Peacekeeping: Who Guards The Guards?

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August 27, 2013: Nigeria recently withdrew 704 peacekeepers from Mali, as they were needed to deal with Islamic terrorism back home. All these troops were to have been flown home. But the last 109 troops are being told that air transport is no longer available and that the only option is to use their vehicles to drive 2,000 kilometers back to Nigeria. This is not an attractive option, as the vehicles would have to pass through areas still infested with Islamic terrorists. Some of the troops complained to their friends and families back home and the media got hold of the story. This appears to be another case of military corruption. In this case it is believed that someone took the funds for flying the last batch of peacekeepers home and is trying to get the troops to quietly drive home and be done with it. That isn’t happening. This is because Nigerian troops have long served as peacekeepers and because of the Internet and lots of gossip they know about these corruption scams used against peacekeepers. The troops are determined to get justice, even if it means delays in getting home. Meanwhile, they are living on charity in Mali.

The United Nations has, for years, had to deal with numerous incidents of corruption involving its many peacekeepers. Sometimes the peacekeepers themselves are at fault, as when Pakistani peacekeepers supervising the surrender and disarming of rebel Congo militias in 2004-5, took bribes, in gold, to give some of the weapons back to militiamen. The disarmament was part of a peace deal, with the disarmed militiamen getting job training or positions in the regular army. The local warlords wanted to keep their illegal diamond fields, gold mines, and other salable natural resource operations going and needed experienced armed men to get it done. Bribes for the Pakistani peacekeepers were the solution. The UN has also had peacekeeper scandals involving sex, prostitution, and brothels in the Balkans and Africa. Peacekeepers did all this for business and pleasure. Some of the women involved were young teenagers and some were forced to cooperate. This was a huge scandal and despite all the efforts to eliminate it, the problem persists.

Closer to home peacekeepers in many countries have to endure their superiors stealing part of their pay (the UN pays over a thousand dollars per month per peacekeeper, which is usually much more than these troops make back home). Commanders will often steal money meant for supplies or, as in the recent case with the Nigerians, funds provided to fly the peacekeepers home. The Nigerian commander of the stranded soldiers, colonel T. E. Gagariga, is suspected of looting money meant for food and other supplies the troops need. Reporters who questioned senior officers back in Nigeria about the missing funds were threatened with arrest if they did not back off. An investigation has been ordered by some politicians but the 109 stranded troops are still back in Mali.

 


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