INTERVIEW: Days of ‘silence’ on sexual exploitation and abuse are over, says UN envoy in Central African Republic

UN Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) Parfait Onanga-Anyanga. Photo: MINUSCA

16 March 2016 – The United Nations is sending a very strong signal that the days of silence and compromission with behaviour related to sexual exploitation and abuse by its troops are over, according to the UN envoy in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Parfait Onanga-Anyanga was appointed head of the UN Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) last August after his predecessor resigned amid allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against peacekeepers under his command.

In 2015, 22 of the 69 cases against peacekeepers serving under the UN flag took place in the CAR, and fresh allegations have surfaced in 2016. While the Organization is taking new measures to protect from these crimes, including through a recent Security Council resolution, Mr. Onanga-Anyanga told the UN News Centre that “this is appalling,” and it is unacceptable “that anyone working under the blue flag could be seen not as a protector but as a predator.”

Meanwhile, on 4 March, the United Nations welcomed the final results of the second round of the presidential elections in the CAR, congratulating President-elect Faustin-Archange Touadéra.

“The election of this new President gives new hope that maybe everything [the United Nations has] done so far is going in the right direction,” Mr. Onanga-Anyanga underlined, noting that the Organization’s most significant challenge in the country is to protect civilian populations and ensure that an inclusive political process can pave the way towards lasting stability.

“[We need] to ensure that anything that we do will be [...] really helping this country to leapfrog from the chaos and horrors of the past to a new situation whereby there will be more unity, more reconciliation and more eagerness from all parts to build a better future for the Central Africans,” he stressed.

UN Special Representative Parfait Onanga-Anyanga discusses the UN's new policy on allegations of sexual abuse and outlines the challenges ahead for CAR's new president-elect Faustin Archange Touadera. Credit: United Nations

More than three years of civil war and sectarian violence have displaced thousands of people in the CAR amid continuing clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel coalition and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian. The UN recently reported an upsurge in violence, in particular last September and October, committed by armed elements.

Asked what keeps him going every day to achieve MINUSCA’s mandate, Mr. Onanga-Anyanga said it is the Central Africans themselves: “It is just amazing. They have told us, they have told their own leaders that they are tired of fighting each other. They want a new era where transition will be done through the ballot box and not the bullet. And this is what gives me hope and I believe together we will succeed.”

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