September 9, 2014 / 3:41 PM / 5 years ago

Somalia to probe rape charges against African Union troops

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Somali authorities said on Tuesday they would investigate charges that women and girls in the capital Mogadishu had been raped by African peacekeepers, a principal source of security in the war-torn country.

African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldiers rest on top of an armoured vehicle during a break on a night joint street patrol with local police at the old stadium in Mogadishu, Somalia, November 14, 2013. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

A report released on Monday by the group Human Rights Watch documented the rape or sexual exploitation of 21 women and girls, all of them displaced from their homes, at peacekeeping bases run by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

In some cases, the females entered the bases through official gates to request medicine and water, and were taken to areas where they were then abused by a Somali intermediary, according to the New York-based rights group.

Just two of the women and girls interviewed by the rights group had filed a complaint.

“The government condemns all forms of abuse against the Somali people and remains committed to ensuring perpetrators of any crime against its civilians are brought to justice,” Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed said in a statement.

Somalia has been mired in chaos and conflict since the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991. The government is struggling to re-impose order and a new federal structure as it battles Islamist militant group al Shabaab.

The African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, was deployed in 2007. Its uniformed force, which numbers more than 22,000, comes from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sierra Leone.

The Human Rights Watch report said the soldiers involved were all from Uganda and Burundi, though the abuse likely involved more women at other bases.

The Commission of the African Union said the report amounts to a “misrepresentation of the sacrifices, achievements and genuine commitment of AMISOM” in support of peace in Somalia, and contained “imbalance, inaccuracies and partial view.”

In particular, the report “uses a small number of cases to arrive at a generalised conclusion,” and “exhaustively interrogate the scale and prevalence of these allegations,” the AMISOM statement said.

Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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