Congo: February 16, 2005

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The dam has finally broken on coverage of UN sex crimes in the Congo. On February 11, the UN secretary-generals office issued an unusual order. The order bans sex between UN peacekeepers and Congolese locals. For months the international press has run stories of child sex, gang rapes, and sexual exploitation by UN troops in the Congo. This has led to investigations and charges against at least 50 troops. The sex scandals are another embarrassment for the UN. Lack of accountability and oversight are the big issues. The UN command, such as it is, has limited authority over national contingents. To their credit, France and South Africa have prosecuted soldiers charged with crimes in the Congo. However, continued media exposure put the UN leadership on the spot and seems to have brought pressure on some national governments to discipline soldiers. By February 14, Morocco was promising to prosecute offenders.

But so much for sex-- the usual Congo violence continues. On February 10 the UN and western media reported renewed fighting in the eastern Congo. The fighting began February 6 and the Kyoma and Kasenyi village areas were once again hotspots. On February 11 the UN and South African sources said that a South African contingent of 1200 troops will move to the town of Beni (Ituri province, northeast Congo). The troops were assigned to security duty in the Kindu area. The South African forces are slated to act as a rapid-reaction force in the area (to handle missions like rescuing threatened civilians). A second and very difficult mission is called interpositionie, placing the peacekeeping force between the warring militias and rebel factions that are savaging the region. This is a very dicey task, but one the highly-trained South Africans can handle. Superior training is why the South Africans have been assigned this operation. Its possible the South African unit could also be used as a strike force to free hostages though this would be pushing the edge of the UNs peace monitoring mission.

 

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