French prosecutors are looking into allegations that French professional soldiers sexually abused children while on a peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic in 2014, the French defense ministry announced on Wednesday.
Witness accounts gathered by United Nations agencies that took part to the peacekeeping mission say that members of French army in the African country abused more than 10 children in the winter and spring of 2014, the ministry mentioned.
The alleged abuse happened at the airport near the capital city of Bangui, where French soldiers have their headquarters.
French defense officials explained they immediately carried out an internal inquiry into the accusations, and last summer referred the issue to French prosecutors as part of a criminal investigation. That probe is being controlled by military police investigators who are working under a Paris prosecutor, who made the journey to Central African Republic in July 2014, the ministry said.
A spokesperson for the Paris prosecutor’s office said that the investigation is still under way.
“If these facts prove true, the ministry will ensure that the strongest penalties are imposed on those responsible for what would be an intolerable attack on military values,” the defense ministry announced.
French soldiers are helping fight Boko Haram in the Central African Republic, near the Nigerian border. They are also important to the maintaining of peace in Ivory Coast, while also protecting cities in Mali from al Qaeda rebels, which are targeting the famous town of Timbuktu.
Central African Republic has been affected by sectarian war since 2012, when a revolt by Muslims whom are living in the northeast regions of the country ousted a sitting government. In Bangui, both Muslims and Christians committed horrible crimes, raping women and lynching men.
French peacekeepers went in the country in December 2013 willing to stop the murders, which, however, continued for a long time. More than a quarter of Central African Republic’s population of 4,6 million people have left their homes, and the nation is now split along religious lines. Approximately 1,700 French troops remain in the country, according to the French defense ministry.
In parts of the devastated country, fighting continues, even if most of the country is now so segregated that the brutalities have ended. On Tuesday, Hervé Ladsous, the U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, said confidently after a four-day visit: “I am leaving the Central African Republic serene and reasonably optimistic”.
Image Source: The Telegraph