Recently, the activities of humanitarian and peacekeeping missions on the African continent have increasingly begun to appear in scandalous chronicles in various media outlets. These are numerous crimes of various kinds committed by the Blue Helmets in the Central African Republic (CAR). On September 30, the Ethiopian authorities declared seven members of the UN mission persona non grata for interfering in the affairs of the African republic, transferring food and drinking water and vehicles to radicals of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
And recently, another scandal erupted concerning the activities of the World Health Organization representatives: several dozen Congolese women accused WHO (World Health Organisation) officials of mass rape. However, it turned out that it was not only African women who had been molested and raped by the “rescuers.”
A WHO mission worked for two years in Central Africa to fight hemorrhagic fever. However, there were about 80 female victims of violence committed by the WHO staff in the two years of fighting Ebola in the Congo. According to the official report of the special commission that investigated sexual violence against women in the countries of Central Africa, WHO officers were involved in the crimes of forced sex and rape. There were 83 officers involved, 21 of whom have already been charged.
According to Mukesh Kapila, Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Manchester and former director of a WHO department, the problem is systemic, affecting health organization missions and other UN offices. It has existed for decades – in Haiti, in the Central African Republic, in the Congo, both in peacekeeping operations and other humanitarian projects. Moreover, this does not only apply to UN organizations but also to charitable organizations. According to the expert, one of the big problems of the UN is the status of the international organization, which has immunity, which allows covering up scandalous stories. At the same time, its staff cannot be prosecuted, and compensation cannot be demanded from them.
Nevertheless, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, has already publicly apologized for the other day to the women of the Democratic Republic of Congo and promised that he would investigate, punish and reform the organization. According to the report, most defendants are temporary hired staff, often from the local area. Even so, among those involved are three full-time employees, a doctor, and two other officials. Union Congolaise des Femmes des Medias (UCOFEM) has demanded an apology and compensation for both the women and the children born due to rape.
By no means is this the first time that representatives of international “peacekeeping” forces have been accused of harming Africans with mass rape of local women, even children.
In 2015, for example, a scandal broke out involving UN peacekeepers who raped a 12-year-old girl in Bangui and killed a 16-year-old teenager with his father. Also, the Blue Helmets have previously forced people in Liberia and Haiti into prostitution in exchange for food. For example, between 2004 and 2007 in Haiti, where UN peacekeeping forces were deployed, nine local children and adolescents were frequently raped by peacekeepers. Children were abused and molested by 134 Sri Lankan soldiers. When the circumstances of the incident came to light, the only punishment was to send the 114 soldiers home, and none of them were punished for their actions.
In the Central African Republic, an investigation has been launched into the crimes of the Gabonese contingent of the UN multidisciplinary mission (MINUSCA) accused of sexual violence against locals. The authorities have demanded the withdrawal of 450 members of the Gabonese Blue Helmets contingent from the country.
African Union peacekeepers have also been implicated in the rapes. This organization, which unites countries of the African continent, also sends international military missions to hotspots of Africa, for example, Somalia. Human Rights Watch representative Liesl Gerntholtz reported that some African Union contingent soldiers, particularly peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi, have raped women and girls inside Somalia.
Let us return to the medical aid allegedly provided by Western countries to the peoples of Africa through humanitarian and international organizations. It is no secret that Western pharmaceutical companies are conducting experiments on Third World populations, ignoring informed consent and often even enforcing it. Pfizer, for example, is responsible for the deaths of 11 Nigerian children by using them as guinea pigs for testing its antibiotic Trovan. The antibiotic was later discovered to be toxic to the liver. HIV testing in Zimbabwe in the 1990s, where local women were forced to take part in tests, also proved detrimental.
According to the World Health Organization, about 10,000 illegal transplants take place around the world each year. Even though Paris officially opposes the illegal trade in biological materials, a clinic in Lyon was recently discovered using “counterfeit” materials. The other day, a large shipment of organs, illegally exported from the CAR, was seized at Orly’s French airport. This incident raises the question: who took the organs from Africans, how did they do it, and will there be a public investigation and punishment of those responsible?
In African hotspots, peacekeepers buy sex from local women in return for scanty rewards such as food. Many women including young girls agree out of poverty and hopelessness. But often, there is no need to buy. The peacekeepers threaten with weapons or take what they want by force. And it is not only soldiers from the Third World countries who commit crimes but also Europeans. For example, in 2013, evidence of sexual abuse of boys by French peacekeepers in the Central African Republic was uncovered.
According to information published by various media, the number of victims of sexual violence by different peacekeepers is highest in such countries as the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Armed conflicts have been raging for years in these African states, and there is literally a “war of all against all.” Naturally, those who suffer have no weapons and nothing to defend themselves with – civilians, especially women and children. Rebel fighters, just criminal gangs, abuse them. And as it turned out, it is hopeless to ask UN peacekeepers for protection. Moreover, they often behave like bandits; they rob, beat, and even rape.
Such crimes must be stopped, and the perpetrators must be thoroughly investigated and punished under United Nations auspices!
Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.