By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK | 16 October 2023 (IDN) — South Africa’s military has ordered home a group of soldiers accused of operating a system of mass prostitution in front of their base in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Some nine South Africans, part of a UN peacekeeping mission, were confined to their barracks in the eastern city of Beni earlier this month.
The soldiers were said to be fraternizing after curfew hours at a bar where transactional sex is known to occur, according to a UN spokesman.
Sexual violence has become a defining feature of this conflicted region. Descriptions that dub DRC the “rape capital of the world” and “the worst place in the world to be a woman” reflect how the conflict-related violence has normalized rape and sexual exploitation by civilian perpetrators, humanitarian workers and UN peacekeepers.
Fatherless children are speaking for the first time about the pain of abandonment. “I feel hurt when I see UN agents passing by,” said 13-year-old Emma*, “because other children have their fathers, but I don’t have mine. I want to tell my father to think about me, wherever he is. He should know that I don’t have a family. If my mother dies, who will raise me?”
Her story corroborates previous interviews with the mothers of peacekeeper children in Haiti. In both countries, UN personnel left impregnated women and young girls to raise children in deplorable conditions, with most receiving no financial assistance.
Soldiers assigned to UN peacekeeping have been involved numerous times in sex trafficking and other crimes against women and children, according to records of Amnesty International and by news agencies, including the Associated Press.
Over the previous 12 years, there were almost 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers and other UN personnel around the world.
A Trust Fund for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel, established in 2016, has received $4.8 million in contributions from Member States and payments withheld from personnel against whom sexual exploitation and abuse cases have been substantiated.
The latest Trust Fund annual report for 2022 can be seen online at https://conduct.unmissions.org/
It covers the DRC, Haiti, Liberia, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. The Fund has received 426 submissions for 2023—only 12 were shortlisted. They include the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Haiti, Iran, Myanmar, Somalia and South Sudan.
All these projects will be reported on in 2024. [IDN-InDepthNews]
Photo credit: KT Press, Rwanda.
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