Over three years have passed since the boy that Uppdrag granskning talks to was raped by a soldier who was in the Central African Republic on a UN mission. The boy was 13 at the time. He is still afraid and wants to meet in a place where no one can see him. He shares memories of this kind with many others. This was how a boy named Maurice, then aged nine, described what happened one evening when they were out looking for food in the dark:
Accounts of sexual abuse
– They asked us what we wanted. We replied that we were hungry. The short white man told us to first suck his penis. I was scared, but I did it. After a while he ”urinated” in my mouth and the other one did it on the floor. Afterwards they gave us three packs of food rations and some money.
Eleven boys aged 8 to 15 are mentioned in the so-called Sangaris Notes, written in the summer of 2014. The report has shaken the UN for several reasons, not only because it describes children being subjected to sexual force, violence and threats by UN soldiers. Criticism has also been aimed at UNICEF for listening to the children's testimonies but failing to follow up on what happened to the victims.
Criticised in a review
An independent external review of the UN's handling of the Sangaris Notes found that the help offered to the victims was limited to a two-hour meeting with a social worker who, along with a legal adviser, helped the children fill out papers provided by UNICEF. The children's medical and security needs were not assessed, the panel writes in its report.
A year after the criticism was made public, UNICEF claims that it now keeps track of the children.
– We do know where they are. We follow them on a regular basis, on a weekly basis, along with the partners who provide services and support to those children and their families, Aboubacry Tall, who works for UNICEF in the Central African Republic, tells Uppdrag granskning.
”Nobody who can help us”
For privacy reasons, Aboubacry Tall will not tell us the whereabouts of the children in the report. But Uppdrag Granskning manages to track down several of them without help. They say that they were questioned and promised help, but that nothing happened after that.
– There is nobody who can help us. We try to manage on our own – washing people's dishes, fetching water, cleaning cars. That is how we have made a living until now, says one of the boys.
One of the youngest children featured in the Sangaris Notes now lives in an orphanage. He was only eight years old when he was abused, and he is still in such bad shape that Uppdrag granskning refrains from interviewing him.
Director: ”It has never happened”
– He is severely traumatised. We have enrolled him in school but he is not making any progress, says Ange Gabriel Ngassenemo, the director of the orphanage.
He says that UNICEF's claims that they visit the children every week are false.
– No, they do not come here because of the children who were victims of ”you know what”, to check how they are and what they are doing. No, that has never happened.
All the boys that Uppdrag granskning talks to in the Central African Republic are named in the report. It took our team only a couple of days to locate them.
”My staff goes out in the field”
– The information I have is that there is a weekly review, and that my staff goes out in the field to make sure that all the children that are in the programme are being supported, says Aboubacry Tall.
But how can it be that I have met children that say they are still waiting for help from UNICEF? And their names are in the report!
– If that is the case, we would very much like to know and be able to correct it, if it is indeed the case, he says.