Saturday, December 18, 2004

I'm From The UN...And I'm Here To Keep The Peace

The NY Times has a story on blue helmets...milk and cookies...rape:

BUNIA, Congo, Dec. 16 - In the corner of the tent where she says a soldier forced himself on her, Helen, a frail fifth grader with big eyes and skinny legs, remembers seeing a blue helmet.

The United Nations peacekeeper who tore off her clothes had used a cup of milk to lure her close, she said in her high-pitched voice, fidgeting as she spoke. It was her favorite drink, she said, but one her family could rarely afford. "I was so happy," she said.

After she gulped it down, the foreign soldier pulled Helen, a 12-year-old, into bed, she said.

About an hour later, he gave her a dollar, put a finger to his lips and pushed her out of his tent, she said.

In this same eastern outpost, another United Nations peacekeeper, unable to communicate with a 13-year-old Swahili-speaking girl who walked past him, held up a cookie and gestured for her to draw near. As the girl, Solange, who recounted the incident with tears in her eyes the other day, reached for the cookie, the soldier reached for her. She, too, said she was raped.

The United Nations said recently that it had uncovered 150 allegations of sexual abuse committed by United Nations peacekeepers stationed in Congo, many of them here in Bunia where the population has already suffered horrendous atrocities committed by local fighters.

....The allegations leveled against United Nations personnel in Congo include sex with underage partners, sex with prostitutes and rape, an internal United Nations investigation has found. Investigators said they found evidence that United Nations peacekeepers and civilian workers paid $1 to $3 for sex or bartered sexual relations for food or promises of employment. A confidential report prepared by Prince Zeid Raad al-Hussein, Jordan's ambassador to the United Nations, and dated Nov. 8, says the exploitation "appears to be significant, widespread and ongoing."

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