File Photo: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. (AFP Photo)
UN chief Ban Ki-moon today moved to set up an independent external review of how the United Nations handled allegations of sexual abuse of children by French and African troops in the Central African Republic.
The United Nations has been badly shaken by accusations that it failed to act quickly to respond to the serious allegations of child sexual abuse at a camp for displaced civilians from December 2013 to June 2014.
"His intention in setting up this review is to ensure that the United Nations does not fail the victims of sexual abuse, especially when committed by those who are meant to protect them," said spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
France announced last month that 14 French soldiers were under investigation, ten months after it received a leaked UN report detailing the testimony of children who said they were forced to perform oral sex in exchange for food.
The report by the UN rights office also provided accounts from children, aged 8 to 13, who said troops from Chad and Equatorial Guinea brutally raped boys.
French troops were deployed to the Central African Republic in December 2013 to help African Union peacekeepers restore order after the country exploded into violence triggered by a coup.
Hundreds of troops were stationed outside Bangui at M'Poko airport, which was sheltering thousands of people displaced from the violence, when the alleged abuse took place.
The allegations were revealed by The Guardian newspaper in April, which obtained the UN report from the advocacy group AIDS-Free World.
The group has since released documents from an internal UN enquiry showing that senior officials from the UN office of human rights knew of the allegations for months, but did not follow up.
"There are systems that failed here," Dujarric told reporters. "This was not handled in the way that the secretary general would want it to be handled."