France - Central African Republic

French officials in Central Africa question children allegedly abused by military

The people of the town of Bouar, in the extreme west of the Central African Republic, welcome the French military, December 2013.
The people of the town of Bouar, in the extreme west of the Central African Republic, welcome the French military, December 2013. AFP

French investigators were on their way Tuesday to the Central African Republic to question children who say they were sexually abused by peacekeepers, a judicial source has told French news agency AFP.

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The children allege that more than a dozen French soldiers abused them in exchange for food.

The soldiers had been dispatched to the Central African Republic to restore order after a 2013 coup.

France’s defence ministry was informed of the alleged abuse in July 2014 when it received a leaked report compiled by United Nations officials on the ground.

The ministry launched an internal probe into the case, sending police investigators to the former French colony on 1 August. But the allegations only emerged in April when The Guardian newspaper broke the story.

Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at the time that the investigation was still open because it was "complex," and denied that the ministry tried to cover up the scandal.

The UN human rights office had also faced accusations of trying to hide the crimes from the public, which it has vehemently denied.

The UN employee who turned the report over to French authorities had said he did so because he felt his bosses had failed to take action.

The latest news of the probe comes after two French special forces soldiers accused of sexually abusing children in Burkina Faso were taken into custody on arriving back in France last week.

A Franco-Burkinabé woman has accused them of sexually assaulting her two girls, aged three and five.

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