The Blue Alert

When Peacekeeping Forces require policing

It is the face of someone who has looked war in the eye; expression grim yet staring resolutely ahead even when the going gets tough—the blue helmets, the celebrated Peacekeeping forces of the UN.

They should invoke a feeling of security and calm. Ideally.

Known to step in during times of war, they’ve been causing a war of their own. Some appalling evidence has come to light, exposing the dark underbelly of their presence in foreign lands.

Warzones bring out the best in some men while the worst in others. Life in a conflict zone is riddled with uncertainty and some may be tempted to relieve their stress by unscrupulous means. Foreign troops are seen as messiahs but they have often abused their power.

Sexual assault on minors in Congo, child prostitution in Mozambique, sex trade in Bosnia, food for sex in Haiti—the UN has been left shamefaced by their (mis)conduct. They are fraternizing with the very people they are sent to indict. There had been a surge in the arrival of Peacekeeping Forces and child prostitution in at least 6 of the 12 countries studied by the UN in 1996.

Trapped women and children are afraid to escape for fear of retribution, considering their clientele is uniformed. The offenders are not punished in their homeland or the conflict zone even after the storm settles. The culture of impunity is very hard to change.

Kofi Annan accused a few miscreants of bringing a cadre of ‘well-meaning’ and ‘decent’ soldiers a bad name. In October 2004, a ‘zero tolerance’ policy was introduced. In 2005, UN established the Conduct and Discipline Unit with their three pronged approach—prevention, enforcement of UN standards of conduct and remedial action.

Gita Sahgal, the head of Amnesty International’s gender unit a few years ago lamented the dire situation and remarked ‘Even the guardians have to be guarded’.

The conduct of the UN Peacekeeping Forces has been oddly reminiscent of ISIS’s treatment of Yazidi women in recent times.

Sadly, war has eroded the differences between terrorists and pacifists.

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