By Artemus W. Gaye
Posted March 14, 2002
It has become a cliché to read or hear that the UN or its boss, Kofi Annan is shocked by incidents taking place in and around the world. The most recent is the sexual scandal involving relief workers and UN Peacekeepers in West African troubled regions of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
For me, I am angry, disappointed, and even more shocked that Kofi Annan, who I admire so greatly, will continue to play the game of “being shocked again”. On February 27, CNN .com reported, “ U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was "shocked and disturbed" at the news there may have been extensive sexual exploitation of refugee children by relief agency staff.”
What is shocking to the UN? Is it the fact that this news has finally being publicized by the media-specifically the British Broadcasting Corporations?
Five years ago in Kampala, Uganda, students and youth mainly from troubled regions met in a mini summit on Genocide and the plight of war torn countries. What was important about this gathering centered on the participants, who themselves were survivors, relatives and friends of victims, and former child soldiers. A young Rwandan girl who shared her story of being sexually exploited in refugee camp by relief workers and soldiers forever moved me as participant. Sadly though, she contracted HIV/AIDS. I was given the task to co-chair the first ever Genocide conference on the African continent, addressing various issues including the exploitation of refugees by rebels, peacekeepers, and relief workers. A well-prepared proposal was sent to the UN and other Non Governmental Agencies to help support such initiative and raise awareness. This was four years ago. Here was an opportunity where victims, survivors, former child soldiers, advocates and organizations for peace and justice would have met to discuss and float an idea for a movement against these evil acts.
Now, to hear that the UN is shocked, leaves me with lots of mixed feelings. But I am glad that the UN is taking action. For Mr. Annan, it is my hope that he can make the UN more pro-active than reactive. This means redirecting the UN from being a body controlled by the rich and powerful nations, to a truly global and diverse body that takes into account all issues affecting the state of the universe. Last but not the least, the success of the UN is its role in empowering young peoples around the world when they take on a positive initiative.
About the author: Artemus W. Gaye is a Scholar in Residence/ Research Affiliate at Garrett Evangelical and the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University in Illinois.
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