Blog/U.N. “peacekeepers” sexual abuse of minors in Africa may be more widespread than reported

By Jazz Shaw

Just once it would be nice to see a story come out about the United Nations peacekeeping forces in Africa (and elsewhere) which talked about them saving a woman from a mugger or rescuing a cat out of a tree.

Instead, we keep seeing one instance after another of these so called keepers of the peace taking advantage of the downtrodden people they are supposed to be protecting. Most often these tales involve cases of raping children and bribing them with food to allow themselves to be abused. We already saw news of this coming out of the Central African Republic, a broken and essentially failed state where the residents are at the mercy of roving thugs or representatives of what’s left of their own government. (The two are sometimes hard to tell apart.)

This story in the Washington Post begins with the tragic tale of one little girl who is all too typical of the region.

A 14-year-old breast-feeds her 3-month-old son in Bangui, Central African Republic. She says she was raped and made pregnant by a U.N. peacekeeper from Burundi.

“A horrible thing,” says an elfin 14-year-old girl, who describes how a Burundian soldier dragged her into his barracks and raped her, leaving her pregnant with the baby boy she now cradles uncomfortably…

“Peacekeeper babies,” the United Nations calls such infants.

If that’s not outrageous enough, this is a problem which was brought to light some time ago. Unfortunately, when the United Nations was asked to look into it, they appear to have underreported the numbers of such cases wildly. The reality is even worse than originally reported.

But the victims appear to be more numerous than the United Nations has reported so far. In a corner of the capital city known as Castors, near the U.N. headquarters in the country, The Washington Post interviewed seven women and girls who described contact with peacekeepers that violated U.N. regulations against sexual exploitation and abuse. Five of them said they exchanged sex for food or money — sometimes as little as $4 — while their country was rocked by civil war and families were going hungry. Only two had reported their cases to the United Nations.

Five of the seven interviewed by The Post said they had borne the children of their abusers. The 14-year-old mother said she was assaulted by a Burundian soldier, but the United Nations recorded her case not as rape but as “transactional” sex, in which acts are exchanged for money or food.

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon talks a good game on this subject. He’s on record as describing it as a “cancer” in the system. And to be fair, they removed the entire peacekeeping force stationed in the Congo after similar, widespread reports of rape and abuse. But the problem obviously isn’t just a few bad apples spoiling the reputation of the rest of the forces. These reports are cropping up nearly everywhere on the continent where the UN is sent in to “help” the oppressed.

In addition to the Central African Republic and the Congo, UN forces have been caught up in the same accusations in Haiti, Kosovo, Liberia and more. Wherever war or natural disaster strike and people are left without homes or the basic requirements to survive, the UN peacekeepers show up and always seem to manage to bring along a pack of pedophiles. And the troops implicated in these crimes aren’t all from Africa, either. They come from as many as ten different countries across Europe and Asia as well.

The excuses they have for why they can’t get this under control would be hilarious if this weren’t such a monstrous subject to cover.

Even as the United Nations has tried to improve training on sexual abuse, there have been mistakes. Many of the new lessons, for example, are taught only in English and French, and some troops lack fluency in either language, said one U.N. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the issue.

Really? A language barrier in the training classes and materials is what’s causing the problems? Not for nothing, but if your troops are the type to go out and force twelve year old girls to have sex with them in exchange for a handful of rice, perhaps the language your brochures are printed in isn’t the source of the problem. Unfortunately I still have no solutions to offer here. There are obviously vast numbers of people in desperate need of help in some of these countries and more are cropping up every year in failed states across the region. The resources required to help them all would probably bankrupt anyone. The United Nations would likely be the ideal agency to task with this in a perfect world, but we’ve already seen the results when they try. In the end, it’s likely that nothing will save these people unless a way can be found to stabilize their own countries so their governments can provide them with some security.

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