A recent release by Wikileaks from the United States Embassy alleges that United Nations peacekeepers based in Ivory Coast exploited their power by withholding food and demanding sex with underage girls in exchange, according to the Associated Press. The incidents supposedly took place in what is already an impoverished and war-torn region of the nation.
The peacekeepers themselves were from Benin and stationed in the town of Touleplu. The released cable, penned in January of last year, found that in a random poll of 10 girls who were underage, eight had performed sexual acts with the peacekeepers "in exchange for food or lodging."
Following the leak, Michale Bonnardeaux, a spokesman for the United Nations, come forward to say that 16 Beninese peacekeepers were repatriated to their home nation and forbidden from serving as peacekeepers. Out of that group, 10 were commanders and six were soldiers.
"We see it as a command and control problem," Bannardeaux told the news source. He added that the commanders "failed to maintain an environment that prevents sexual exploitation and abuse."
This is not the first time that reports of sexual abuse by U.N. troops have occurred. Other incidents in the Congo, Cambodia, Haiti and another case in Ivory Coast have been reported.
In that previous incident, 730 peacekeepers from Morocco suspended their work in the city of Bouake after claims of sexual abuse involving girls were reported. Similarly, it was alleged that the peacekeepers were demanding sex in exchange for food and cell phones.
Currently, there are 16 U.N. Peace operations happening across the globe. Troops are stationed in areas such as Haiti, Timore-Leste, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Lebanon and Darfur, among others.