27 February 2018

Africa: The Ugly Side of Peacekeeping

opinion

Perhaps, it will not be out of place for many Ghanaians to be stunned by the revelation that United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has recalled a Ghanaian unit of police officers from Wau and confined them to base at Juba, the capital of South Sudan after preliminary investigations into allegations of sexual exploitation.

The reason is that Ghanaians are noted for high professional standards since they have been engaged by the United Nations and other sub regional bodies for peacekeeping operations. The Ghanaian peacekeepers have demonstrated and built a good reputation for the country since 1960, when the country first participated in the UN Operations in the Congo.

Indeed, the statement from the UN on the alleged sex scandal accentuated Ghana's pedigree when it states: "On the whole, Ghanaian peacekeepers and police serving with UNMISS have made excellent contribution to the protection of civilians and building of durable peace in South Sudan. It is disappointing that the behaviour of some police officers risks staining that record of service as well as the Mission's reputation."

The Ghanaian Times is disappointed that after building a reputation to a very high level, it would crumble in such unenviable manner.

It is our hope though that this sensitive matter would be handled with circumspection, especially when it has to do with a 46-member Formed Police Unit, some of whom might not be directly involved in the scandal.

More importantly, there are questions that needed answers as well as clarity about the UNMISS mode of deployment before we all jump to conclusion.

The gravity of issues of sexual harassment, defilement and rape are quite understandable and easy to deal with once the evidence has been established.

We still remain convinced that our police service is among some of the best around the world and that the sins of few of them cannot be used to tarnish the high reputation built over the years.

It is, for this reason that we support the move by the Ghana Police Service requesting the UN to permit a three member team to be immediately deployed into the mission area for a "better understanding of the incident."

We entirely support the statement that stress that there is no indication that this behaviour is more widespread within the Mission. It becomes more worrying when the matter smears a whole unit.

Inasmuch as the alleged conduct of the police personnel is an affront to the rules of engagement, we need to listen to the other side that is the offending personnel before we start judging them.

We are aware that the UN has set standard code of conduct in its peace keeping operations and that it has zero "tolerance" for sexual exploitations and abuse, especially when it has to do with the protection of the rights and dignity of vulnerable groups.

It is in light of this that we are of the humble opinion that, the preliminary investigation report could have been put on silence, awaiting a full scale investigation, given the selective perception with which the audience react to messages.

We welcome further investigation into this sensitive matter and the request by the Ghana Police Service to have its team immediately deployed into the Mission's operation area for a "better understanding of the incident."

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