BANGUI (Reuters) - The U.N.’s peacekeeping force in Central African Republic (MINUSCA) said on Thursday it has begun a probe into claims that one of its peacekeepers sexually abused an underaged girl.
The allegations follow a U.N. report documenting the involvement of French and African soldiers in the sexual abuse of young children while on a peacekeeping mission between December 2013 and June 2014.
“The UN’s head of mission Babacar Gaye is extremely concerned about these allegations and immediately launched the investigation process and informed the government of the Central African Republic,” MINUSCA said in a statement.
MINUSCA said that the abuse by the peacekeeper allegedly occurred in the country’s east and that measures had immediately been put in place to protect the victim.
The United Nations is already under fire because of its slow response to reports of the abuse by French and African soldiers, which included claims children were made to perform oral sex.
It only responded publicly after an article appeared in the British newspaper The Guardian in April.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this week an external independent review would be set up on its handling of the allegations. France has opened its own probe and says it has identified some of its soldiers suspected of involvement.
Violence erupted in the former French colony in 2013 after mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power and then went on a looting and killing spree, prompting reprisal attacks from militia drawn from the Christian majority.
French soldiers and a 10,000-strong U.N. mission have helped restore order and militias have now agreed to a preliminary disarmament deal, although hundreds of thousands of people remain displaced.
Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Dominic Evans