BUNIA — The girl was only 11 when the first peacekeeper raped her, luring her with bread and a banana as she was leaving school in her village in northeastern Congo.
“It was the first man who ever touched me,” said Bora, who asked that only her first name be used because she is a rape victim. The rape left her pregnant, and she gave birth to a son.
She was 13 when the second peacekeeper raped her. She once again got pregnant, and became a mother twice over while she was still a child herself.
Bora’s case is grimly emblematic of the underbelly of UN peacekeeping, and the organization as a whole: In a yearlong investigation, the AP found that despite promises of reform for more than a decade, the UN failed to meet many of its pledges to stop the abuse or help victims, some of whom have been lost to a sprawling bureaucracy. Cases have disappeared, or have been handed off to the peacekeepers’ home countries — which often do nothing with them.
If the UN sexual abuse crisis has an epicenter, it is Congo, where the overall scale of the scandal first emerged 13 years ago – and where the promised reforms have most clearly fallen short. Of the 2,000 sexual abuse and exploitation complaints made against the UN worldwide over the past 12 years, more than 700 occurred in Congo. The embattled African nation hosts the UN’s largest peacekeeping force, costing a staggering $1 billion a year. The mission is so problematic, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has threatened to cut off funds for it and others like it.
With rare exception, the victims interviewed by the AP in Congo got no help. Instead, many are banished from their families for having mixed-race children – who also are shunned, becoming a second generation of victims. Of the 2,000 allegations, about a quarter involved children. Some years, in fact, offenses involving children accounted for nearly half of the allegations, including rape offenses.
To this day, the violence continues: Congo already accounts for nearly one-third of the 43 allegations made worldwide so far in 2017.