UN Peacekeepers are Raping Our Children and Nothing is Being Done

According to the United Nations, Peacekeeping troops and police are sent to humanitarian crisis zones to “enhance international peace and security by supporting Member States in conflict, post-conflict and other crisis situations to realize effective, efficient, representative, responsive and accountable police services that serve and protect the population.”

Image Source: NBC Chicago

Image Source: NBC Chicago

What the United Nations fails to add is that many of these peacekeeping troops and police, more often than not, don’t fulfill their duties, leaving behind a community wrought with more trauma and distress than before. Peacekeeping missions are the embodiment of the white saviour complex at its best. Aid workers and peacekeeping troops swan in, driven around in their gleaming white 4X4s, sporting their UN blue berets or organisation-branded T-shirts with an aura of superiority and moral high-ground surrounding them. These are the agencies that backhandedly plaster images of dying children and poverty stricken communities on TV ads in the hope that poverty porn will seduce more white saviours to donate or volunteer for a cause. These are the agencies that take away any form of agency from local communities, and whose workers continue to exploit local populations. These are the agencies whose workers rape, sexually abuse and sexually exploit women when they’re in their most vulnerable states. And they choose to hide the atrocities committed by the so-called peacekeepers and aid workers.

What exactly am I referring to? Afterall, aid agencies and the United Nations have enabled immense progress in war-torn regions and economically poorer countries. In 2014, Africa and Asia each received over $53 million in official development assistance, and without international peacekeeping forces, many conflicts worldwide would still be tearing communities apart. And considering that my own goal is to pursue a career in international development and aid, am I being a massive hypocrite in criticising these agencies? I guess the answer is both yes and no. I recognise the immense importance of the work that the UN carries out. What I am criticising, however, is the failure to disclose the widespread damage, crimes and exploitation that some aid workers and peace keeping troops are involved in whilst on mission.

In 2005, the Guardian reported that an internal report published by Jordan’s ambassador to the UN “identified repeated patterns of sexual abuse and rape perpetrated by soldiers supposed to be restoring the international rule of law”, devastating communities in countries around the world, including Haiti, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Cambodia, East Timor and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The report reveals that “troops sent to police Liberia were regularly having sex with girls as young as 12, sometimes in the mission’s administrative buildings”. Now I want to take a step back and analyse the wording of that phrase.

Regularly having sex with girls as young as 12”. Do you notice something wrong with the way this is being reported? The UK Sexual Offences Act 2003 writes that if a person “intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person with his penis, and the other person is under 13” this constitutes rape. These peacekeepers are raping children, yet the official report is afraid to call them out on it, opting to present these predatory behaviours as fully consensual sexual relationships between adults and children. Over ten years later, in 2015, UN peacekeepers were once again in the limelight. This time, the Guardian reports that there were allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by foreign peacekeepers in Central African Republic with one horrifying account of young girls being “tied up and undressed inside a camp by a military commander and forced to have sex with a dog”. Meanwhile, a report leaked in 2015 by UN aid worker Anders Kompass details “the rape and sodomy of starving and homeless young boys by French peacekeeping troops who were supposed to be protecting them at a centre for internally displaced people in Bangui, capital of Central African Republic (CAR)”. And what was the UN’s reaction to this report? After the UN failed to stop the abuse of children in CAR, they suspended Anders Kompass for passing the confidential document to the French authorities (who actually took action).  

The UN is therefore very much aware of the atrocities being committed by peacekeeping troops, yet continues to sweep these rapes, exploitations and horrendous behaviours under the carpet. The problem is that there appears to be no centralised screening process for peacekeeping troops before they’re sent on a mission. Each country is responsible for sending troops under the UN flag, so there is no accountability. They could literally be sending people who until a few months before their peacekeeping mission were being conditioned to see populations not as people, but as enemy targets, civilians not as humans but as potential collateral damage. Then, assuming these peacekeeping troops are disciplined for their behaviour, what about the women, boys and girls who were abused? What support is made available for them? While organisations such as Unicef may step in to provide psychological support, how can we know that they are reaching all the victims? Afterall, these people are at their most vulnerable, they wouldn’t want to disclose their abuse because the peacekeepers and aid workers are the ones with power. These women, boys and girls may be too frightened to report their abusers. Some Haitian women describe their experiences with UN Peacekeepers saying:

I wasn’t ready, very ready, to have sex with him. But I couldn’t say no. Not to him. And he knew that. If you say no to a man like that, with power, a foreigner, he will just take it anyway. You don’t have the right to say no.
If I have a problem and a [nationality of peacekeeper] leaves without paying or gets drunk and threatens me, if I go to the base to complain, who will they have me talk to? Do they speak our language? No, they send someone else, a Haitian who works there … Do you think he cares if some guy got angry and smacked me? Do you think he will get his bosses in trouble?

So while the UN is considered to have the moral high ground in international conflict and disasters, it’s time to question who really matters in their eyes. Who is the real priority? Is it really more important to maintain a good reputation, than to actually expose the peacekeeping workers that are committing these heinous crimes?

Article by Chanju Mwanza