By Kara Karlson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
There have been allegations of sexual misconduct by U.N. peacekeepers in operations around the world. In the 1990s the first reported sexual misconduct by peacekeepers was written off by the United Nation's top official in Cambodia, Yasushi Akashias, as "Boys will be boys."
The United Nations has been in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the 1960s, and there have been 150 different allegations of rape and sexual abuse directed at 50 different U.N. peacekeepers by Congolese women and girls.
The Congo achieved independence from the Belgian government in 1960 during a tumultuous few weeks, but the country rapidly sank into civil war.
In the late 1990s, a total of nine different neighboring African nations and about 20 different armed groups, like the Hutu rebels who were largely responsible for the Rwandan genocide earlier in the decade, used the Congo as their stomping ground for war. This war, lasting officially from 1998 to 2002 has killed about 3.8 million people.
This whole time, the United Nations has been in the Congo. Now, as a final injustice to this beleaguered country, the United Nations is not just an idle spectator to the horror - it is the perpetrator.
One victim recounted an experience in which she had agreed to sex with one Moroccan peacekeeper, but five more lined up and took her by force.
Didier Bourget, a senior U.N. worker in the Congo had thousands of pictures of him with hundreds of different girls on his hard drive. One picture caught the moment perfectly, reportedly showing the victim with a tear still fresh on her cheek.
Bourget's lawyer reportedly has decided on the defense strategy of pointing out that this French officer is only one of the many involved in the pedophile ring, and that he is simply maintaining the disgusting behavior he pursued while on mission in a neighboring country, the Central African Republic.
The United Nations is not just an idle spectator to the horror; it is the perpetrator.
In fact, the United Nations' own independent report finds that instead of being a few isolated incidents that have left a stain on the United Nations' otherwise "immaculate" record, sex abuse was found to be a widespread problem.
"The situation appears to be one of 'zero-compliance with zero-tolerance' throughout the mission," Jordan's Prince Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the leader of the investigative team, wrote in a report to the United Nations.
Of the 150-plus reported allegations of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers, many of which involve bribing starving children with a mug of milk, a jar of mayonnaise, a single dollar, only five U.N. staff have been dismissed. Only 77 military personnel and national policemen on missions have been sent home for "disciplinary reasons."
The U.S. currently pays a whopping 22 percent of the regular operating budget of the United Nations, and is assessed an extra $6 million to $8 million per month for peacekeeping operations, like the ongoing Congo mission. These amounts do not include voluntary contributions and credits taken against a country.
Some members of Congress, angry with the atrocities that are being funded largely by our tax dollars, have proposed withholding funding until the peacekeeping missions are certified as free of sexual abuse.
The United Nations warns that if the funds are withheld, it will only hurt the countries that are in dire need of peacekeeping assistance.
This argument would be valid, if
peacekeeping was what the United Nations is really selling. But the widespread authority-sponsored rape and dehumanization of women and children is not peacekeeping.
"It is only when countries like Morocco prosecute offenders, they (the United Nations) say, that sexual abuse by peacekeepers can be stamped out," the BBC reported.
It begs the question why countries like Morocco, if they refuse to go after serial sex offenders, are even allowed to participate in these missions.
Personally, I am against the idea of the International Criminal Court (ICC). I can, however, see no better reason for its existence than tracking down and punishing workers who are on the payroll of the United Nations, which gets its funding from 189 different countries.
The United Nations should adopt a policy that requires every U.N. worker to be culpable to the ICC for the duration of their term, so that all international sex offenders can be brought to justice. That is the only way the abuse of the world's most vulnerable will be "stamped out."
Kara Karlson is a journalism senior. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.