An investigation into the actions of United Nations Peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo shines a light on years of rampant misconduct that has left thousands of broken lives. Victims of Peacekeepers say they were impregnated as children, left without child support, trafficked and raped.
Since 1999, the US has deployed its soldiers to the Congo, with the current UN mission dubbed ‘Monusco.’ While the UN acknowledged past abuses by its soldiers in the Congo, the new report was more significant in scope, interviewing over 2,500 people, including women and girls who were abused by Peacekeepers and the children resulting from those assaults. While the interviewers did not ask about Peacekeeper-fathered children, over 1,000 respondents mentioned the issue in the report.
Several female survivors – many of whom were under 18 at the time – said they were given promises of support if a sexual relationship led to a pregnancy. But once the girls became pregnant, many Peacekeepers abandoned their pledges and redeployed out of the Congo, leaving the survivors in poverty and struggling with fatherless children. Though some of the pregnancies were the result of consensual sex, other victims were raped, including by multiple Peacekeepers, while others were trafficked and prostituted to fellow UN troops.
All the Congolese survivors with children have been denied financial support, as the UN claims its role is not to compensate victims but only to hold the perpetrators accountable. The survivors can seek compensation through other channels, but face bureaucratic roadblocks. So far, none of the women have received assistance from the UN or Peacekeepers who abandoned their families.
With the added cultural stigma of having a child out of wedlock, moreover, some victims have been forced to resort to sex work to earn a living, the report found.
Investigators also conducted nearly three dozen interviews with the children of Peacekeepers, who often spoke of the absence of their fathers and its impact on their lives. Many were found to be suffering from emotional trauma.
The UN claims it has taken several steps to prevent abuses by its Peacekeepers. However, their violent encounters with locals have been a well-documented occurrence around the world, and to date the UN has done little to aid their victims.