Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sudan News Update: Allegations of Child Abuse Sparks Outrage

News Article by AP posted on January 04, 2007 at 17:48:27: EST (-5 GMT)

Four U.N. peacekeepers sent home for alleged misconduct and 13 peacekeepers under investigation in southern Sudan

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Four U.N. peacekeepers from Bangladesh have been sent home and 13 other peacekeepers serving in southern Sudan are under investigation for alleged serious misconduct including sexual exploitation and abuse, the United Nations said Thursday.

The Bangladeshis were repatriated several months ago "and a case will be pursued in front of a national jurisdiction," U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said. "We have different allegations against them -- not all of them are sexual allegations."

"As of today, there are 13 ongoing investigations regarding allegations of serious misconduct including sexual exploitation and abuse," Montas added. The nationalities of the 13 peacekeepers under investigation were not disclosed.

The U.N. announcement comes on the heels of a report in a British newspaper alleging that U.N. personnel in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, were involved in sexual exploitation and abuse.

The Daily Telegraph cited interviews with more than 20 children who alleged they were raped and sexually abused. It also cited an internal report by the U.N. children's agency, but Montas said that document focused on sexual abuse by the Sudanese military, not U.N. peacekeepers.

The paper reported the alleged abuse began two years ago when the U.N. Mission in southern Sudan, known as UNMIS, arrived to help maintain peace in the region after a more than two-decade civil war.

Montas said the United Nations is still trying to determine whether the allegations against the four Bangladeshis and the 13 investigations now being conducted by the U.N. in southern Sudan involve the same cases raised by the Daily Telegraph -- or whether the paper has uncovered new cases.

A 14-year-old boy identified only as Jonas told the newspaper "I was sitting by the river the first time it happened." A 13-year-old boy told the paper he was lured to a U.N. car with the offer of cash, abused and dumped by the side of a road.

Montas said Wednesday that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was "deeply concerned" by the report, and she reiterated the U.N.'s determination "to end sexual abuse by peacekeepers."

"The U.N. standard on this issue is clear -- zero tolerance, meaning zero complacency and zero impunity," she said.

The Office of Internal Oversight Services, the U.N.'s internal watchdog known as OIOS, has a team permanently based in Sudan. It investigates all allegations of abuse involving the more than 11,000 peacekeepers, police and international civilian staff in the country. OIOS also has teams in Congo, Liberia and Haiti, where the U.N. has other large peacekeeping operations.

While allegations of abuse have dogged peacekeeping missions since their inception over 50 years ago, the issue was thrust into the spotlight after the United Nations found in early 2005 that peacekeepers in Congo had sex with Congolese women and girls, usually in exchange for food or small sums of money.

Jordan's U.N. Ambassador Prince Zeid al Hussein wrote a report several months later that described the U.N. military arm as deeply flawed and recommended withholding the salaries of the guilty and requiring nations to pursue legal action against perpetrators. It said abuses had been reported in missions ranging from Bosnia and Kosovo to Cambodia, East Timor, West Africa and Congo.

The U.N. peacekeeping department instituted a new code of conduct for peacekeepers and new training for officers and all U.N. personnel, and it reinforced messages against sexual abuse.

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Jane Holl Lute said Tuesday night the U.N. would ascertain the facts about the paper's allegations and take action if necessary.

"We won't be complacent and there will be no impunity to the full extent of the U.N.'s authority," she said.

Lute, who served in the U.S. Army for 16 years, said vigilance on this matter has to be "a constant factor of life when you're rotating through 200,000 troops in as diverse environments as we do."

News Article by REUTERS posted on January 04, 2007 at 17:42:39: EST (-5 GMT)

Sudan calls alleged U.N. sex abuse "outrageous"

KHARTOUM, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Sudan on Thursday described the
alleged sexual abuse of children by U.N. peacekeepers in south
Sudan as "outrageous" and said it would launch its own
investigation into the affair.

The United Nations said on Wednesday it was investigating 13
cases of serious misconduct including sexual abuse and
exploitation in south Sudan.

Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper said on Wednesday that
U.N. peacekeepers and civilian staff were raping and abusing
children as young as 12 in southern Sudan. The paper said it had interviewed 20 young victims in the south Sudan capital Juba.

"We are very concerned. It is outrageous," foreign ministry
spokesman Ali al-Sadig told Reuters.

"If anyone has committed such crimes they should face the
full weight of the law," he added.

He said the Khartoum government would launch an investigation into the matter. Any U.N. personnel found guilty of such crimes would be dealt with by the United Nations and not under Sudanese law.

More than 11,000 U.N. police and troops are in Sudan to
monitor a north-south peace deal, which will mark its second
anniversary next week.

