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Source: Press TV
Nine female refugees from Djibouti have entered the 13th day of a hunger strike in France to denounce alleged rapes and sexual exploitation by soldiers in their home country.

Ten Djiboutian women stopped eating food at a charity in Arcueil commune of the southern suburbs of Paris on March 25. One of them had to end her travail because of health issues. The hunger-strikers are accepting water, apple juice and sweet tea.

Four of the hunger strikers claim to have been raped by soldiers of Djibouti’s army in their homeland several years ago. Before taking refuge in France, they lived in areas where the FRUD Afar rebel movement has been operating for 25 years.

“It’s not pleasure that I starve myself,” 30-year-old Fatou Ambassa, whose is fasting in memory of her cousin, Halima, said.

“There were several soldiers. They raped her in front of her parents. That was in 2003, she was 16 years old, they left her to die,” Ambassa said.

Aicha Dabale, a spokeswoman for the France-based advocacy group Women Solidarity, said, “We demand that these rapes are recognized as war crimes and that an international investigation be launched.”

She also accused France of “closing its eyes to the actions of Djiboutian soldiers.”

Dabale further said that doctors in Djibouti are afraid of issuing medical certificates attesting to the rapes.

“People are afraid [that] practices would be closed. There is tremendous pressure, and therefore, if we talk about the assault of a soldier, no doctor wants to testify,” she explained.
The Djiboutian government has dismissed the allegations that army soldiers have raped civilians who are seen as sympathetic to the ethnic Afar rebels. The rebels, who have been fighting the government for 25 years, say they are fighting to keep their minority from being marginalized by the ethnic majority group Issa, whose members hold key positions in the government.

In a separate development, French judicial authorities on Tuesday opened an investigation into the latest allegations of degrading sexual exploitation by French troops in the conflict-ridden Central African Republic (CAR).

According to the United Nations, more than 100 victims have so far come forward in the CAR with appalling new accounts of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers and French troops.

On March 30, the Code Blue Campaign run by the advocacy group AIDS-Free World issued a statement saying that three victims claim they and a fourth girl were “tied up and undressed inside a camp by a military commander from the Sangaris force (the French military intervention in CAR) and forced to have sex with a dog” in 2014.

The advocacy group added that each girl was then given 5,000 Central African Francs ($8.6). While three girls sought basic treatment following the abuse, a fourth girl is reported to have later died of an unknown disease.

Also on Tuesday, UN Undersecretary-General Atul Khare called for the “strongest” disciplinary action against those peacekeepers found guilty of sexual abuse in the CAR.

“We count on all member states to live up to their responsibilities to expeditiously bring to justice those who have committed crimes while serving with the United Nations and to impose the strongest of disciplinary and criminal sanctions warranted under their national laws,” he said.

The CAR plunged into crisis in December 2013, when anti-balaka militia began coordinated attacks against the Seleka group, which had toppled the government in March that year.

France effectively invaded the CAR, a former French colony, after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution giving the African Union and France the go-ahead to send troops to the country.

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