Kofi's Press Conference
A word on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the DRC, the Transitional Government has overcome some important challenges, with the help of the United Nations. But there must be a sustained effort to bring the whole country and the population together -- particularly in Eastern Congo, where conflict continues. It is also important to improve relations between the DRC and its neighbours. Peace in the DRC, as we all know, is crucial to stability in the entire continent.
Say what you will, Annan apparently doesn't have child molestation and rape on his mind. He wasn't able to dodge, however, because a reporter raised the issue of the abuse of underage girls by UN Peacekeepers in Congo:
Question (interpretation from French): The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) has indicated that some members of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are responsible for sexual harassment. Is the head of UNHCR still responsible and capable of the post? There have also been a number of charges levelled against blue helmets concerning sexual abuse. How can you reassure people in Africa that this kind of thing will not happen?
The Secretary-General (interpretation from French): Indeed, there have been accusations. There has been an inquiry. And we stated our view that Mr. Lubbers is working as the High Commissioner for Refugees. He works very closely with the other members of his team, and I believe that he will continue to do his job properly.
With regard to the situation in the Congo, it is a situation that does cause me great concern. We have already dispatched some people there, including military personnel. I believe that there is another individual being detained in his country. There was an OIOS inquiry, and the report will come out very soon. There is a second team that I have sent to the field, working with United Nations troops and with my Special Representative. But we are not going to leave it there. We are now preparing a plan which will enable us to control this kind of situation. I had a meeting with 19 States that have contributed troops to this United Nations operation to discuss this kind of problem: how can we discipline troops and how can we prevent this kind of situation from arising and really tackle the matter in depth? I hope that with all those efforts we will be able to improve the situation. I am really shocked by these accusations in the Congo.
Kofi believes an individual is being detained in his country. Readers of CSM know a French citizen is in jail awaiting resolution of charges that he raped and photographed underage girls. Great. One down. But there are 150 alleged sexual acts by blue-helmets against underage girls in Congo.
So there are meetings, investigations and discussions. No doubt reports will follow. But when you get right down to it, Kofi didn't answer the question, and he cannot assure the people of Africa (or Kosovo, Timur and numerous other places where raped girls are part of the UN Peacekeeping process) that this sort of thing will not happen again.
There's a lot of interesting reading in the transcript about Iraq, UN-US relations and oil-for-food. Here's your link.