- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2002

U.N. finds child abuse in West African camps

MONROVIA, Liberia The U.N. refugee agency will send a high-powered team of investigators to West Africa after a study uncovered widespread child sex abuse by aid workers, U.N. officials said yesterday.

The study of refugees in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone found almost 70 aid workers from 40 agencies had been pushing refugee children into sex in exchange for food, medicine and other life-saving supplies.

In Geneva, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said it has sent investigators to West Africa to look into charges of widespread sexual exploitation of refugee children, mostly by locally hired aid workers.

"Obviously, this is something that deeply disturbs us," spokesman Ron Redmond said after reports of girls as young as 13 being sexually exploited in the three countries.

The scandal raised a new problem for the UNHCR agency in Africa. Last month, U.N. investigators reported that its workers in Nairobi, Kenya, illegally collected millions of dollars from refugees to help them leave Africa in the early 1990s.

Congo talks in turmoil over delegates, fighting

SUN CITY, South Africa A conference on the future of the Congo was thrown into turmoil yesterday after negotiators announced they had failed to agree on representation.

The rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) also blamed the Kinshasa government for an outbreak of fighting in eastern Congo and vowed not to continue talks unless it ceased.

"If the government does not stop the fighting, then they have to take responsibility for the failure of the talks," RCD Secretary-General Azarias Ruberwa told reporters. "There can be no dialogue without a cease-fire."

Looting, rape erupt in Somali capital

MOGADISHU, Somalia Many people continue to flee a volatile neighborhood amid fears of rape and looting after 31 persons were killed in two days of fighting between rival warlords here in the Somali capital, witnesses said yesterday.

"People are still fleeing Medina, amid claims that seven girls had been raped by gunmen in the Medina market area Tuesday night and that massive looting was still going on," resident Idris Ahmed said yesterday.

A shaky cease-fire brokered by clan elders late Tuesday was said to be holding in the Medina enclave, in the southwest of the city, but sporadic firing still could be heard there.

The fighting, which pitted fighters of Musa Sudi Yalahow against those of his former ally Omar Mohamed Mohamud "Finish," developed into an orgy of rape and looting, residents who fled Medina yesterday said.

Weekly notes

Authorities imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Antananarivo, Madagascar's capital, after clashes yesterday between supporters of opposition leader Marc Ravalomanana and backers of President Didier Ratsiraka. A presidential spokesman said Mr. Ratsiraka would make a statement to the nation this afternoon.

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