According to CNN, Toure Hamadoun, spokesperson for the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire (ONUCI), said that the allegations surfaced as a result of a campaign against sexual exploitation, during which local civilians were asked to inform UN authorities about any abuses. When accusations against the Moroccan peacekeepers arose, the UN decided to investigate further, dispatching a team to carry out interviews and gather information.
This is not the first time that United Nations peacekeepers have been accused of sexual misconduct and abuse. The International Herald Tribune reports that more than 300 members of UN peacekeeping missions around the world have been investigated for sexual exploitation and abuse over the past three years in nations including the Congo, Cambodia, and Haiti. Upon investigations into sexual assault, 18 civilian employees have been dismissed, and 17 international police and 144 military personnel have been sent back to their home countries.
In an effort to eliminate sexual misconduct in its global operations, the UN held a three-day conference last month in the Dominican Republic. The United Nations has adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual exploitation and has sought to ensure peacekeepers receive educational training to avert the problem. Toure told AP Television News last Saturday that "We are here to protect the population and not to abuse... When we have the outcome of this investigation, appropriate actions will be taken."
Media Resources: Amnesty International; The Hindu/AP 6/23/07; Voice of America 7/21/07; Reuters 7/22/07; AP 7/22/07