Earlier this year, the United Nations registered several cases of sexual abuse and exploitation by its peacekeepers in different parts of the world.
Just recently, a documentary titled the “U.N. Sex Abuse Scandal” was aired on Channel 4, revealing the intensity of the issue and claiming fresh allegations of sexual abuse against the organization’s personnel – both military and civilian.
Sadly, despite reports of exploitation happening at such a wide scale, only 53 uniformed peacekeepers and one civilian peacekeeper were reportedly sent to prison for sexual offences. It is important to mention over 1,700 allegations of abuse have been made against the personnel in last fifteen years.
However, out of a small group of those who were held accountable for their misdeeds, some of them went on to live their lives perfectly normally.
Case in point: Former U.N. consultant Damien Callamand, who was fired after allegations of him consorting with the prostitutes in Congo came to light, was soon hired by the Department for International Development to co-ordinate a project against sexual violence.
The irony of the situation is really astonishing, as it makes little sense how a person with a history of sexual misconduct could possibly be good for a job that requires one to work against the very issue they have been accused of.
Callamand, who was flown out from Congo, was working as a senior U.N. advisor in the African country when he was alleged to have broken the organization’s rules.
Interestingly so, the former U.N. peacemaker is now again working in the country as a consultant counsellor for the National Congolese Police. He was employed by British accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers to work for the government agency.
“If an individual is dismissed from the U.N. from any part they should not be hired elsewhere,” said Jane Holl Lute, the Secretary-General’s special advisor on sexual exploitation and abuse.
It was Callamand’s colleagues who spilled the beans about his misconduct, which eventually led to his suspension in 2008.
“The one training that we did receive – and there was a lot of fuss made about this –was on the policy of sexual abuse within the United Nations,” said a former colleague, Jason Stearns.
“We were consultants but we were still employees of the United Nations, having been briefed on what was permissible and not permissible. So that included things like not consorting with sex workers. That’s where it became obvious that he was doing the exact opposite of what we’d been told to do, which was consorting with sex workers - and there was no doubt in anyone’s minds that these were prostitutes,” he added.
Stearns said though he felt bad about telling on his colleague, the situation required the authorities to be involved as the matter posed threat to their profession and ethical values.
“And so, we reported it… and the U.N. then took very swift action. Pretty much on a moment’s notice [they] escorted him, from our house to the aero plane in a U.N. security vehicle, put him on the aero plane out of the country,” he explained.
However, Callamand’s Linked In page shows he was rehired three months later by the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Africa to work for the African Land Policy Centre, a joint initiative with the African Union Commission and the African Development Bank.
“I believe he’s had his entire career since then in the Congo,” added Stearns. “So that’s the past decade moving from one high-ranking position to the next within various U.N. agencies as well as working for other international organizations.”
The former peacemaker in question refused to comment on the matter himself, but did speak through his attorney.
“The allegations were never put to our client by the U.N.,” his lawyer said, “and he was never investigated for any behavior related to sexual abuse or exploitation. He has never to his knowledge ‘consorted with sex workers,’ he has never sought sex from sex workers, never paid for sex and no allegation of this nature has previously been raised with him.”
Nevertheless, people who have been associated with the U.N. for years revealed a bitter reality of how things work in the organization.
“The reality is there is no guarantee of criminal accountability for someone who commits rape inside the U.N. peacekeeping mission, despite a lot of effort by a lot of people and a strong commitment by the top reaches of the U.N.. The systems in place now are full of holes,” saidTony Banbury, who resigned in 2016 after spending more than 20 years overlooking its relief and peacekeeping missions.
The victims of sexual assaults also voiced their disturbing encounters with the peacekeepers in the recently released documentary.
Daniella from the Central African Republic said a French peacekeeper took her off the street.
“They grabbed me, took me inside the house. After they took me inside, they took my clothes off, threw me down, had sex with me, then took me outside and told me to go,” she recalled.
Another victim, Manda, said she was 11-years-old when she got attacked on her way to the market.
“I don't know why he chose me,” she said. “After he had sex with me he gave me money and told me not to talk about it. It was in the second month I got pregnant.”
Mauricette was 17-years-old when she was drugged and gang raped by the Mauritian U.N. peacekeepers.
“I fell to the ground and lost consciousness. I woke up in the Samaritan hospital. That was when I was told what had happened to me. After that I stopped doing many of the things I used to do. I can't walk outside like I used to. I am condemned to stay at home,” she said.
Although a U.N. spokesperson told Channel 4 it would “work to ensure sexual harassment is never tolerated and abusers are held to account.” “We have very good people, we have people that are so-so, we've got bad people and we've got very bad people,” said Lieutenant General Balla Keita, the U.N. commander in the Central African Republic.
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