KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Ugandan soldiers in Central African Republic have sexually exploited or abused at least 13 women and girls since 2015, including at least one rape, Human Rights Watch said Monday.
The rights group said in a report Monday that two of the women were girls when the abuse happened, charging that some of the victims have been threatened into silence.
Fifteen of the women and girls interviewed said they became pregnant and the men responsible left the country without giving any support, the report said.
Ugandan authorities have already "taken action" after investigating some individuals named as perpetrators, said Ugandan military spokesman Brig. Richard Karemire. He said one soldier was charged before a military court martial, but gave no details about action taken against the others.
"If there are some bad apples among ourselves, we will handle them according to our laws," he said.
Ugandan forces announced in April that they would withdraw from Central African Republic, where they were deployed in 2009 as part of an African Union force hunting the Lord's Resistance Army rebels.
The rebels are led by Joseph Kony, a fugitive from justice who has been sanctioned by the U.S. In their mission to catch or kill Kony and other LRA leaders, the Ugandans had been backed by U.S. special forces. American forces have also pulled out of the jungle hunt, saying the rebels no longer pose a serious threat.
"As counter-LRA operations wind down, Uganda's military should not ignore allegations of sexual exploitation and rape by its soldiers in the Central African Republic," said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Ugandan and African Union authorities should conduct proper investigations, punish those responsible, and make sure that the women and girls who were sexually abused or exploited get the services they need."
Ugandan forces face other allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in countries where they have been deployed, including Somalia and Congo.
The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights has also documented 14 cases of sexual abuse by Ugandan forces in Central African Republic.
Most of the women interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they had sex with Ugandan soldiers in exchange for food or money, and some said the Ugandans wanted them to be their "local wives."