I would like to address an
extremely important issue-widespread abuses carried out by United
Nations personnel against refugees in the Democratic Republic of
Congo, and how the United States Congress should
I hope to shine a spotlight on a major
scandal in the heart of Africa, which has until now received
relatively little attention from Congress and the world's
media. In the Congo, acts of great evil and barbarism have been
perpetrated by United Nations peacekeepers and civilian
personnel entrusted with protecting some of the weakest and most
vulnerable women and children in the world. Congress has a vital
role to play in helping ensure that those responsible are brought
to justice. It is also my hope that congressional pressure
will help prevent abuses on this scale from ever occurring again in
current and future U.N. peacekeeping operations.
of Refugees by
Personnel from the U.N.
Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo stand accused
of at least 150 major human rights violations.2
This is almost
certainly just the tip of the iceberg: The scale of the problem is
likely to be far greater.
The crimes involve rape
and forced prostitution of women and young girls across the
country, including inside a refugee camp in the town of Bunia in
northeastern Congo. The alleged perpetrators include U.N.
military and civilian personnel from Nepal, Morocco, Tunisia,
Uruguay, South Africa, Pakistan, and France. The victims are
defenseless refugees- many of them children-who have already been
brutalized and terrorized by years of war and who looked to the
U.N. for safety and protection. The U.S. Congress should act to
ensure that the U.N. personnel involved are brought to justice and
that such barbaric abuses are never repeated.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has acknowledged that "acts of gross
misconduct have taken place." A draft United
Nations report has described sexual exploitation by U.N. personnel
in the Congo as "significant, widespread and ongoing." In the words of William Lacy
Swing, Annan's special representative to the Congo, "We are shocked
by it, we're outraged, we're sickened by it. Peacekeepers who have
been sworn to assist those in need, particularly those who have
been victims of sexual violence, instead have caused grievous
Need for Oversight
This scandal raises
serious questions about U.N. oversight of its peacekeeping
operations and the culture of secrecy and lack of accountability
that pervade the U.N. system. The fact that abuses of this scale
are taking place under U.N. supervision is astonishing, and it
is inconceivable that officials in New York were unaware of the
magnitude of the problem at an early stage.
There are major
doubts surrounding the effectiveness and scope of the U.N.'s
own internal investigation into the Congo scandal, which was
conducted by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, headed by
Under Secretary General Dileep Nair. A
confidential U.N. report obtained by The Washington
Post revealed that "U.N. peacekeepers threatened U.N.
investigators investigating allegations of sexual misconduct
in Congo and sought to bribe witnesses to change incriminating
testimony." According to the Post,
the report also cites instances in which peacekeepers from
Morocco, Pakistan, and possibly Tunisia "were reported to have
paid, or attempted to pay witnesses to change their testimony."
The Congo abuse
scandal is the latest in a string of scandals that have hit U.N.
peacekeeping operations around the world. Indeed, it appears that
U.N. peacekeeping missions frequently create a predatory sexual
culture, with refugees the victims of U.N. staff who demand
sexual favors in exchange for food, and U.N. troops who rape women
at gunpoint. Allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct by U.N.
personnel stretch back at least a decade, to operations in Kosovo,
Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Despite previous U.N.
investigations-and Kofi Annan's declaration of a policy of
"zero tolerance" toward such conduct-little appears to have changed
in the field.
United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of
the Congo (MONUC)
Established in 1999, MONUC
is currently authorized by Security Council Resolution 1493. It is
the world's second-biggest U.N. peacekeeping mission, with a total
of 13,950 uniformed personnel, including 13,206 troops, 569
military observers, and 175 civilian police. In addition,
there are 735 international civilian personnel and 1,140 local
civilian staff. Forty-seven U.N. member states have contributed
military personnel, and 20 countries have contributed civilian
police personnel to MONUC. The MONUC Force Commander is
Major-General Samaila Iliya of Nigeria.
The biggest peacekeeping
contingents (based on September 2004 figures) are from Uruguay,
(1,778 soldiers), Pakistan (1,700), South Africa (1,387),
Bangladesh (1,304), India (1,302), Nepal (1,225), and Morocco
(801). There are no U.S. personnel
serving as peacekeepers or military observers with
Funding of MONUC
An issue of great concern
to Congress should be the scale of U.S. funding for the Congo
operation. U.N. peacekeeping operations paid for with U.S.
public funds should be accountable to American taxpayers, who
expect U.N. officials and peacekeepers to conduct themselves with
honor and integrity.
The United States is
the biggest financial contributor to MONUC, providing about
one-third of its $746 million operating budget. The U.S.
contribution to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Congo has
been substantial. If 2005 figures are included, the U.S. will have
contributed roughly three-quarters of a billion dollars ($759
million) toward MONUC since 2000, according to State Department
figures. The U.S. is expected to contribute $249 million
toward MONUC in fiscal year (FY) 2005, and $207 million in FY
Funding for Worldwide U.N. Peacekeeping Activities
The United States is the
world's biggest contributor to U.N. peacekeeping operations,
contributing 27 percent of the total worldwide U.N.
peacekeeping budget. The U.S. is expected to contribute over
$1 billion toward U.N. peacekeeping activities across the world in
During the past decade,
the United States has made a huge contribution toward U.N.
peacekeeping operations. Since 2001 (including 2005
figures), the United States will have contributed $3.59
billion toward U.N. international peacekeeping operations.
