rights, and political situation.
On Friday, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told journalists that the Secretariat in New York had decided to send the unit home following consultations with the MINUSCA.
“The decision comes after a preliminary investigation which found credible evidence that 11 unit members had allegedly engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse of four victims,” Mr Dujarric said.
In a statement, MINUSCA said that a rapid response team had been “immediately deployed” to assess the allegations.
UN Peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix wrote on Twitter that the scourge has no place in any part of his department.
He called the repatriation a robust measure taken to protect victims and demonstrate the department’s resolve to address these wrongs “with the troop-contributing country swiftly.”
“The identified victims are being provided care and support by the Mission’s humanitarian partners,” he added. “The Mission has also deployed a team to further engage with the community.”
Mr Lacroix said the Tanzanian authorities had already been formally notified of the decision and had deployed a national investigation team to CAR.
“In reaffirming their commitment to zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse, the Tanzanian authorities noted the seriousness of the allegations and have committed to taking the necessary action to address these matters,” he said.
Authorities were not immediately available for comment.
During his meeting with the journalists, Mr Dujarric said that the unit had been relocated from where the alleged abuse occurred and is now confined to barracks.
“[This is] to protect victims as well, of course, as the integrity of the investigation,” he said. “The unit will be repatriated once the investigators do not require their presence in the theatre.”
This is the first time Tanzanian peacekeepers have been accused of sexual abuse and exploitation.
However, this is not the first time UN peacekeepers have been accused of the practice.
From Haiti and Somalia to CAR and the Democratic Republic of Congo, peacekeepers have been accused of raping women and girls or sexually exploiting them in exchange for food or support.
While the UN can investigate allegations of sexual abuse and rape, peacekeeper accountability is up to the country that sends the troops.
However, prosecutions have been rare even after media coverage and outrage.