Today, blue-helmeted soldiers and U.N. staff still rape with impunity despite pledges by U.N. leaders to end the abuses, victims allege.Yes, another layer of management is just the thing to prevent the servants of the international community from viewing the place they have been sent to nation-build as a s***hole? I suppose I should be grateful that the SecGen recognizes at least one categorical imperative. On the other hand, an organization that offers legitimacy to kleptocrats and cronyists the world over isn't going to be the most reliable of self-reporting.
"I am ashamed of the so-called international community," a tearful Marie-Blanche Marboua said as she described how a U.N. soldier raped her 10-year-old son a year ago in Bouar, 300 miles from this capital city. "My son is still traumatized."
"I have realized that nothing must be expected from these white people," she added. "Now, I put everything in the hands of God.”
The U.N.'s international peacekeeping forces were sent to Central African Republic to stabilize the country after more than a decade of civil war. While there, soldiers sexually abused hundreds of boys, girls and women, according to child rights organizations and the U.N.'s own records.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres acknowledged the exploitation and pledged when he took office a year ago to crack down. In August, he appointed a victims’ rights advocate.
“Sexual exploitation and abuse have no place in our world,” Guterres said in September. “It is a global menace, and it must end.”
Human rights groups dispute claims of fewer assaults, saying the U.N. still does not have an accurate account of abuse victims.It doesn't help that the peacekeepers are being sent to places that don't have much by the way of civil society, mediating institutions, or social norms in the first place. Thus, for instance, "Private business was not illegal, just impossible, given the nightmare of a third-world bureaucratic kleptocracy." Therefore, there's nobody to turn to when the representatives of the international community act out.
"The U.N. is claiming things are getting better, but it is in complete control over the assessments of people coming forward, said Paula Donovan, a former U.N. official who is co-director of AIDS-Free World, which tracks peacekeeper abuses. "They are police, judge and jury."
Some victims and their families fail to report assaults because they don't know how to file a claim, believe there won't be an impartial investigation or fear reprisals. "So people are not coming forward," Donovan said.At Turtle Bay, the illegal parking and the scoffing at parking tickets seems like a minor thing. But when nobody is calling out the senior diplomats for small things, who in the name of Dag Hammarskjold has the authority to call out the troops on the ground?
One 17-year-old girl said she did not report being raped at gunpoint in June by two peacekeepers in the city of Bria because sexual assault by U.N. soldiers is so common. She said many friends and neighbors ended up having children as a result of being raped by peacekeepers.
“I did not tell people that I was raped by the peacekeepers because they would make fun of me," said Merveille, whose last name is being withheld to protect her privacy as a sexual assault victim under USA TODAY's policy.
While soldiers who are accused are sent home, U.N. staff members can be tried locally because most don't have diplomatic immunity. Still, the U.N. doesn't deal with them harshly enough, complained AIDS activist Donovan.Nobody is saying third world hell-hole, and yet, everybody understands what a third world jail is. Meanwhile, the emoluments of the local satraps, kleptocrats, and current presidents-for-life depends more upon stipends from the so-called international community than upon providing the conditions for a self-sustaining civil society to emerge.
"If you rape a child, you might get investigated, but that is an investigation that will lead to demotion or getting fired, not jail," she said. "They don't want their people spending time in a jail in Central African Republic."
Local officials remain silent because they are embarrassed about the scandal and view the peacekeeping mission as a powerful force that provides desperately needed foreign currency for a barely functioning economy, said Pierre Marie Kporon, a researcher at Bangui University who specializes in child rights violations."I'm from the United Nations, and I'm here to protect you." Yes, put that alongside "I'm from the Federal Government, and I'm here to help you."
"When you touch the international community that pays the salaries of civil servants, you risk having problems even with the government,” Kporon said.
As allegations of rape persist, many people here feel betrayed by an organization that sent troops to make life better for the country's citizens.
"We were told that (the peacekeepers) came to protect us,” said Beatrice Mokoyo, 45, a farmer and mother of seven in Biabo, near Bangui. "Instead, we see that it is the (peacekeepers) who cause the rapes. It makes me sick."
What Karin McQuillan says about Senegal applies to the Central African Republic, or any other place where well-intentioned representatives of the so-called international community seek to do good without understanding why what they see is what they see. "Senegal is full of smart, capable people. They will eventually solve their own country's problems. They will do it on their terms, not ours." That's likely to turn out better, as something locally arrived at rather than imposed, whether by the missionary with scripture, the colonist with a rifle, or the blue helmet with good intentions, has a better chance at working, no matter how messy the getting there might be.