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By Stewart Stogel

UNITED NATIONS – U.S./U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice says she is “disturbed” for a whole range of reasons after a recent visit to Haiti, including allegations of a number rapes by U.N. workers of the women in Haiti.

Rice led 15 members of the U.N. Security Council on a four-day tour of the troubled Caribbean nation recently.

The unusual field trip was to estimate progress made since the 2010
earthquake and to assess challenges remaining.

“We saw a disturbing level of political infighting in a country that can ill afford it,” she reported.

And she said charges of rape by peacekeepers in Haiti, which U.N. sources confirm could number more than a dozen, have deeply eroded support for the organization’s efforts to stabilize the security environment.

“Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by some mission
personnel have badly eroded support (for the U.N.) and undermined its
work,” she said. “We are deeply troubled by these allegations and expect the United Nations to redouble its efforts to prevent any further incidents and to hold those responsible, accountable.”

U.N. sources in New York would not comment other than to say the world organization’s internal affairs department is reviewing the
allegations.

Privately, U.N. peacekeeping sources say the lack of progress in prosecuting those responsible has to do infighting within the new Haitian government of President Michel Martelly.

Another area that concerned Rice is Martelly’s desire to re-create a Haitian national army.

U.N. sources say they see no need for a new army since there are no indications of any external threat to Haiti.

Some Haitians charge that Martelly would like to use such a body as a means for potential political intimidation, remembering such activities in the 1990s under the military junta of General Raul Cedras.

Said Rice: “Council members questioned this course of action and emphasized instead the importance of completing the reform and strengthening of the Haitian National Police (HNP).”

The council’s trip also took members to Cap Haitien to examine how rule-of-law institutions function at the local level.

Rice found the local prison “severely overcrowded” and a court system “plainly unable to cope with the demands it faces.”

The U.S. diplomat explained the pictures painted “were a stark reminder of the enormous challenges in strengthening the judicial system in Haiti.”

The severe overcrowding in numerous tent cities was also a matter of concern.

In the Caaaradeux IDP camp, Rice says conditions remain difficult with more than 500,000 Haitians still receiving emergency aid.

Crime remains a prime concern and the council was briefed on U.N. police and camp leaders efforts to protect what was termed vulnerable groups.”

Rice summed up the trip in guarded terms:

“Many Haitians acknowledged that MINUSTAH plays a necessary role, however they also shared a desire to see the mission eventually leave. … The cholera epidemic and allegations of sexual abuse have badly eroded support.”

She continued, “The council saw that Haiti’s enormous challenges require the coordinated of all stakeholders most importantly the Haitian government and civil society, but also the military and civilian elements of MINUSTAH, other parts of the U.N. system, donor governments and local and international non-governmental
organizations.”

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