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UN force in Central African Republic may send Congo soldiers home over abuse claims

A file photo of Senegalese general Balla Keita in the Central African Republic (by AFP)
Hundreds of Congolese soldiers on a UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) face allegations of sexual abuse, fuel trafficking, and poor discipline.
The commander of the UN peacekeeping force in the CAR, General Balla Keita, has called for the soldiers to either be disciplined by the Congo or face departure, according to a confidential memo that was leaked on Tuesday.
He warned the Congo to “commit itself to improving without delay the standard of its unit” or else a “decision should be made to repatriate and replace the Congolese battalion.”
The Congolese soldiers in the CAR have previously been accused of sexual abuse and exploitation, according to Human Rights Watch documents.
A battalion of about 800 Congolese soldiers were sent to the CAR last year, but 120 of them were repatriated following similar allegations, which involved at least seven victims, six of whom were children, according to a report by the UN force in the CAR.
UN peacekeeping spokeswoman Ismini Palla said the peacekeeping force in the CAR has carried out an assessment of the Congolese contingent and has shared the results with the Congo.
“The battalion is notorious for SEA (sexual abuse and exploitation) misconducts, fuel trafficking and poor discipline,” Keita wrote in the memo, adding that he had sent “six blame letters” to the battalion commander already this year.
UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (file photo)
“The situation has deteriorated to the point that the battalion is no longer trustable because of poor leadership, lack of discipline, and operational deficiencies,” Keita wrote.
The United Nations has 10,000 troops and 2,000 people serving in its MINUSCA force in the Central African Republic. The country has been plagued by deadly political violence since March 2003, when former army chief of staff Francois Bozize launched a coup and declared himself president.
Since that year, a militia group loyal to Bozize, known as anti-Balaka, has killed and tortured civilians, mutilated victims, and pillaged UN and other diplomatic facilities in so-called “cleansing operations” against Muslims, according to a report by UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).
The bloodshed deteriorated in March 2013 when the mainly Muslim coalition of ex-Seleka rebels overthrew Bozize from power.
In an election in 2016, former prime minister Faustin-Archange Touadéra won the presidency, but fighting between the ex-Seleka militia and the mainly Christian anti-Balaka rebels continues to take its toll on the country.

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