Is Georgia in denial over possible misconduct by its troop contingent in the Central African Republic? This op-ed by Ryan McCarrel, a doctoral candidate in Ireland, examines the issues and statements by Georgian authorities. Excerpt (including some sensible suggestions):
The chief of the Georgian military’s general staff, Major General Vakhtang Kapanadze, has also weighed in, stating matter-of-factly: “I believe my soldiers when they say they are not guilty.”
Nonetheless, Georgian officials are addressing the UN complaints: six Georgian officers responsible for overseeing peacekeeping missions have been suspended, pending the results of a probe, while a special investigative unit has been established.
This is more than can be said about some other countries that have failed to respond to UN allegations of sexual abuse at all. From 2007-2014, the UN, according to its own data, received a disappointing response 45.8 percent of the time.
Reform rather than reputation should be the primary concern of Georgia’s Defense Ministry. The same holds true for the EU, which issued a press release the day the allegations were made public, but which has not followed up since then.
Additional measures the Georgian Defense Ministry could implement include: integrating more women and gender officers into peacekeeping forces working with refugees; keeping open channels of communication with refugees; improving the training of peacekeepers on dealing with refugees and on the cultural nuances of the countries in which they are deployed; working with the UN to establish onsite military courts; and providing enhanced support to victims.
The fact that French soldiers have also been accused on multiple occasions of sexual abuse confirms that this is not just a Georgian issue, or a UN issue, but an EU issue that requires system-wide reform.
Prior to its one-year deployment to the Central African Republic in 2014, the Georgian contingent received little training from EUFOR on working with refugees. Nevertheless, they were made responsible for a rapidly escalating crisis at the M’Poko Airport near Bangui, where as many as 30,000 refugees had gathered. According to a Georgian officer, only one person in the contingent spoke French, making it difficult to communicate with the people they were meant to protect.