Following recent media reports of alleged sexual violence, including rape and child abuse, by African Union (AU) forces monitoring the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) will participate in the AU's newly established Committee of Inquiry.
UNIFEM Regional Programme Director in East and Horn of Africa, Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, welcomed the urgency with which the Committee was set up after the reports, saying it gives a ray of hope to African women, children and survivors of violence that impunity and inaction by authorities is being seriously dealt with.
"It sends immediate warning bells to perpetrators of sexual and gender based violence that impunity will no longer be the order of the day in Africa," she declared.
The Committee will examine the contents of a BBC Channel 4 television documentary to establish its veracity or otherwise, identify those responsible for the violations and make recommendations on appropriate sanctions.
The UN has a policy of zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse by its own staff, particularly peacekeepers in the field, imposed following allegations in 2004 against peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). At the time the UN Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) cited payments ranging from two eggs to $5 per encounter. Some victims were abandoned orphans who were often illiterate.
In February, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guéhenno told the Security Council that significant progress had been made in dealing with the problem but much more needed to be done. He said that last year investigations had been completed into allegations of sexual abuse involving 296 peacekeeping personnel.