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UN Congo peacekeepers guilty of sex abuse
Updated: 2004-11-20 10:37

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed outrage on Friday over evidence of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers in Congo, which he called a "shameful thing" for the world body.

About 30 cases of abuse, including the sexual abuse of minors, involving both military and U.N. civilian staff, were reported in the spring in the northeastern town of Bunia.

"I am afraid there is clear evidence that acts of gross misconduct have taken place," said Annan, who is in Tanzania attending a summit on Africa's Great Lakes region. "This is a shameful thing for the United Nations to have to say, and I am absolutely outraged by it."

Annan issued a statement on Friday in Dar es Salaam after receiving a briefing on an investigation into the charges.

He said the allegations concerned a small number of U.N. personnel and promised to speed up the investigations and hold those involved accountable.

"I have long made it clear that my attitude to sexual exploitation and abuse is one of zero tolerance, without exception, and I am determined to implement this policy in the most transparent manner," he said.

About half of the 10,800-member U.N. peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo and some 60 civilian staff are based in and around Bunia.

The peacekeepers are there to restore peace in a region where fighting between ethnic militias has killed 50,000 people since 1999.

The allegations of sexual abuse are not the first to surface at the world body. Two years ago, a report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said scores of refugee children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were subjected to sexual abuse in exchange for humanitarian aid.

In 2001, the U.N. acknowledged police officers with its mission in Kosovo were trafficking in prostitutes.

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