UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic said Thursday it has launched an investigation into an allegation of child sexual abuse received this week against one of its peacekeepers, while the U.N. secretary-general met with France's chief of defense staff about separate allegations against French troops a year ago.
The peacekeeping mission's statement said U.N. headquarters has asked the country that contributed the peacekeeper to investigate as soon as possible. The U.N. did not announce the country or the age of the girl who alleged the sexual abuse.
The U.N. has been shaken by revelations that a year after staffers first heard children's accounts of sexual abuse by French soldiers supporting a U.N. peacekeeping mission, no one has been punished. Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday ordered an external inquiry into how that was handled. French authorities last month opened a formal judicial inquiry into the allegations.
Ban raised the earlier allegations Thursday with Gen. Pierre de Villiers, France's chief of defense staff, in a meeting that Ban's spokesman said France had requested. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told The Associated Press that Ban brought up the issue during a wider conversation about peacekeeping operations and told the general that he hopes "the French investigation will be completed as soon as possible."
A military adviser to France's mission to the U.N. did not comment on the meeting but told reporters that Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was expected to meet with Ban during a visit July 3.
Other U.N. member states have asked to meet with Ban about the issue. And in a statement Thursday, Canadian Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson said, "We are outraged by the recent allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic and by the unacceptable delays in investigating these egregious acts." He welcomed the external inquiry.
One question about the allegations against French soldiers has been why the head of the peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic didn't alert U.N. headquarters about them. The U.N. peacekeeping chief has said he didn't hear about them until this spring. Another question is why Central African Republic authorities weren't informed.
Thursday's statement indicated a new approach, at least to allegations against peacekeepers who are part of a U.N. mission. It said the head of the peacekeeping mission, Babacar Gaye, has told Central African Republic authorities about the new allegation in addition to launching an investigation.
Dujarric told reporters the new allegation was made at a health facility run by a partner organization in the eastern part of the country.
A spokesman for Medecins Sans Frontieres, Tim Shenk, confirmed that the aid group informed the U.N. of the allegation "of a recent case of sexual abuse of a minor" on Tuesday. The group did not give further information "to maintain the confidentiality of the alleged victim."