26 February 2018

Ghana's UN Peacekeepers Recalled in South Sudan Over Sex Claims

UN peacekeepers from Ghana have been recalled from their base in South Sudan following allegations of sexual exploitation of women at the site. It is the latest in a spate similar such disclosures.

A United Nations spokesman said on Monday that 46 police sent from from Ghana had been confined to barracks in Juba on Saturday after a preliminary probe showed they had been "engaging in sexual activity with women" living at a UN site to protect civilians in South Sudan.

"The information received indicates that some members of police unit FPU (Formed Police Unit) allegedly engaged in transactional sex," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. The UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan has a "zero tolerance, no excuses, and no second chances approach to sexual exploitation and abuse," he said.

There was no indication that the behavior was more widespread than within the site.

Ghana cooperating

Ghana is cooperating with the UN to carry out a full investigation of the complaint received on February 8, the spokesman added.

It is up to troop-contributing countries to take action against their nationals accused of misconduct when serving under the UN flag, although the UN also carries out joint investigations with the national authorities.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has vowed to toughen the UN response to allegations of misconduct in the war-torn country.

The UN said it has 17,000 peacekeeping employees from various countries, including 13,000 soldiers and 1,500 police, in South Sudan. It has 7,000 troops and 900 police in its UNMISS mission, while some 200,000 South Sudanese are sheltering at UN sites protected by UNMISS peacekeepers.

The world's youngest nation, which achieved independence from Sudan in 2011, fell into war in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

Not a one-off

There has been a recent spate of disclosures about humanitarian organizations engaging in transactional sex in crisis-hit countries.

The British arm of the charity Oxfam came under scrutiny after it surfaced that members of its staff in Haiti, including country director Roland van Hauwermeiren, paid for sex with locals after a devastating earthquake.

jbh/aw (AFP, Reuters)

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