- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2005

The head of U.N. peacekeeping said yesterday he is expanding an investigation of staff and troop conduct from Congo to 15 other missions to ensure greater transparency, even though additional sex scandals are likely to emerge.

Undersecretary-General Jean-Marie Guehenno said the effort will include an audit of all missions, immediate action against peacekeepers who violate laws and U.N. regulations, and a public report to be released in April.

“As we take action in that direction, I think things may well get worse before they get better,” Mr. Guehenno told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

“As the [commanders] get their grip on what is happening in their missions, more information will come up and it will look bad, but it is a signal that now there is a basis to take action.”

The United Nations, beset by scandals over the Iraq oil-for-food program, also is reeling from charges of sex crimes committed by its peacekeepers in Congo, including the gang-rape of children as young as 12.

Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, next week will introduce legislation ordering U.S. government contributions be withheld unless international military and peacekeeping missions are certified to be free of sexual exploitation.

The United Nations has authorized the deployment of more than 60,000 peacekeeping forces in 16 missions around the globe.

This week, three Pakistani peacekeepers were accused of raping a prostitute in the Haitian city of Gonaives, and there are reports from Liberia and Burundi of similar abuses.

But the most extensive scandal occurred in eastern Congo, where peacekeepers and U.N. civilian staff have been accused of raping girls as young as 12, bribing children with eggs, milk or a few dollars for sex, and fathering and abandoning hundreds of children.

Some 51 peacekeepers or civilians have been expelled from the Congo, according to Jane Holl Lute, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping who oversees logistics, personnel issues and financing.

The department is seeking an additional 100 additional military police for the 16,000-strong Congo mission, plus additional investigators.

The news has clearly upset Mr. Guehenno.

“Honorable colleagues, people with pride, are suddenly seen as a bunch of abusers. That’s why we have to get to the bottom of that issue and deal with it,” he said.

He said stringent rules would be in place for the 17th mission — the planned dispatch of 10,000 peacekeepers to enforce a fragile peace between the Sudanese government and rebels in the South.

The deployment is likely to include a unit that will monitor personal conduct and enforce U.N. regulations.

“We know that Mr. Guehenno is doing the right thing,” said one diplomat whose nation has been cited for minor peacekeeping infringements.

“But he must understand that it is up to us to supply these troops, and it is not always an easy thing. He must have some sympathy, … some patience,” the diplomat said.

Mr. Guehenno has won a commitment from the U.N. Inspector General’s Office to set up an auditing system for each peacekeeping mission.

“I am not confident that I get all the info that I need to have,” he said. “I am very concerned that [I get] independent and impeccable information.”

His staff also is working with often reluctant troop-contributing nations to make sure that commanders enforce rules limiting sexual contact with locals and prosecute those who break the rules.

“We are finding a need for a more structural attack on the problem,” said Mr. Guehenno, a French national. “When you deploy with power and wealth in a society that is broken, you need extraordinary measures.”

Mr. Guehenno spent two days in Washington this week, meeting with officials in the State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council to discuss the problem, as well as the status of the pending Sudan mission.

He said that the United States is vital to peacekeeping, citing the transport capabilities of U.S. forces and Washington’s ability to apply political pressure on warring parties.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday that the Bush administration shares concerns that “sexual abuse could be widespread, could exist in other places.”

“We have worked very carefully with the U.N. to try to get them to … make sure that in fact prevention becomes a top priority for U.N. peacekeeping operations and troop contributors,” Mr. Boucher said.

Mr. Guehenno called peacekeeping a strategic mission by national armies and cautioned against viewing it as a postconflict luxury.

“The strategic long-term risk is that countries break down and that becomes a strategic threat for the whole world,” he said.

“The idea that in this globalized world that you can have a place that nobody knows about, it’s isolated, that’s unwise. The world does not have the option to look the other way.”

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