Ugandan troops deployed in eastern Central African Republic to fight Ugandan rebels have sexually abused local women and girls, Human Rights Watch reported Monday.
"Ugandan soldiers ... have sexually exploited at least 13 women and (three) girls since 2015, including at least one rape, and threatened some victims to remain silent," the rights watchdog said in its report.
HRW workers interviewed all 16 earlier this year in the southeastern town of Obo, which has since 2009 served as a base for Ugandan forces in an African Union Regional Task Force set up to destroy the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
One 15-year-old, given the name "Marie" to protect her identity, gave birth six months ago after being raped by a Ugandan soldier in fields near Obo airstrip, HRW said.
"Fifteen of the women and girls interviewed said they became pregnant, but in each case, the soldier who fathered the child left the country and has not provided any support," the report stated.
US special forces were fighting alongside the Ugandan troops until last month when a planned withdrawal began.
"Ugandan and African Union authorities should conduct proper investigations, punish those responsible, and make sure that the women and girls who were sexually abused or exploited get the services they need," said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The report said more cases of sexual violence had been documented by the United Nations, whose investigators spoke to Obo women afraid to give details, and the BBC, whose report included a 12-year-old girl who gave birth.
The defence ministry in Kampala did not respond to the allegations, according to HRW.
The US command did not acknowledge the charges against Ugandan soldiers, Mudge said in an email. "They say the Ugandans are not engaging in sexual exploitation and abuse."
Ugandan soldiers may join the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSCA operating in CAR but HRW said the allegations of sexual abuse should be investigated first.
Some MINUSCA soldiers and French troops who were deployed in the strife-torn country between 2013 and 2016 have also been accused of exploiting women and children.
However, a Paris prosecutor in March called for the case against soldiers accused of raping children to be dropped.