Let’s just get one thing out of the way right up front here: when, if ever, are these stories going to stop? I feel like something of a monster for even putting these words into writing, but I don’t think I really even experienced any shock or sense of betrayal when I saw yet another headline at the Washington Post today recounting the story of more United Nations peacekeeping forces in Africa turning out to have been exploiting children for sex. It’s just become so commonplace now that it’s akin to reading about another meth lab being discovered on the other side of town. You want to be outraged. You should be outraged. But at some point it simply becomes the new normal and the shock is replaced with sadness and what approaches resignation to the fact that the world is an awful place.
The details, horrible as they are, could have come from any number of previous stories we’ve seen.
The United Nations has been grappling with so many sexual abuse allegations involving its peacekeepers that Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon recently called them “a cancer in our system.”
Now, officials have learned about what appears to be a fresh scandal. Investigators discovered this month that at least four U.N. peacekeepers in the Central African Republic allegedly paid young girls as little as 50 cents in exchange for sex…
The most recent allegations involve at least four peacekeepers who are accused of paying girls as young as 13 for sex at a camp for the internally displaced next to the international airport in Bangui, the capital. The site, known as M’Poko camp, is home to 20,000 people, mostly Christians. It is a vast agglomeration of white tents surrounding old, decaying airplanes, just yards from the airport runway.
Yes, the Central African Republic is, for all intents and purposes, a failed state and no fit place to live unless you are heavily armed and well positioned to survive constant conflict. It’s a country which is rich in uranium, oil, gold and timber but which has been essentially a battleground of violence and corruption for years. Ever since François Bozizé took power more than a decade ago and suspended the constitution he’s been at war with rebel forces who continue to challenge his likely fraudulent elections. The real losers, unfortunately, have been the rank and file citizens. Then along comes the United Nations, bringing food, medicine and troops to “stabilize” the region. It probably seemed like a great deal to the starving citizens until the troops turned around and began raping their children themselves.
Is it just something in the nature of “peacekeeping” and charitable forces being sent into third world nations with few eyes watching them? I’d honestly like somebody to help me figure this out. If you’re motivated to help people to the point where you sign up for such duty one might imagine that you’d be among the least likely to go around exploiting and raping the most helpless souls in the world. We saw something very similar in the Peace Corps this past year in case you missed it. They too had cases of volunteers being found raping young girls or tolerating the rape and abuse of their own volunteers and were forced to put in Kellie Greene as Director of Office of Victims Advocacy. Green quickly got to work pointing out all the flaws in the system and was rewarded for her work by being fired. (Washington Post)
Two hundred current and returned Peace Corps volunteers around the world have signed a petition to Congress to reinstate an outspoken advocate for victims of sexual assault who was pushed out four years after lawmakers demanded that the agency show it was serious about volunteers’ security.
“Survivors and their allies are asking for the immediate reinstatement of Kellie Greene as Director of Office of Victims Advocacy,” says the petition started on Change.org in December.
“Kellie Greene has proven herself to be a fierce advocate for Peace Corps Volunteers who become victims of crimes during their Peace Corps Service,” the petition says. “She holds Peace Corps to a incredibly high but necessary standard. She has ushered in great change within Peace Corps. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are calling for her immediate reinstatement.”
Pardon my French, but what the hell is going on around here? Are supposed forces of salvation like the UN peacekeepers and the Peace Corps just magnets for pedophiles and monsters? I understand that evil can crop up anywhere, but as long as the majority of the members are honest, caring individuals, they should be reporting and ejecting such offenders as soon as they are noticed, not covering up the crimes and going after their own watchdogs.
I don’t have a solution for this. Simply calling to dissolve the UN’s peacekeeping forces entirely or to scrap the Peace Corps seems extreme and would cut off whatever other positive work they are doing. But do they both require outside monitoring since they can’t seem to look after their own flock? And if so, who takes on that job when it takes place in nations all over the world and falls under so many different jurisdictions? Normally the answer to that question would be the United Nations, but… oh. Never mind.