Sudan's north-south civil war, Africa's longest, ended in
January 2005 with a peace deal which paved the way for
democratic transformation, power and wealth sharing. The U.N.
peacekeepers are there to monitor implementation of the deal.

U.N. spokesman George Somerwill said the United Nations
would be meeting on Thursday with the government of southern
Sudan. He said the United Nations took these kinds of
allegations "very, very seriously indeed".

The allegations are likely to further hamper efforts by new
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to deploy U.N. peacekeepers
to Sudan's western Darfur region, where a separate four-year-old conflict has killed an estimated 200,000 and driven 2.5 million from their homes.

Khartoum rejects a U.N. resolution authorising 22,500 U.N.
troops and police to deploy to Darfur to take over from the
struggling African Union force, likening it to a Western
invasion and an attempt at colonisation.

Asked if the sex abuse allegations would affect Khartoum's
decision on allowing U.N. troops in Darfur, al Sadig said: "This is exactly why we are so concerned."

News Article by AP posted on January 04, 2007 at 17:44:19: EST (-5 GMT)

7 killed, 30 wounded in Darfur tribal clashes

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) -- Clashes between nomads and farmers killed seven people and injured another 30 in Darfur, where a commercial bus was also ambushed and the compounds of a U.N. agency and an international aid group were raided this week, the U.N. mission in Sudan said Thursday.

The clashes between the Jamala and Terjam tribes erupted in the South Darfur locality of BulBul Abu Angra on Tuesday, the U.N. reported, stating that Sudanese national security deployed to stabilize the zone.

Also in South Darfur, bandits on Wednesday attacked a commercial bus on a road 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of the regional capital, Nyala, wounding four people. One Sudanese police officer and a bandit were also injured in the gunfight, the U.N. said in its Internet statement.

Also Wednesday, a U.N. vehicle was hijacked in the West Darfur capital of El Geneina. The U.N. said it strongly suspected members of the pro-government janjaweed militia in this attack.

"While cases of carjacking have recently decreased, figures soared in 2006," the United Nations statement said.

Some 118 vehicles were stolen in Darfur in 2006, of which 28 were recovered and 90 are still missing, the U.N. said. "The use of these stolen vehicles by armed militia and rebel factions in further attacks is a growing concern," the U.N. statement said.

The U.N. said it had five vehicles stolen, while international aid groups lost 96 and the African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur 17. Two AU peacekeepers are being held hostage since their car was hijacked in December, as are five Sudanese water engineers seized in October.

Dozens of aid workers and U.N. staff have been pulled out of Darfur over the past weeks because of spiraling violence, and at least two more compounds were attacked this week, the U.N. said.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2,5 million chased from their home in Darfur since 2003, when rebels stemming from ethnic African tribes rose up against the Arab-dominated central government. Khartoum is accused of having unleashed in response the janjaweed militia of Arab nomads, who are blamed for the worst atrocities in the conflict.

The Sudanese government opposes a U.N. Security Council plan to replace the overwhelmed African Union force in the region with some 20,000 blue helmets.

News Article by AFP posted on January 04, 2007 at 17:41:34: EST (-5 GMT)

At least 13 killed in LRA-linked ambushes in southern Sudan

KAMPALA, Jan 4, 2007 (AFP) - At least 13 people have been killed in southern Sudan since the beginning of the year in bloody ambushes the Ugandan military blamed on the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, officials said Thursday.

Army spokesman Lieutenant Chris Magezi said LRA rebels attacked a truck on January 1 in Jabuleen township, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, killing two people on the spot and abducting eight others who were later found dead.

"When we pursued them, we found that the eight that they abducted had been massacred and their bodies were left in the bush," Magezi told AFP.

"A day later, they carried out two other ambushes in which they killed three other people and injured three at a place between Amer junction and Magwi," Magezi said.

"We are sure the LRA carried out the ambushes," he said, describing the attack as a "serious violation of the cessation of hostility agreement and a big setback" to the peace talks being held in Juba.

There was no independent confirmation of the incident nor an immediate response from the LRA.

In November, the LRA pulled out from the peace talks claiming that the Ugandan army had killed three of their members, but agreed to resume talks the following month after both sides renewed a ceasefire agreement.

The LRA, led by elusive supremo Joseph Kony, has conducted a two-decade insurgency against the government, killing tens of thousands of people and displacing millions of others in northern Uganda, initially in the name of establishing a regime based on the biblical Ten Commandments.

Last July, the Ugandan government entered into peace negotiations with the rebels under the mediation of south Sudan's semi-autonomous government to end the long-running conflict.

The talks, widely regarded as the best hope to end the rebellion, yielded a ceasefire but both parties have since traded both gunfire and accusations of a lack of commitment to the dialogue.

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