Bishop accuses UN peacekeepers of abuse

Bishop Juan Aguirre Munoz (La Stampa)

A Catholic bishop in the Central African Republic has accused UN peacekeeping troops of sexual abuse in his diocese and warned they could be guilty of crimes against humanity. Source: Crux.

“Women are selling their bodies to the Blue Helmets out of desperation,” said Bishop Juan Aguirre Munoz of Bangassou.

“Many are doing this to avoid dying of hunger, and some of the abused are minors. When I asked their mothers what happened, they sank their heads.”

The bishop spoke while staying in his native Spain on UN advice after his diocesan vicar general narrowly survived a machete attack.

In an interview with Madrid’s Alfa y Omega Catholic weekly, he said up to 2000 Muslims had been sheltering in the seminary adjoining Bangassou’s Catholic cathedral, protected by peacekeepers, since a wave of anti-Muslim violence in May 2017 left dozens dead in the mostly Christian country. About 80 percent of the population of the Central African Republic are Christians. Islam is practiced by 15 percent of the population.

However, Bishop Aguirre added that poor sanitary conditions had increased the risk of cholera, while many young Muslim men had resorted to violence after “losing everything”.

“That some women, even girls, have been made pregnant by the UN soldiers is a crime against humanity,” said Bishop Aguirre, who has ministered in Central African Republic for 38 years and was appointed to Bangassou, on the southeastern border with Congo, in 2000.

“Countless international delegations have come and left the same day, because no one wants to stay here. Everyone has answered with silence and done nothing.”

Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been wracked by militia violence since the rebel group Seleka briefly seized power in 2013.

In a January appeal, the bishops’ conference said peace was hampered by a lack of cooperation between government forces and the UN’s 13,400-strong peacekeeping mission. The bishops urged international peacekeepers to act more effectively, and condemned attacks on churches and the “manipulation of religious feeling”.

Bishop Aguirre said people of all ages had been “attacked with machetes, shot in cold blood or beheaded” during violence last May. He also said the Central African Republic’s Anti-Balaka militia has been “erroneously called Christian”.

The bishop said he would return to Central African Republic on Sunday.

FULL STORY

Central African bishop accuses UN forces of rape, abuse (Crux)

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