Secretary-General Kofi Annan today acknowledged that United Nations peacekeeping personnel in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) - both civilian and military - committed sexual exploitation and abuse, and vowed to put an end to such practices and hold the perpetrators responsible.
"I am afraid there is clear evidence that acts of gross misconduct have taken place. This is a shameful thing for the United Nations to have to say, and I am absolutely outraged by it," he said after receiving a briefing from his Special Representative for the DRC, William Lacy Swing, and the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, about the investigations initiated by the UN into allegations against both UN civilian and military personnel.
Many of the allegations came to light last spring, and were looked into both by the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) itself and by the UN's own internal watchdog, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).
"I am glad to say that the allegations concern only a small number of UN personnel. But it is vital that the investigations be speeded up," he said in a statement issued from in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where he is attending a summit on the peace process in the Great Lakes region.
"We cannot rest until we have rooted out all such practices from MONUC, from any other peacekeeping operation, and indeed anywhere in the Organization that they might occur. And we must make sure that those involved are held fully accountable."
Mr. Annan reiterated his position of zero tolerance towards sexual exploitation and abuse, and voiced determination to implement this policy in the most transparent manner.
He also recalled that last July, he asked Jordan's Ambassador to the United Nations Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein - himself an experienced UN peacekeeper - to act as his Adviser on this issue.
"I am now actively considering additional measures which need to be taken," the statement said. "In the meantime, I have instructed the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to send a special investigation team to the DRC, with the greatest urgency, to examine the outstanding cases."