AIDS-Free World’s Code Blue Campaign released details of how at least 98 girls in Central African Republic were sexually abused by international peacekeepers. Three girls were tied up, undressed and forced to have sex with a dog by a French military commander in 2014. A fourth girl tied with them later died of an unknown disease. The United Nations Secretary General’s 2015 report on ‘Special Measures’ to address sexual exploitation and abuse reported that allegations against peacekeeping personnel went up to 69 in 2015 from 52 the year before (22 cases having been from Central African Republic). The peacekeeping missions seem to be after a kind of peace alien to human comprehension.
In 2014, the United Nations received the damning reports that French soldiers were sexually abusing children in the Central African Republic in return for food. The UN was in the process of setting up structures for the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (Minusca). After investigating the abuse allegations, the UN found that French troops had indeed raped and sodomized young boys at a centre for displaced people in Bangui, the CAR capital. Fourteen soldiers were finger pointed in the scandal but the shock was not over. The UN, instead of publicizing such an atrocious state of affairs instead sat on the report. Not for Anders Kompass, the UN’s Swedish director of operations who leaked the report, the French government would have been kept in the dark and no judicial proceedings would have been initiated. The UN has a painfully dark history of behaviour akin to condoning sexual crimes under the pretence of keeping peacekeeping efforts discreet. The question of why the French had been all over the CAR like a malignant tumour is one rather left alone. It is all for selfish economic interests, an agenda underpinning almost all European interventions. It is almost never out of the well-meant love for African brothers and sisters.
A year after, in 2015, nothing much changed. With allegations of sexual exploitation rocketing up to 69 from 52, it seems the peacekeepers are becoming more and more predatory. The major reason for this ridiculous continuum is that the UN is not seen to be serious in fighting sexual exploitation in the CAR or anywhere else for that matter. Everything is dragged down to a point of hopeless rhetoric once UN bureaucracy kicks in. The 2015 Special Measures Report does not even try to discuss past failings especially considering how embarrassingly scandalous 2014 was for the UN. The report simply alludes to 2014 as being “outside the scope of the present report”. It is to be expected though that the UN cannot be effective about protecting victims of sexual crimes when it is again protecting the predators. How can two aims in direct conflict be achieved? This institute that sat on reports on sexual exploitation cannot purport to be in the people’s corner. It makes no logical sense. What the world gets in the meantime is rhetoric and promise after promise yet in reality, the UN cares more about its people than the victims
Though the UN is known to fly into countries in states of emergencies, the true state of emergency is within the UN itself. In December 2015, an External Independent Review Panel (CAR Panel) report exposed “gross institutional failure and a culture of impunity that extends from the barracks to the 38th floor of the UN Secretariat”.
Speaking to journalists in January, Paula Donovan director of AIDS-Free World and its Code Blue Campaign said, “Vulnerable women and children deserve more than hollow commitments to ‘zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse’ from UN officials who respond to warnings as though their bureaucracy were too big to fail. We propose that Member States temporarily assume guardianship by appointing an external oversight board to manage the crisis to its end, and report directly to Member States.” She went on to argue that the “UN catastrophe” could not be managed from within but needed an external oversight board.
Considering its current misgivings, the UN might need a prefect board to micro-manage its approach to sexual exploitation it as it seems the organization is now too big to handle its mandates. However, the UN should not think it will be allowed to overstep boundaries and suddenly become bigger than the people it should protect. If such a point comes, the organization would have run out its lap of service.
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