Annan backs tough action to stop Congo sex abuse

THE UN secretary general, buffeted by the oil-for-food scandal, has endorsed tough measures to halt sex abuse at the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has banned peacekeepers from having sex with locals.

Kofi Annan told The Independent that he was "deeply shocked and outraged" by the Congo scandal, which has led to the investigation of 150 allegations against some 50 soldiers of sexual exploitation of minors, including gang rapes.

At least seven cases of sexual exploitation and abuse have been substantiated against peacekeepers serving in Bunia, in north-eastern Congo, where the UN is helping the country recover from years of conflict. Children as young as 12 have been bribed with eggs, milk or a few dollars in exchange for sex, according to UN reports.

Although the new measures apply only to the Congo mission, where 16,000 soldiers and civilian staff are stationed, Mr Annan said: "I want to use this to send a message to all the 17 UN peacekeeping missions around the world."

The revelations of the continuing sex abuse scandal, which was first reported by The Independent last year, coupled with allegations against Mr Annan's son Kojo in the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, have greatly damaged the UN secretary general's personal standing.

Tony Blair sprang to Mr Annan's defence at a meeting in London on UN reform yesterday, issuing a ringing endorsement of the Ghanaian UN chief who sat beside him, to applause from delegates.

Mr Annan has been under attack from right-wing critics in the United States for his stewardship of the UN's humanitarian oil-for-food programme, which is the subject of five separate investigations at the UN and in the US Congress.

On Monday, he suspended the head of the $64bn (pounds 34bn) oil-for-food programme, Benon Sevan, and another senior UN official who dealt with contracts after an interim report by former Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker accused them of misconduct. Mr Annan has rejected calls for his own resignation pending the publication of a separate Volcker report into his son's links with a company involved in monitoring the oil-for-food contracts.

But the sex abuse scandal in Congo has also contributed to the picture of UN mismanagement, which according to one Western diplomat prompted Mr Annan to declare that the UN is observing a "zero-tolerance" stand at this time.

He was asked last month by a US television reporter whether the Congo scandal is "the UN's Abu Ghraib", comparing it to the prisoner abuse by American soldiers in Iraq that prompted the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to offer his resignation.

"Annan is having a tough time, especially in Washington, where his grip and management is being questioned," said a Western diplomat. "The reporting of misconduct by people wearing blue helmets feeds that agenda. It is important that Annan shows that he is on top of things."

Mr Annan disclosed in a letter to the Security Council that the head of the Congo mission, US diplomat William Swing, had brought in a series of measures to tackle the sexual abuse problem. These include "a strict non-fraternisation policy", a curfew for military contingents, and an awareness campaign for all staff at the mission.

The UN mission spokesman, Kemal Saiki, confirmed that "non-fraternisation" meant no sex with the local population.

Mr Saiki admitted that the scandal was having an impact on the mission's operations in the region, "and we don't want to give the impression we are brushing it under the carpet". UN regulations strictly prohibit soldiers having sex with anyone under 18 years of age and forced prostitution.

But Mr Saiki stressed that while the UN peacekeepers were supposed to conform to UN standards while serving at the mission, individual countries were responsible for disciplinary measures against offenders.

France has jailed a UN civilian staff member for rape. Allegations have also been made against soldiers from Uruguay, Morocco, Tunisia and Nepal.

"We shall get to the bottom of this to ensure that it is not repeated," Mr Annan said.

He vowed that the "entire chain of command" would be held accountable for enforcing the "zero-tolerance" standard.

An assistant UN secretary-general, Angela Kane, has been dispatched to the Congo mission: she has so far completed nine investigations, and has 10 ongoing.

In his letter to the Security Council, Mr Annan recognised the damage to the UN from the sexual abuse scandal, saying: "We cannot tolerate even one instance of a United Nations peacekeeper victimising the most vulnerable among us."

News
peopleTop Gear presenter and all-round controversialist is at it again
Life & Style
techHow a 'grey brick' took over the world of portable gaming
Sport
Aaron Ramsey celebrates after opening the scoring in Arsenal's win over Hull `
sport
News
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Coren Mitchell, who is the daughter of the late broadcaster Alan Coren and is married to comedian David Mitchell, produced a hand to make poker history at the 98th EPT main event.
peopleJournalist and TV presenter becomes first ever two-time winner of the European Poker Tour
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
food + drinkSprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
politicsLabour launches the 'completely hollow' Easter Clegg
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Last, but by no means least, is Tommy Cooper and the fez. This style of hat became a permanent trademark of his act.
comedyNot Like That, Like This centres on alleged domestic abuse
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players