Gender & SGBVNews

Gabon To Punish Soldiers Withdrawn From UN Forces Over Sexual Violence Allegations

The Gabon army chief of staff promised heavy sanctions on soldiers implicated in the Central African Republic sex violation.

General Yves Ditengou, the Gabonese army chief of staff, has promised sanctions against members of the country’s contingent to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) that were recently withdrawn from that country following accusations of sexual violence and exploitation of women and girls.

“The accusations against successive Gabonese contingents are right now the subject of an investigation being carried out by the United Nations and a high-level Gabonese commission in order to throw more light on the questions,” General Ditengou said in Libreville, the capital on Wednesday, Sept. 29.

The Gabonese army chief of staff who was speaking during a ceremony marking the return of the Gabonese contingent from the CAR said the aim of the investigation was to determine the veracity of the accusations against the Gabonese soldiers.

“If the accusations are true, the next move would be to identify those responsible. In this case, those responsible would be called to answer for their actions before the courts and would be sanctioned with the biggest rigour,” he said. 

Before their deployment to join the UN forces in the Central African Republic, the Gabonese soldiers had received technical, tactical and behavior training.

“Are we supposed to believe they forgot their lessons? Every individual fault does not only engage their authors but reflects fatally on the entire battalion, on the entire defense forces and eventually on all the nation,” the army chief of staff said.

He noted that at the present stage, nothing has been proved against the accused soldiers adding that sexual exploitation and abuse do not mean rape because the process could eventually end up in just being sexual relations.

“The policy of the United Nations is zero tolerance towards sexual exploitation and abuse,” the General declared, adding that “in a country ravaged by civil war, the civilian populations are weakened by deprivation, in particular, the women and girls who are the most vulnerable and constitute easy prey.”

He revealed that having returned to their country, the soldiers would reintegrate into their units and return to their families.

While waiting for the conclusions of the investigation, the soldiers have been advised to maintain low profiles and not make any statement that can prejudice the investigations.

The UN says that since 2010, it has recorded 822 accusations of sexual exploitation and abuse against its personnel involved in peacekeeping operations.

The investigation currently going on would determine the level of implication or not of Gabonese soldiers in the sexual exploitation and abuse allegations.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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