Dr. Nile Gardiner,
Anglo-American Security Policy
House Committee on International Relations:
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International
Mr. Chairman, and
distinguished Members of the House International Relations
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International
Operations. Thank you for holding today's hearing on an extremely
important issue: widespread abuses carried out by United Nations
personnel against refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and
implications for U.N. peacekeeping reform.
This hearing will
undoubtedly shine a huge 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 my hope also that this
hearing will help prevent abuses on this scale from ever occurring
again in current and future U.N. peacekeeping operations.
Personnel from the U.N. Mission in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo stand accused of at least 150
major human rights violations.
This is almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg, and 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
U.N. 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
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 harm."
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
There are major doubts surrounding the
effectiveness and scope of the U.N.'s own internal investigation
into the Congo scandal, conducted by the Office of Internal
Oversight Services, headed by Under Secretary General Dileep
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 where
peacekeepers from Morocco, Pakistan, and possibly Tunisia "were
reported to have paid, or attempted to pay witnesses to change
The Congo abuse scandal is the latest in a
string of scandals that have hit U.N. peacekeeping operations
across 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. 47
U.N. member states have contributed military personnel, and 20
countries have contributed civilian police personnel toward
The MONUC Force Commander is Major-General Samaila Iliya of
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 MONUC.
U.S.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
The United States and is the biggest financial
contributor to MONUC, providing about a third of its operating
budget of $746 million. 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 FY 2005, and $207
million in FY 2006.
U.S. Funding for Worldwide UN
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 FY 2006.
Over 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 Accountability Office (GAO), 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 US to help support 33 U.N. peacekeeping
operations in 28 countries during that five-year period.
currently 428 U.S. personnel serving in U.N. peacekeeping
operations across the world, in the Middle East, Kosovo, Georgia,
East Timor, Liberia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, and Haiti. They are
overwhelmingly civilian police, including 309 serving with the
United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). There are only 6 American
troops under U.N. command (three in Haiti and three in Liberia).
Questions for Congress
There are many key questions that arise from
the scandal and which merit congressional scrutiny:
has the U.N. failed to effectively prevent abuse by its personnel
given its tarnished record in previous peacekeeping
did the U.N. take six months to release its own internal report on
the Congo abuse scandal?
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 surface?
the U.N. be relied upon to objectively conduct its own
investigations into allegations against its peacekeepers and
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 run in
accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? What
mechanisms should be put in place to ensure external oversight of
What impact should the Congo scandal have on future U.S.
contributions to the U.N. peacekeeping budget?
Key Recommendations for Congress and the
United States Government
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.
United States Government should pressure U.N. member states to
prosecute their nationals accused of human rights violations while
serving as U.N. peacekeepers.
U.N. should lift diplomatic immunity for its own staff accused of
criminal acts in the Congo, opening the way for
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.
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. peacekeeping operations.
Fully independent commissions of inquiry should handle all future
investigations into human rights abuses by U.N.
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
United States should also set up its own U.N. oversight unit,
answerable to Congress, 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.
Serious consideration should be given to the establishment of an
elite training academy for U.N. peacekeeping commanders, backed by
the Security Council.
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 across the world.
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, a betrayal of trust, that will haunt the United
Nations for years to come.