Gina Freeman/the Gauntlet

Peacekeeping forces need watchdog

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The United Nations' already suspect reputation is receiving further damage as peacekeepers are once again being accused of sexual misconduct.

A number of Moroccan peacekeepers were suspended Sat., Jul. 22 pending an investigation into allegations of sexual offences. The soldiers, stationed in the Ivory Coast, have been accused of having sex with a plethora of underage girls while conducting their mission. Unfortunately this is not the first time such accusations have been levied at UN troops. Indeed, it was a little more than two years ago that a sex-abuse scandal broke out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where peacekeepers were accused of everything from sex with minors to rape. At that time, the UN articulated its commitment to solving the problem, but this recent episode seems to suggest it has either been ignored or entrusted to staff with a great aptitude for hopeless incompetence. This ineptitude is even more glaring when one notes the previous scandal also involved Moroccan soldiers who became notorious for impregnating women, young and old, during their stay.

If there is one thing the UN ought to be doing, it is ensuring their peacekeepers are operating within the parameters of human decency. We know, simply by virtue of the fact that peacekeepers are operating in the region, there are significant problems the population is coping with. As such, to add to these problems by dispatching a pack of roving pedophiles as 'good guys,' the UN is immeasurably exacerbating the problem. In light of this, more needs to be done to ensure this type of thing does not occur again.

One would think then--bearing in mind this is not the first time the UN has been confronted with this issue--it would act swiftly and decisively to eliminate this problem. What they have done instead is to take all the soldiers who have been accused off active duty, as well as confine to barracks the entire deputation operating in the region. The soldiers who are found to be guilty will then be sent back to their homeland.

Not good enough.

What is required is for a permanent watchdog to be set up to monitor the actions of peacekeepers in the field. This group should not be drawn from the military, but rather from the civilian branches of the UN, so as to best eliminate the chance of corruption. There will, perhaps, be some concern this would inhibit the effectiveness of the peacekeeping operations by adding to the bureaucratic machinery, but this it not a sound argument. First of all, these forces are already severely limited by rules of engagement; secondly, these new regulations should have no direct impact on military matters. In any case, the issue is not so much hinged on the comfort of the soldiers as it is the safety of the civilians. That is, after all, why the soldiers are there.