Friday, February 11, 2005

DRC: UN soldiers implicated in sexual abuse of minors

20/20, an American current affairs show, has a story on tonight about how some UN soldiers/officers have been sexually abusing minors in Congolese refugee camps.
The range of sexual abuse includes reported rapes of young Congolese girls by U.N. troops; an Internet pedophile ring run from Congo by Didier Bourguet, a senior U.N. official from France; a colonel from South Africa accused of molesting his teenage male translators; and estimates of hundreds of underage girls having babies fathered by U.N. soldiers who have been able to simply leave their children and their crimes behind. (source)
Sadly, this isn't a new story. Check out this post from December 2003.

UPDATE: A personal account written by the Independent's Kate Holt, the reporter who first broke the Congo story. (via UN Wire)
February 2004 found me on a photographic assignment in the camp for internally displaced people in Bunia, Congo, next to the UN base. After only four hours in the camp I noticed there were holes in the perimeter fence separating the camp from the UN military base. An investigation revealed young girls from the camp, many of them victims of sexual violence by local militias, would cross over the fence each night to sleep with soldiers stationed there - often for a banana or a bag of peanuts.

When it became evident the UN was reluctant to act on the information I had given it, I decided I had no choice but to publish. Only then did the UN say it was going to start a full investigation.

Returning to DRC in July, I planned a follow-up on the story in Bunia. I became aware that the problem was not just there but was endemic to every town where the UN was based in DRC - and that the UN had first received reports of abuse as far back as 2002. These reports, filed to Kinshasa, had been buried and no action had been taken.

Before departing for Bunia, I received two phone calls warning me "not to return to Bunia", as well as a note delivered to my hotel saying: "If you continue your investigations against the UN there will be trouble for you." This note later disappeared from my hotel room.

I was also approached by several people in the UN who were increasingly horrified as to how widespread the problem was and how so much of the information was apparently being covered up. With long UN careers behind them they were risking their jobs to give me information, but felt that the levels of abuse and corruption had to be exposed if the UN was to continue to function with any degree of integrity. (source)