- After several scandals where UN peacekeepers and aid workers have been involved in sexual abuse of civilian women, the UN peacekeeping mission in Burundi has suspended to soldiers accused of "sexual misconduct". UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has announced a new policy of "zero tolerance for sexual abuse by UN personnel," following the scandals.
The two UN soldiers are under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct last weekend in Muyinga, Burundi, on the border with Tanzania, and an official investigation that began on Monday will conclude its work quickly, the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB) said today.
- This mission will not waiver from its responsibility to the Burundian people and the international community to ensure absolute implementation of the [UN] Secretary-General's zero-tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations personnel, the ONUB statement added.
No further details or comments would be provided for the time being in order not to prejudice the official investigation, ONUB however said.
Last month, Mr Annan responded to charges that UN peacekeeping personnel in the neighbouring Congo Kinshasa (DRC) - both civilian and military - committed sexual exploitation and abuse, and vowed to put an end to such practices and hold the perpetrators responsible.
- I am afraid there is clear evidence that acts of gross misconduct have taken place, said Mr Annan. "This is a shameful thing for the United Nations to have to say, and I am absolutely outraged by it," he added then after receiving a briefing on investigations initiated by the UN into the allegations, which he said concerned only a small number of personnel. "But it is vital that the investigations be speeded up," he declared in a statement.
UN peacekeepers and civilian personnel working with refuges earlier have been accused of grave sexual abuses in operations in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The systematic nature of the abuses caused a large loss of confidence in the peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.
Also in Burundi, the UN operation is already bothered by a low confidence among civilians. ONUB earlier this year was accused of not taking seriously on security concerns of Burundian civilians and refugees residing in the country after the peacekeepers did nothing to stop a massacre at a refugee camp. The peacekeepers were met with demonstrations and anti-UN slogans.
In the wake of the major scandal involving humanitarian personnel at a refugee camp in West Africa in 2002, the Mr Annan addressed a bulletin in October 2003 to all UN personnel clearly spelling out the specific standards of behaviour required towards local populations, especially women and children. Sex abuse scandals however keep surfacing among UN personnel.
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