United Nations peacekeeping troops are sexually exploiting teenage rape victims fleeing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to an investigation by the The Independent newspaper of London.
Many of the girls, as young as 13, are mothers who give up their bodies to the U.N. soldiers in exchange for food to feed their hungry children.
The girls, who live in the Internally Displaced People camp in Bunia, northeastern Congo, already are victims of multiple rape by militiamen.
The British paper interviewed girls and aid workers who said every night girls crawl through a wire fence to an adjoining U.N. compound to sell their bodies to Moroccan and Uruguayan soldiers.
In exchange, they receive a banana or a cake.
The U.N. has pledged a “zero tolerance” attitude to cases of sexual misconduct by its respresentatives and has announced an inquiry into the allegations. But the London paper says doubts remain about the effectiveness of the probe and the ability of the U.N. to bring the perpetrators to justice.
A 13-year-old girl, Faela, told The Independent her infant son is the result of rape by militiamen in her village. Consequently, she is ostracized in the camp and has no one to take care of her.
“It is easy for us to get to the U.N. soldiers,” she told the paper. “We climb through the fence when it is dark, sometimes once a night, sometimes more.”
The Independent said it spoke to more than 30 girls over five days, and half said they made the journey under the fence to the compound run by MONUC, the U.N. mission in Congo.
A worker with the aid group that manages the camp, Atlas, said staff knew about the sex trade but were afraid to address it.
“There is nothing to stop them and the girls need food,” he told the paper. “It is best to keep quiet, though. I am frightened that if I say something I may lose my job, and I have children of my own to feed.”
The head of the U.N. in Bunia, Dominique McAdams, said she she saw no evidence of sexual violence in the camp, although she believe it was taking place.