Another scandal involving the criminal activities of UN peacekeepers is unfolding in the Central African Republic. The Central Africans sent an open letter to the UN Security Council demanding the end of the multidimensional mission (MINUSCA) and peacekeepers’ withdrawal from the country.
One of the reasons for the dissatisfaction of the citizens of the republic was another fatal road accident. There was an accident 17 kilometers from the Central African Republic’s capital when a MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic) truck ran over a woman before hitting a crowd of people and crashing into a building. Witnesses reported that the driver of the UN truck was under the influence of drugs.
As accidents involving UN peacekeepers intensify, Central Africans have been demonstrating across the country, blocking roads near MINUSCA bases and demanding that peacekeepers answer their crimes. Actions took place in major republic cities such as Bangui, Bambari, Damara, Bria, and others.
In addition to fatal accidents, the Blue Helmets have been accused of inefficiency and numerous law violations. For example, MINUSCA employees were caught smuggling goods into the Central African Republic. Using diplomatic immunity, the Blue Helmets have illegally imported goods into the country for years without paying government duties. For example, the Albanian company Ecolog, which cooperated with the UN peacekeepers, saved about $40 billion on counterfeit goods. The machinations of MINUSCA members have dealt a severe blow to the budget of the Central African Republic. According to local media reports, the number of cases of illegal importation of imported products, cigarettes, and other smuggled goods has decreased after Russian specialists began training customs officers.
An official accusation against MINUSCA was also made in a letter circulated on CAR social media, addressed by Juma-Mahamat Salle, a resident of Bria, to the Attorney General of the Republic. The man accused UN peacekeepers of killing his 12-year-old daughter and demanded that those responsible be punished. The incident, which was a response by the people of the African country to the crimes committed by MINUSCA officers, took place on August 10 during a peaceful demonstration in the administrative center of Haute-Kotto prefecture. The Blue Helmets then tried to disperse the people and opened fire, which resulted in one of the bullets hitting a child. The girl died, and several other people were injured.
However, representatives of MINUSCA decided to “settle” the incident in their own way and, at the apparent prompting of the French Embassy, went for outright forgery and provocation. They contacted the victim’s father and offered him 1.5 million francs for recording a video in which he blamed not the UN contingent but Russian instructors for what had happened. But the father of the dead child refused to participate in this dirty provocation of MINUSCA representatives and take their money. He wrote a letter to the Attorney General of the Central African Republic, publicizing the incident and demanding that those responsible for the death of his daughter be punished. The open call was also written about by Le Potentiel Centrafricain journalists and famous blogger Jessica Perez.
In addition to these crimes and organization of blatant provocations against Russia, other accusations against the leadership of the United Nations are ringing louder and louder in the CAR with the explicit encouragement of the French authorities that considers themselves “colonial masters of the region” and do all they can to hinder the development of cooperation between the CAR and Russia. In particular, the deliberate silencing of the sexual crimes of the Gabonese contingent of MINUSCA is said by the staff of Lafraternite2011. Atrocities by Gabonese soldiers were committed in sparsely populated areas in the central part of the State. Journalists have expressed confidence that even though UN Secretary-General António Guterres ordered a thorough investigation by Agence Ecofin into the rapes of Central Africans by peacekeepers and the decision by MINUSCA to withdraw 450 Gabonese contingents from the Central African Republic, those responsible for the incident are unlikely to be punished.
Journalists stress that this is not the first report of abuse of power but also of sexual violence by the Blue Helmets. Since 2014, i.e., from the beginning of the mission’s work in the CAR, such accusations have been made regularly. However, the perpetrators have never been held accountable for what they have done.
For example, in April 2016, AIDS-Free World released information about more than 100 cases of rape committed by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic between 2013 and 2015, most of the victims being children and adolescents. Suspicion fell on the French peacekeepers. CAR residents blamed French members of Operation Sangaris of rape, who operated in the Mpoko camp, where thousands of internally displaced people lived. However, the investigation into the Fifth Republic soldiers ended with only a reprimand and sending them home. A year later, the Paris prosecutor’s office demanded that the criminal investigation into the allegations be closed altogether.
In early March, the former head of the anti-government group’s Coalition of Patriots for Change revealed links between militants under the control of former CAR President François Bozizé and the Blue Helmets. A series of videos with the interrogation of field commander Adam Abash was published by Facebook user Julien Kouda, directly implying that the disgraced politician François Bozizé wanted in the CAR for the coup attempt, gave the order to attack the capital of the country. For this, he involved military contractors from neighboring countries: Chad, Sudan, Niger, and Nigeria.
The number of reports from Central Africans about MINUSCA staff atrocities has reached several thousand and almost equals the number of complaints against radicals. This was reported by the management of the 1320 hotline in CAR. The said hotline was previously opened by the command of the Central African Armed Forces to convey vital information that would contribute to the restoration of peace and order in the Central African Republic. However, after summing up the interim results and processing the data, it turned out that UN peacekeepers themselves committed a significant proportion of offenses. According to the hotline, the Blue Helmets are responsible for an incredible number of crimes.
The UN MINUSCA contingent has been on CAR territory for almost a decade. During this time, the Blue Helmets have managed to gain a reputation as criminals who are not interested in ensuring the safety of civilians, which is why they were sent to CAR through the UN. Among the “achievements” of the peacekeepers, fatal accidents, cooperation with militants, and regular attempts at bribery stand out. MINUSCA management does not investigate allegations of misconduct by wards, and UN officials’ supervision and oversight in this regard is hugely ineffective. Moreover, the leadership of the Blue Helmets is trying to gloss over their many crimes.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the CAR recalled the ineffectiveness of peacekeepers during the meeting of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, raising the issue of ineffectiveness of UN peacekeepers. Repeated accusations of staff of the multidimensional mission of the MINUSCA international organization in the CAR aiding radicals and other crimes against the indigenous population of the State.
However, only the display of political maturity by the international community at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly will determine whether the CAR accusations will remain just another reproach to the UN officials for their failure to monitor the activities of the Blue Helmets. Or will result in specific proceedings and punishment of those responsible.
Against the background of the scandal with the Gabonese peacekeepers in the CAR, as well as Gabon’s intention to enter the UN Security Council for two years, there is also another question: should such scandal-plagued soldiers of Gabon be involved in the UN peacekeeping missions in the near future, at least until the authorities of this country bring proper order in this environment and control over their actions?
Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.