According to the General
Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office), the
United States gave the U.N. $3.45 billion in direct contributions
to conduct peacekeeping operations between 1996 and 2001. This figure is dwarfed by the
estimated $24.2 billion in indirect contributions made by the
U.S. to help support 33 U.N. peacekeeping operations in 28
countries during that five-year period. 
There are currently 428 U.S. personnel
serving in U.N. peacekeeping operations around the world, in
the Middle East, Kosovo, Georgia, East Timor, Liberia, Ethiopia and
Eritrea, and Haiti. They are overwhelmingly civilian police,
including 309 Americans serving with the United Nations
Mission in Kosovo. There are only six American troops under U.N.
command (three in Haiti and three in Liberia).
There are many key
questions that arise from the current U.N. scandal that merit
congressional scrutiny. For instance:
Why has the U.N. failed to
effectively prevent abuse by its personnel, given its
tarnished record in previous peacekeeping
Why did the U.N. take six months
to release its own internal report about the Congo abuse
To what extent were the U.N.
Secretary-General and other senior U.N. officials aware of the
abuses by U.N. personnel in the Congo before media reports began to
Can the U.N. be relied upon to
objectively conduct its own investigations into allegations against
its peacekeepers and civilian staff?
How can U.N. peacekeepers and
civilian personnel accused of human rights abuses be
prosecuted for their crimes?
What measures can be implemented
to ensure that future U.N. peacekeeping operations are transparent,
accountable, and are run in accordance with the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights? What mechanisms should be put in place
to ensure external oversight of U.N. operations?
What impact should the Congo
scandal have on future U.S. contributions to the U.N.
Recommendations for Congress and the United States
I would like to make the
following recommendations for Congress and the executive
branch of the United States government:
The United States should call for
a Security Council-backed fully independent investigation into the
MONUC abuse scandal, to cover all areas of the MONUC operation. In
addition, there should be independent investigations launched into
allegations of abuse by U.N. personnel in other U.N.
peacekeeping operations- including Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Liberia,
and Burundi. Fully independent commissions of inquiry should handle
all future investigations into human rights abuses by U.N.
The United States government
should pressure U.N. member states to prosecute their
nationals accused of human rights violations while serving as
The U.N. should lift diplomatic
immunity for its own staff accused of criminal acts in the Congo,
opening the way for prosecution.
The U.N. Security Council should
exclude countries whose peacekeepers have a history of human rights
violations from future operations. The U.N. should publicly
name and shame those countries whose peacekeepers have carried out
abuses in the Congo.
The U.N. should make publicly
available all internal reports relating to the Congo scandal,
and outline the exact steps it plans to take to prevent the sexual
exploitation of refugees in both existing and future U.N.
An external oversight
body-completely independent of the U.N. bureaucracy and
staffed by non-U.N. officials (but backed by a Security Council
mandate)-should be established to act as a watchdog over U.N.
operations, including humanitarian programs and peacekeeping
The United States should also set
up its own U.N. oversight unit, answerable to Congress and
specifically charged with monitoring the use of American
contributions to United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian
operations. This could be funded by diverting part of the
annual U.S.-assessed contribution for the United
Congress should withhold a
percentage of the U.S. contribution to U.N. peacekeeping
operations unless U.N. personnel responsible for criminal
activity are brought to justice, and safeguards are put in place to
prevent future abuses from taking place.
Serious consideration should be
given to the establishment of an elite training academy for U.N.
peacekeeping commanders. This effort should be backed by the U.N.
The Congo episode has
further undermined the credibility of the United Nations and raises
serious questions regarding the effectiveness of the U.N.'s
leadership and the U.N.'s Office of Internal Oversight
Services. The U.N. has consistently failed to publicize, prevent,
and punish the criminal behavior of its own personnel in
trouble spots around the world. Congress should make it clear to
the United Nations that continued robust U.S. funding of U.N.
peacekeeping will be contingent upon the elimination of all forms
of abuse within its peacekeeping operations.
The sexual abuse
scandal in the Congo makes a mockery of the U.N.'s professed
commitment to uphold basic human rights. U.N. peacekeepers and the
civilian personnel who work with them should be symbols of the
international community's commitment to protecting the weak
and innocent in times of war. The exploitation of some of the
most vulnerable people in the world-refugees in a war-ravaged
country-is a shameful episode and a betrayal of trust that will
haunt the United Nations for years to come.
Ph.D., is Fellow in Anglo-American Security
Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy
Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis
Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage
Foundation. This lecture was originally given as testimony before
the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International
Operations, House Committee on International Relations on
March 1, 2005.