Crisis in the Congo: Sex Charges Roil U.N.

Sylvie points at something in the distance but the 7-year-old tries to get away from the area where she was raped by a U.N. peacekeeper.

The spot where the crime took place was 20 yards from a U.N. base — 20 yards from the people who were supposed to keep her safe.

(Editor's Note: This is the first part in a series about problems with the U.N. presence in the Congo. Check back on Friday for the next part on what happened to a "zero tolerance" policy for abusers.)

Five years ago, more than 10,000 peacekeepers working for the United Nations came to the Democratic Republic of Congo (search) to help end a six-nation war. But reports of sexual abuse of local women and girls began soon after they arrived from Morocco, South Africa, Australia, India and Europe.

"A U.N. man came from over there,” Sylvie said. “He had candy and called us over. My friends ran away but I went for the sweets. Then he did it to me."

The rape may have damaged her internal organs and given her gonorrhea. When a team from FOX News took her to a hospital, she was too traumatized to let a doctor touch her.

In January, the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (search) released a report claiming peacekeepers regularly had sex with the Congolese women and girls in exchange for food or small sums of money.

"We have had and continue to have a serious problem of sexual exploitation and abuse," William Lacy Swing, the U.N. special representative to Congo, said.

The scandal intensified after the recent discovery of hundreds of violent, pornographic photos and videotapes of children, supposedly taken by a U.N. official. The images depict naked Congolese children in positions of severe physical degradation performing sexual acts with and under the control of a man, the United Nations admits, who is one of their own.

Maman Pastor said she knew her daughter Sifa was raped by a U.N. official who photographed the act but when she looked through the pornography confiscated by local police she found pictures of her niece as well.

"My heart is broken,” Pastor said. “They raped my daughter when she was 12 years old. From the time the white man raped her she is not the same. She always wants to be alone. She is so sad, even talking to her is like forcing her. She is always scared."

M’Hand Ladjouzi, U.N. program chief in Goma, said, "This case is unacceptable behavior, but I want to repeat this is an exceptional case, a sick person who behaved in an unacceptable manner.”

Didier Bourguet, a U.N. logistics expert, is awaiting trial in France after accusations that while in the Congo he may have kidnapped and raped as many as 100 girls, most of them procured by a woman from a local neighborhood.

The U.N. watchdog office reported that there were investigations of 72 allegations against both military and civilian U.N. personnel, which resulted in 20 case reports. One case involved a U.N. civilian; the others, peacekeepers.

"In six cases, the allegations against the peacekeeper were fully substantiated, and underage girls were involved in all of them," and none of the peacekeepers admitted to the allegations, according to the report.

A local children’s rights organization said it investigated allegations of rape purportedly by U.N. peacekeepers and turned the findings over to the United Nations. But the organization said so far, it has seen no results.

The Congo scandal is not the first time U.N. peacekeepers have come under scrutiny. Past reports of ill practices surfaced in Cambodia, Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo and Somalia. Despite that history and after four years of sex abuse reports by U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo, there still is no procedure of investigation or accountability on the ground.

In an upcoming trip to Sierra Leone this month, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette is expected to address the need for “increased pre-deployment training on sexual exploitation and abuse issues for peacekeepers and the need for more investigative personnel and resources,” according to a release on the United Nation's Web site,

Fréchette recently concluded a trip to Liberia for a second set of visits to U.N. peacekeeping operations in West Africa “to emphasize the United Nations’ zero tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. troops,” the release stated.

Said Ladjouzi, the U.N. program chief in Goma: "Issues are relatively new. I can't tell you that the organization has established practices or has experience on the matter. So, of course, we have to deal with situations as they come."

Click on the video box above to see video reports by FOX News' Steve Harrigan. And click here to read Harrigan's blog.