Georgia Seeking To Preserve "Honor" With Expanded African Military Mission
Georgia is seeking to expand its small military contingent in the Central African Republic, even as it continues to wrestle with accusations that some of its soldiers sexually abused children during a previous deployment there.
The European Union has asked Georgia to provide a platoon, or about 20 soldiers, to its new military training mission in the CAR, which is intended to "work towards a modernised, effective, inclusive and democratically accountable Central African Armed Forces (FACA)" and "provide strategic advice to the CAR's Ministry of Defence and the general staff, as well as education and training to the FACA."
The Georgians won't do the training themselves, but will form a "Fast Response Group tasked with escorting and protecting high-ranking military officials," according to Georgia's Ministry of Defence. The new EU mission will take over for the EU Military Advising Mission, for which five Georgian soldiers provided similar services.
"It’s very important and very prestigious when a non-EU country is asked to increase its contingent not only with military forces but also with advisers and instructors to train Central African military forces,” said Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli. "This is an honour for us and we are ready for this challenge." Parliament still must approve the expanded mission.
Meanwhile, Georgia's MoD has sent an investigative team to the CAR to look into allegations that some of its soldiers sexually abused children during an EU peacekeeping mission to the country in 2014. (Georgia had about 100 soldiers in that mission.) Four girls, aged between 14 and 16 at the time, told United Nations investigators that they were abused by EU soldiers, and three of them said they believed the Georgian soldiers were the perpetrators.
The focus on the "honor" of the Georgian involvement in a European operation appears to be spilling over into the investigation. Khidasheli, in her statement announcing the deployment of the investigators, seemed more focused on clearing Georgia's name than on actually finding out what happened and punishing the guilty:
Our task is very simple – we want full cooperation with the investigative authorities of the Central African Republic. We have already formed our position according to the data and documentation we have. ... We demand answers on what bases they accused our military. It’s fundamental mistake when you don’t have any adequate evidence, but make such statements on the military contingent of the defined country. There is no collective blame, a person may commit a crime or not. Therefore, my task is very simple – one the one hand, the MoD investigative team is leaving for the Central African Republic and tries to gain all necessary information on the ground. I will try to gain all information in the UN HQ in order to complete this case soon and approve innocence of our military.
This is an approach that has been echoed by Georgia's American partners. A statement by U.S. ambssador Ian Kelly after the UN report accusing the Georgian soldiers came out referred only to "media reports" about the abuse and the only victim mentioned was "the Georgian military’s proud reputation."
We have seen the media reports and are pleased the Ministry of Defense is taking this seriously and launching an investigation into the allegations raised by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights. The U.S. has been proud to partner with the Georgian military on numerous peacekeeping initiatives, and it would be a shame if the allegations were allowed to tarnish the Georgian military’s proud reputation.