A Shameful Thing: Sexual Abuse by UN Peacekeepers

While the UN and Kofi Annan accuse the US of “illegal” activities in Iraq, the UN Peacekeepers in Congo have been exchanging food and shelter for sex …

and this is not the first time that UN Peacekeepers have been investigated for abusing the children of a country where they are suppose to be the protectorate.

The United Nations has been forced into damage control mode lately, with a sexual harassment scandal around High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers followed by new allegations of sexual abuse by international peacekeeping staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN has sent special teams to the DRC to investigate 150 allegations, including rape and pedophilia. There’s even photographic evidence of some abuses committed by UN civilian and military staff.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he’s outraged. And he has every reason to be, says Vanessa Kent, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, in this interview with Radio Netherlands:

“This is a shameful thing for the United Nations to have to say, and I am absolutely outraged by it,” UN chief Kofi Annan told the press on a visit to Tanzania. He said the allegations concerned a small number of UN personnel and promised to hold those involved accountable.

“I have long made it clear that my attitude to sexual exploitation and abuse is one of zero tolerance, without exception, and I am determined to implement this policy in the most transparent manner,” Mr. Annan added.

“Our evaluations are quite serious. If you remember a few months back, we had reports relating to 30-odd cases and then it went up to 60-odd. I think any time that those who are mandated to protect, who are in positions of power or in authority, are the very ones who are exploiting the people that they’re meant to be protecting, these allegations are quite serious. In fact, that’s why the UN has mandated the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to go conduct an investigation right now in the UN mission in the Congo.”

Oddly enough:

RN: “This is not the first time that the United Nations has admitted to cases of abuses from its staff, but this seems to be on a much bigger scale…”
“It is indeed, but I don’t know how often the UN has actually admitted to having a problem, however. We can go back as far as the UN mission in Cambodia [in the early 1990s], where the national women’s organization reported a four-fold increase in prostitution. In fact most of the prostitutes in Cambodia were trafficked in from the region.”

“Two UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ reports actually focused on abuse committed by UN peacekeepers and humanitarian workers in West Africa, where they identified the exchange of food and shelter and goods for sex. At that point, the OIOS office also went in to investigate, and out of 53 cases, they were only able to substantiate ten. At the time, Sierra Leone was hosting the largest peacekeeping operation in the world, with 17,500 peacekeepers deployed. With 10,500 peacekeepers right now in the Congo, this might be the tip of the iceberg.”

NGO sources in the DRC say the almost daily reports of sexual abuse involve mainly Indian and South African members of Monuc, the UN’s mission in the strife-torn country.

“Often the soldiers encourage the girls to go near them by offering them sweets and biscuits. Then they rape them,” the Congolese head of a women’s shelter told Pretoria News.

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