Four French soldiers were questioned on Tuesday in Paris as part of the investigation into the rape of children in the Central African Republic, a source close to the investigation said.
It was not immediately known whether the four men — the first to be interviewed in the investigation — were acting as witnesses or were suspected of involvement.
Fourteen French soldiers are under investigation after a group of children alleged that troops sexually abused them at a centre for displaced people in CAR’s capital Bangui between December 2013 and June 2014.
The children — some as young as nine — claimed the soldiers sexually abused children at the camp in exchange for food.
Although France sent police to investigate the claims after receiving an internal United Nations report in August 2014, no children or soldiers were questioned and the information was not made public.
It was only after Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reported on the affair that a full, public investigation was launched earlier this year. Both France and the UN have denied there was a cover-up, but a UN official who leaked the report to the French government in mid-2014 was temporarily suspended for disclosing the information.
French and UN peacekeepers were sent to CAR in late 2013 after the country descended into sectarian violence, leaving thousands dead and some 900,000 displaced.
The UN mission has been hit by 13 cases of alleged sexual abuse by its peacekeepers, including nine that involve underage victims as young as 11, an official said in August.
Another sexual assault case emerged the following month when a teenage girl accused a French soldier of raping and impregnating her.
SOURCE: AFRICA REVIEW