The Commission of the African Union (AU) said it was“concerned by the report entitled “The Power These Men Have Over Us: Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) by African Union Forces in Somalia”, issued yesterday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and said the “allegations will be thoroughly investigated, and appropriate measures will be taken if they are found to be true, through the relevant mechanisms that have been developed by the AU to prevent and respond to issues of misconduct and abuse in peace support operations, in accordance with the AU’s zero-tolerance policy on this matter.”
The Commission says the allegations “do not define the character, organizational culture and management of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM),” currently one of the largest peace support operations in the world. “Accordingly, the portrayal of the Mission and the general conclusions drawn from the allegations against it, as reflected in the title of the HRW report, constitute a misrepresentation of the sacrifices, achievements and genuine commitment of AMISOM and the Troop and Police Contributing Countries (TCCs/PCCs), in support of the people and the Federal Government of Somalia…”
The AU said it was deeply concerned by the imbalance, inaccuracies and partial view contained in the HRW report. The AU accuses the HRW report as using a small number of cases to arrive at a generalized conclusion.
The HRW report alleges that it has documented 21 alleged cases of sexual exploitation and rape.
Furthermore, the AU said it was contradictory that the HRW makes sweeping general assertions about AMISOM culpability, yet admits that its research did not exhaustively interrogate the scale and prevalence of these allegations. “It would have been extremely helpful for HRW to present, even if in confidence, important facts and evidence to the senior leadership of the AU Commission and indeed to AMISOM, who would then have been in a position to conduct an in-depth investigation into this matter.”
The AU also dismissed the HRW report and said it “lacks coherence in its account of AU’s efforts to prevent and respond to SEA allegations in the Mission area.”