HOME-MADE pornographic videos shot by a United Nations logistics expert in the Democratic Republic of Congo have sparked a sex scandal that threatens to become the UN's Abu Ghraib.
The expert was a Frenchman who worked at Goma airport as part of the UN's $700 million-a-year effort to rebuild the war-shattered country. When police raided his home they discovered that he had turned his bedroom into a studio for videotaping and photographing sex sessions with young girls.
When the police arrived the man was allegedly about to rape a 12-year-old girl sent to him in a sting operation. Three home-made porn videos and more than 50 photographs were found.
The case has highlighted the apparently rampant sexual exploitation of Congolese girls and women by the UN's 11,000 peacekeepers and 1,000 civilians at a time when the UN is facing many problems, including the Iraqi 'oil-for-food' scandal and accusations of sexual harassment by senior UN staff in Geneva and New York.
The prospect of the pornographic videos and photographs - now on sale in Congo - becoming public worries senior UN officials, who fear a UN version of the scandal at the American-run Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq. 'It would be a pretty big problem for the UN if these pictures come out,' one senior official said.
Investigations have already turned up 150 allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers and UN staff despite the UN's official policy of 'zero-tolerance'. One found 68 allegations of misconduct in the town of Bunia alone.
UNICEF was created in 1946 to provide emergency aid to the children of Europe who were starving after World War II. In 1989, however, the U.N. adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a legally binding, international document that extends to children "civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights."[Emphasis mine; isn't this ironic in light of today's news from Congo?]
The CRC launched a fundamental shift away from UNICEF's original role of ensuring children's raw survival. This steady drift away from UNICEF's core purpose can be seen in two protocols added to the CRC in 2002. One addresses the issue of war; the other, child prostitution and child pornography.
[...] the odor of betrayal also hung heavily in the Rwandan air. This was not a genocide in which the U.N. failed to intervene; most of the U.N.'s armed troops evacuated after the first two weeks of massacres, abandoning vulnerable civilians to their fate, which included, literally, the worst things in the world a human being can do to another human being.
It did not have to happen. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the U.N.'s force commander in Rwanda, sent Mr. Annan a series of desperate faxes including one warning that Hutu militias "could kill up to 1,000" Tutsis "in 20 minutes" and others pleading for authority to protect vulnerable civilians. But at the crucial moment, Mr. Annan ordered his general to stand down and to vigorously protect, not genocide victims, assembled in their numbers waiting to die, but the U.N.'s image of "impartiality."
The outline of this story is well known, but its most important detail is not: Tutsis often gathered in compounds (large church complexes, schools and even stadiums) where they had assumed they would be safe based on implicit, and sometimes explicit, promises of protection by Blue Helmeted peacekeepers. The U.N.'s withdrawal was, therefore, not a passive failure to protect but an active, and lethal, perfidy.
Rwandans still seethe. Last month I went to a tiny, remote village, deep in the central Rwandan hills to meet Charles Kagenza, a famous Tutsi survivor who hid in the bell tower of a church full of Tutsis that was bulldozed to the ground, burying victims alive. When I told him I worked for the U.N. 10 years ago, just after the war, he looked me straight in the eye, with his one remaining good eye, and shot back, "What are you doing here? You had the capacity to save us but you abandoned us."
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