Thursday, December 02, 2004

Kofi Gets a Pass

OK, so a major world force sends military into a brutalized but resource-rich nation, ostensibly to help people. But some of the protectors become abusers, and they even go so far as to make pictures and videos of their sexual shenanigans. What's the reaction of major European leaders? Demand justice? Demand the resignation or investigation of the leaders responsible for this? Not when the international power is the United Nations.

When Kofi Annan sent investigators last spring to look into rumors that U.N. officials and peacekeepers were sexually abusing girls in the war-riven Congo, he got back some bad news.

Not only were there more than 150 cases of alleged rape and exploitation, there also were pictures and videos of some acts. One case involved a senior official in charge of security, and one of the investigators was caught soliciting a prostitute.

... In May, Annan's special representative to Congo, William Lacy Swing, announced that he would investigate Uruguayan peacekeepers accused of having sex with girls at a displaced persons camp in the northeastern Congolese town of Bunia.

Inquiries turned up dozens more cases allegedly involving girls between 12 and 15 years old who would trade sex for something as basic as a banana or a piece of cake.

In July, Annan quietly appointed Jordan's ambassador to the United Nations, Prince Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, to look into the charges along with Swing. Zeid, a former peacekeeper who had dealt with similar allegations involving Jordanian soldiers in East Timor, returned from Congo this month and recommended sweeping changes to U.N. operations.

Officials expect more cases to surface. "When you stir the pot, more comes to the top," Jean-Marie Guehenno, undersecretary-general of peacekeeping, said last week in an interview in Kenya. "But we are sending a message that we will not compromise on this. If it is a U.N. official, then we will lift his immunity and prosecute."

A French civilian official was expelled from Congo this month and has been indicted in France under a recent law designed to halt sexual tourism. Two Tunisian peacekeepers have been deported, and officials from Australia and Haiti will be sent home soon.

[emphasis added]

But just this week, the leaders of France and Germany lent their unqualified backing to Annan, and even Britain's U.N. ambassador told Reuters, "The United Nations is doing a good job.

"Ask those people who need it most," he said. Yeah. Good idea.

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