AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICA - Bishop of Bangassou: Sexual abuse and violence committed by the Blue Helmets against refugee women

Thursday, 8 March 2018 violence   women   bishops  


Bangui (Agenzia Fides) - Women and girls who have been refugees since May 2017 in the seminary compound of Bangassou are sexually exploited by the UN Blue Helmets for food. This was reported by His Exc. Mgr. Juan Jose Aguirre Muños, Bishop of Bangassou, a city in the south-east of the Central African Republic, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the seminary, which is located 100 meters from the cathedral, about 2,000 Muslims are forced to flee the anti-Balaka militias, wrongly defined as "Christian" (see Fides 27/1/2014), which commit unheard of violence, including beheadings and dismemberments of bodies. "The hearts or internal organs of the victims are torn because they say that in this way they steal their souls" says Mgr. Aguirre.
The UN has created a security perimeter around the seminary to protect displaced people who have only water available. In fact, food is scarce because of the barriers of the Anti Balakas. Women are forced to sell sex to get food for them and their families. "They are desperate, they die of hunger" says the Bishop. Among them there are teenagers who have become pregnant.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, visited Bangassou. "I told him that there are women who are raped, some of whom are minors, and that was a crime against humanity", says Mgr. Aguirre. "An investigation has been opened, but nothing has changed. This is not the first time UN soldiers behave in this way. In 2015, a group of Congolese peacekeepers were expelled for offering lentil boxes in exchange for sex, and the business did not stop there.The empty boxes were bought by a Lebanese for 1,000 CFA francs, in this way women earned enough to buy food".
The UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) said it had carried out an investigation regarding the complaints presented by the Bishop of Bangassou, who "concluded that no tangible evidence could support these allegations. However, MINUSCA remains in contact with the local parties to ensure that further information about any new or past declaration (of sexual abuse) are communicated as soon as possible", a statement said.
Mgr. Aguirre, who has spent a period of rest in his native Spain, is returning to his diocese. "The Catholic Church is the last to turn off the light. We cannot leave", says the Bishop, who is under tremendous stress. "I do not sleep well, I am stressed. Every time I prayed I heard the explosion of bombs and gusts of machine guns. I had moments of psychological fragility and that is why I had to take a break". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 8/3/2018)