Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Monday, December 20, 2004

Your UN Contribution at Work II
Written by: Beck

From the LA Times:
One evening four months ago, a soft-spoken 18-year-old named Aziza was selling bananas in the market here when some U.N. peacekeepers summoned her to their car. Aziza went over thinking they wanted to buy fruit, but was persuaded to engage in a different kind of transaction.

"They offered me love," she said, in the colloquial French spoken in this former Belgian colony. And they offered her money--just $5, but more than she would make in a month at the market. "It was done in the car, in the dark," she said. "I didn't have the strength to refuse."


Certainly some, even many, U.N. peacekeepers and civilian officers in this war-plagued region were. Aziza's story and at least 150 other reports of sexual abuse in Congo have come to light in recent months, shocking an institution that considers itself an agency of mercy.

The shock has inspired action on an overhaul of the U.N.'s 16 peacekeeping missions around the world. In Congo, home to the largest operation--with about 11,000 soldiers and 1,200 civilians--the allegations point to nearly all of the major peacekeeping contingents. But they also involve senior civilian officials, including a top security officer, a chief on the U.N. special envoy's staff and an internal oversight investigator.


The charges range from rape to exploitation--sex for a bottle of water or a military ration--to "relationships" or solicitations that are marked by a severe imbalance in power. One case, involving a French U.N. staffer who took digital pictures of underage girls, has caused concern that it could become "the U.N.'s Abu Ghraib" if the photos get out.


Among the cases reported in Bukavu is that of a 13-year-old girl who was raped by an African cook who worked at the peacekeepers' base. Her family threw her out when she became pregnant and she and her baby are shunned by the community.

In another, an 18-year-old girl said that she and her little brother were walking down the road when three South American peacekeepers dragged her into the shadows of nearby trees and all three raped her.

Yet another woman described how she agreed to go home with an Asian engineer but when they got there, she was gang-raped so brutally by a group of his buddies that a condom lodged inside her and had to be medically extracted.


In Cambodia in 1993, when confronted with complaints about sexual abuse of underage girls, the mission's chief, Yasushi Akashi, replied, "Boys will be boys." In 2001, U.N. police officers in Serbia's Kosovo province set up brothels and trafficked Eastern European women to work in them.

The abuse of power is not exclusive to peacekeepers: In West Africa two years ago, local U.N. relief workers were caught demanding sexual favors in return for aid.


[Jean-Marie Guehenno, undersecretary-general for peacekeeping] refused to discuss specific countries, but other sources said the most allegations in Congo have centered on Uruguayans, Moroccans and South Africans, in numbers that reflect the proportion of each nation's troops. Soldiers from Pakistan, Tunisia and Nepal are also implicated.

The best-behaved appear to be the Indians and the Bangladeshis. Fifty nations are part of the U.N. mission in Congo; it appears that there are no Americans among the accused.


In Bunia, a town in the northeast, near the Uganda border, the victims of nearby fighting made easy targets for sexual predators. The women's showers and latrines were near a security checkpoint, and soon a queasy commerce began between the soldiers and girls as young as 12, so desperate that they would trade sex for a banana or a piece of cake.

"The girls were climbing the barbed wire fence, meeting with soldiers," said Matteo Frattini, a UNICEF official based in Bunia. "From there, everything exploded." More than 70 of the 150 allegations around the country are from Bunia.

The sexual perversion of a French U.N. worker in Goma, another eastern town, shocked the U.N. hierarchy, but gave it a clear case to turn into an example.

The Frenchman paid his maid to procure very young girls for him and took digital photos of them in sex acts. According to local and U.N. officials, a clergyman sent his own 12-year-old daughter and her friend to entrap the Frenchman, then tried to blackmail him for $5,000. The local police seized the Frenchman's camera, and joined the blackmail effort. When he refused to pay, they gave the pictures to his boss.


In Bukavu, the U.N. gender advisor [gender advisor??? --ed] said that dealing with sexual abuse was the human rights officer's job. The human rights officer said she dealt with rape only if it was a war crime.

"If a peacekeeper rapes a girl, that is not a human rights issue," she said. "But if a Congolese soldier rapes a girl, that is a human rights issue."
The United States pays $7 billion--your tax money--to the United Nations each year, roughly a quarter of the United Nations total budget.

Let me make this abundantly clear. You work hard to make money. The government takes some of that money. Then they give some of what they took to the United Nations. Then you get this in return for your money:
The next time Aziza met with the peacekeepers, two of them insisted on having sex with her simultaneously. They beat her when she refused to do the things they showed her on pornographic videos. Her mother found out what had happened when Aziza had to go to the hospital with an infection and threw her out. Desperate, she went back to the foreigners several more times.

"I don't know whether they are normal or not," said Aziza, who did not want to use her full name out of shame. "I wonder whether all white people are like that."
(Hat tip:

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John Beck

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