The United Nations denies it tried to cover up the sexual abuse of minors by French troops in the Central African Republic. The world body calls the allegations “highly offensive.” I can testify from my own personal experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo that the UN does hide the abuse of its blue helmets and others.
While in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003, I reported to UN authorities a number of occasions of suspected and confirmed abuse and was told by both UN officials and the finance officer of the NGO I worked for to “shut up.” Two years later, once the allegations were made public in the press, I was called from the UN headquarters in New York and asked about what I knew.
The abuses I saw or that were reported to me by the Congolese go from Uruguayan troops in Kindu having sex with children, both boys and girls, to Moroccan troops filming trained dogs having sex with Congolese women in Kisangani. I saw a UN tug in Kissangani being used as a whore house with Moroccan soldiers lined up outside.
I reported to the UN authorities a case of mass rape by local militia within view of UN troops in Kindu who did not budge to assist the women. I learned that the UN is very good at turning a blind eye to abuse in order to protect its image as long as the information does not get out.
I also reported that Interahamwe, Rwandan Hutu rebels, who had surrendered to UN preacekeepers in the DRC disarmament program, and then handed over to the Congolese army in Lumumbashi ‘for safe-keeping’, were being abused and tortured before being returned to Rwanda by the UN for “re-education and reinsertion.”. This information was given directly to me by the UN doctor in Kananga who examined them before the flight to Kigali. She too had reported it to the UN. The doctor told me women family members of the Hutu rebels were also sexually abused by the Congolese soldiers while in detention. Nothing was done, said or leaked for two years.
In 2005 UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein published what is referred to as the Zeid Report on sexual abuse in peacekeeping operations. It is supposed to be the definitive report. The UN promised to clean up its act.
The reaction to the leak in the Central African Republic was for the UN to suspend a high-ranking official suspected of informing the press of yet another cover-up. Some habits die hard and UN hypocrisy and lying remains intact. Once again the whistle-blower is punished when it is the UN who has the explaining to do.
My experience with the UN is that many of their highly paid bureaucrats, very often political appointees promoted by their home governments, do not want any noise or waves. It discusts me that the Swede, Anders Kompass, may lose his job for being one of the few who is willing to step forward to see abuse stopped when the UN won’t do it itself.