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French press review 2 May 2015

The French press is putting pressure on the military to come clean on child abuse allegations facing its Sangaris forces in the Central African Republic. They publish Bangui residents' shocking revelations about the culture of abuses perpetrated by UN peacekeepers deployed in the war-ravaged country.


Libération reports that three of the 14 suspects have been clearly identified but it wonders why it took the French military so long to investigate the abuses when the UN whistleblower leaked the report to them in July last year. Suggestions of an attempt by Paris to cover up the crimes are perceived by people watching the story closely as an indication that abuses may have been at a scale much wider than admitted.

Amnesty International’s Stephen Cockburn, deputy director for West and Central Africa, corroborates fears that this is not the first time in recent years that charges of sexual abuse are being tabled against peacekeepers serving in the region.

Le Parisian called Bangui’s state prosecutor to discuss the scandal. Ghislain Grésenguet told Le Parisien he heard about the abuses for the very first time on RFI.

Despite nursing frustrations for such disregard and lack of cooperation by the foreign forces operating in his country, Grésenguet says it was important for his country’s judiciary to open an investigation of their own so as to understand the scale of the abuses. He noted that it was important for the judiciaries in Bangui and Paris to cooperate fully on matters as serious as these.

Le Figaro publishes testimonies of Bangui residents who sought refuge at the French–guarded airport at the time, who claim that they knew what was taking place. One said she tried to alert the authorities at the time but no one was ready to listen.

Francoise, a 65-year-old mother, tells the right-wing publication that the French soldiers deployed in Bangui in the immediate outbreak of circular violence would invite girls and, at times, little boys to their camps. Another Bangui resident spoke to the paper about his anger and frustration for failing to act despite being informed of the abuses. "What could I have done?" he asked. “I was a displaced person and they were soldiers.”

The Catholic Archbishop of Bangui is among the personalities speaking their minds about the scandal. Dieudonné Nzapailanga urges the faithful not to desist from sweeping condemnation. It is not all the Sangaris soldier who abused children but a few, he told Le Figaro.

Liberation warns about the threat of epidemics breaking out in the centre of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, where more than 5,000 refugees are squatting in terrible conditions. The latest death toll from last Saturday’s earthquake stands at 6,250 dead and 14,350 wounded, according to Nepal’s interior ministry.

Libé reports that about 1,000 Europeans including 159 French citizens are still missing. One week after the quake, one of the paper’s reporters managed to reach the region of Chautara where very little aide has trickled in. In the mountains, the Nepalese are still all on their own, and to prove this it publishes a graphic picture of three children with hands clad to their noses, an effort to reduce the stench of dead bodies buried in the rubble of their hometown razed to the ground.

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