UN peacekeepers on trial over sex abuse allegations in Africa

First group of United Nations soldiers face justice after more than 100 victims, including minors, allegedly suffered sex abuse

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Accused Congolese sit at the Military Tribunal of Kinshasa during the trial for rape of UN MINUSCA soldiers on April 4, 2016

The first group of United Nations peacekeepers went on trial in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday in huge sex abuse scandal that emerged after complaint of some hundred people, most of them minors.

About 18 soldiers from UN and France’s Sangaris force also to be prosecuted for similar charges including rape, rape attempt as well as the three Congolese men went on trial on Monday.

"Sergeant Jackson Kikola is being prosecuted for raping a (young girl) of 17 and for not following orders," reading the indictments Public Prosecutor Lieutenant Mposhi Ngoy said.

Sergeant major Nsasis Ndazu is charged with attempted rape and disobeying orders while Sergeant major Kibeka Mulamba Djuma faced similar charges with sergeant Kikola. All three soldiers pleaded not guilty.

The Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba told AFP that they were trying to ensure full transparency for the trial and a few individuals cannot discredit the army.

Entire process of trial is expected to take months, since three hearings are scheduled each week.

Venance Kalenga, Congolese human rights charity ACAJ’s observer who attended the first round of hearings said “the absence of victims constitutes a major obstacle in the demonstration of truth.”

The United Nations said last week it has expanded sex abuse investigation of foreign peacekeepers in Central African Republic. UN officials said they have interviewed some 108 alleged victims.

Musenu Tshilayi, a Congolese Sergeant Major accused of rape stands at the Military Tribunal of Kinshasa during the trial of Congolese UN MINUSCA soldiers on April 4, 2016.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was shocked to the core by the allegations of abuse in the Central African Republic.

Ensuring the medical and psycho-social support for victims, Dujarric said 11 of UN’s Tanzanian peace keepers were facing paternity claims.

"We want to make sure that the communities and those members in the communities who may have been abused feel free, safe enough to come forward," he said.

UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations also reiterated Moon’s words as they called the charges “sickening”.

He said UN investigation of “despicable, depraved and deeply disturbing” allegations concerning 2013-2015 “must leave no stone unturned.”

A statement by The Code Blue Campaign, the advocacy group run by the AIDS-Free World cited information from interviews with victims conducted by MINUSCA, the UN mission in Central African Republic.

According to the MINUSCA interviews in 2014, "four girls were tied up and undressed inside a camp by a military commander from the Sangaris force and forced to have sex with a dog.”

The UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, which was initially put in place during a civil war that took place in 1998-2003, is the world's largest, with around 20,000 uniformed personnel.

Following the allegations, the mission’s head Babacar Gaye has resigned last August while some 800 Congolese peacekeepers were repatriated last month.

The Security Council renewed its mandate earlier this week for one year.

TRTWorld and agencies