The head of U.N. peacekeepers in the Central African Republic has been fired following allegations that peacekeepers have sexually exploited civilians there, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters Wednesday.
Ban said Babacar Gaye resigned at his request, citing “serious allegations … about the conduct of United Nations troops” in the landlocked African country.
Ban tapped as his replacement Parfait Onanga-Anyanga of Gabon, who until recently led the U.N.’s peacekeeping mission in Burundi. The Secretary General announcing the decision during a closed-door meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, a diplomatic source told CNN.
Onanga-Anyanga previously served as director of the office of the U.N. deputy secretary general.
Ban said on Wednesday that he was “anguished, angered and ashamed” of the string of sexual abuse allegedly committed by U.N. forces.
“I believe the disturbing number of allegations we have seen in many countries – but particularly in the Central African Republic in the period before U.N. peacekeepers were deployed and since – speaks to the need to take action now,” Ban said. “Enough is enough.”
Ban’s decision came a day after Amnesty International publicized one of the latest allegations – that a U.N. peacekeeper raped a 12-year-old girl in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, this month.
Gaye is not implicated in that incident, but Ban said he had made it clear in the past that he would hold leaders responsible for serious human rights violations committed under their watch.
There have been 11 allegations of “possible sex abuse” by U.N. peacekeepers in the Central African Republic since the United Nations established the force there in April 2014, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
But similar allegations also were made against French peacekeepers who arrived in the country a year before the U.N. force.
This spring, the director of an advocacy group, citing a confidential U.N. report, said that French soldiers forced minors in the Central African Republic to perform sex acts on them in return for food or money between December 2013 and June 2014 – a time period that straddles the start of the U.N. mission.
The French Defense Ministry and the Paris prosecutor’s office have been investigating those allegations.
Political violence drew peacekeepers to country
Peacekeepers’ involvement in the Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest nations, stems from political violence that began in 2013.
France and African nations sent peacekeepers after a coalition of mostly Muslim rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in March 2013. Christian and Muslim militias continued to battle for control before a tentative political transition began.
The violence prompted a humanitarian crisis, as hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes. Some sought refuge in neighboring countries, but many others were internally displaced, living in makeshift camps.
After the initial wave of peacekeepers, the United Nations in 2014 formally established a U.N. peacekeeping force of up to 11,800 troops, a force to which Rwanda contributes.
The United Nations warned in May that the Central African Republic was “quickly becoming the largest forgotten humanitarian crisis of our time,” with some 60% of the population of 4.6 million still in need of aid, including nearly 900,000 people forcibly displaced by conflict.