Georgian Peacekeepers Warn of Blackmail from Central African Locals

Georgian daily Kviris Palitra published Monday an interview with an unnamed Georgian peacekeeper who served in the Central African Republic who claimed that local women tried to blackmail him to extort money.

The soldier, who served as a peacekeeper in 2014, said the refugees often risk their lives in exchange for money.

“Everyone knows the route from the refugee camp to the city is very high risk from refugees, especially women. For instance, when we came back to the base a woman tried to blackmail us. She said if we do not give her money she would said we raped her. We did not give her anything, after which she called police, though they could not find any evidence”, soldier said.

The Georgian contingent is located near a refugee camp in Bangui the capital and largest city of the Central African Republic.

The Defense Ministry’s Deputy Joint Chief of Staff, Omar Begoidze, said in an interview with the daily no evidence exists tying any suspects to the alleged sexual abuse cases mentioned by the UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“We cannot call them facts, as there is no evidence or named suspects. We have asked the UN and the EU to help us in the investigation. We will probably demand a meeting with the victims,” Begoidze said.

A report of UN High Commissioner released on January 29 stated concern over continued allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of minors in the Central African Republic by members of foreign military forces.

The alleged crimes mostly took place in 2014, but only came to light in recent weeks.

Al-Hussein announced that while the nationalities of some of the soldiers remain ‘unclear’, “three of the girls said they believed their abusers were members of the Georgian EUFOR contingent.

The four girls were aged between 14 and 16 at the time of the alleged abuse,” he added.

Al-Hussein announced that all six cases involving non-UN foreign military forces took place in, or near, the M’Poko camp for displaced people near the airport in the capital, Bangui.
Following the report’s publication, the Georgian government convened an emergency session of the nation’s Security Council.

Georgia’s Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli announced that six officials of the Georgian Defense Ministry have been suspended after allegations emerged that Georgian soldiers were involved in the sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic.

“It is with great concern that we have reviewed the statement issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in respect to the 2014 autumn mission in the Central African Republic (EUFOR / CAR),” the defense ministry’s statement said.
According to the statement, every soldier suspected of being connected to the investigation will be suspended from active duty.

By Tamar Svanidze

Edited by Nicholas Waller

Photo: Ministry of Defence of Georgia

01 February 2016 17:43