UN repatriates three Burundi officers from C. Africa over abuse claims

In September 2014, UN peacekeepers went in to Central African Republic to take over from the African Union's MISCA force (AFP Photo/MARCO LONGARI) (AFP/File)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The United Nations is sending three Burundian military observers serving in its scandal-tainted Central African Republic peacekeeping mission to their country to face accusations of rights violations

Pierre Niyonzima, Jimmy Rusheshe and Jean Mushimantwari, deployed as military observers, are due to be sent back to Burundi in the coming days, according to a UN source in Bangui, the Central African Republic's capital.

"We received information about these officers after they were deployed that linked them to allegations of human rights violations, so the decision was made to repatriate them," Ismini Palla of the UN peacekeeping department said Friday.

Authorities in Burundi have been informed of the move.

Everything was in place for the trio to leave the country as quickly as possible, MINUSCA mission spokesman Vladimir Monteiro told AFP, adding that an internal probe had revealed that the men were not fit to serve in UN ranks.

Relations between the UN and the Burundi government have been tense for some time.

Burundi has been in turmoil since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans in April to run for a third term, which he went on to win.

More than 400 people have died in the violence and at least 230,000 have fled the country.

UN Security Council ambassadors traveled to Burundi last month to urge Nkurunziza to open up serious negotiations with the opposition and agree to an international presence.

The United Nations has already announced plans to send back peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo after troops from those contingents in the same mission faced allegations of sexual abuse.

The MINUSCA mission has been hit by a wave of allegations of sexual abuse of women, girls and boys by peacekeepers.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired the head of the 10,000-strong MINUSCA force last year over the mounting number of cases, but the allegations have continued to surface.

An independent panel set up by Ban recently concluded that the United Nations had grossly mishandled the cases, prompting the world body to step up its screening of troops offered by countries for peace missions.

Ban has appointed American Jane Holl Lute, who has served in senior UN peacekeeping positions, as the special coordinator tasked with scaling up the UN response to the allegations of sexual abuse.