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17.05.2006 General News

Peacekeepers in Liberia express worry

By GNA

Monrovia, May 16, GNA - Ghanaian Peacekeepers serving under the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on Tuesday expressed indignation about reports in the media linking them to claims of sexual scandal involving some aid workers and peacekeepers in the post-war country.

"Save the Children", a child welfare organisation, on Monday May 8 2006 claimed that half of young girls in camps for displaced people, some of them as young as eight, regularly had sex with Peacekeepers and Aid Workers in exchange for food and other goods.

Although the organisation did not mention the nationality of the Peacekeepers involved, some international and local media reportedly linked Ghanaian Peacekeepers to the scandal.

At a mini-durbar with Foreign Minister Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who paid a visit to the GHANBATT base in Monrovia, the troops dismissed their involvement in any such sexually related scandal and appealed to the Minister to carry their "plea" of innocence to the media back home.

"Please we are very much concerned and we would like you to help us let the media back home know that we have nothing to do with such a scandal," a soldier requested of Nana Akufo-Addo during the exchanges.

Two other soldiers also did not hide their emotions about the negative effects of the report on the reputation of Ghanaian Peacekeepers and urged the media to always cross-check such damning reports before airing them.

"Sir, I have a wife and children (back at home) and I've been wondering how they will feel about this report that we here (in Liberia) have been linked to the issue (of sexual scandal)," another soldier said, directing his statement to Nana Akufo-Addo.

A military probe into the reported scandal would submit its finding next week, according to Colonel Joseph Klobodu, Contingent Commander. An officer also called for adequate resources for the contingent to enable it perform its assignment successfully.

The current Ghanaian contingent, GHANBATT Four, in Liberia has a total of 850 officers and men, who are helping in the post-war peace-building and reconstruction efforts after 14 years of political conflict that left in its wake massive destruction of life and property. Nana Akufo-Addo commended them for their sacrifice and the all-round discipline and urged them to keep it up to give meaning to the sacrifices and contributions made by Ghana and other West African nations to the Liberia peace process.

"You are (Ghana's) Ambassadors in uniform and I have no doubt you'd continue to do your best to help our brothers and sisters in their reconstruction efforts," he said.

He told them about an agreement between Ghana and Liberia for the Volta River Authority to build a thermal plant under an emergency power project to light up some essential facilities, including hospitals and the utilities in Monrovia.

The project is expected to be completed and inaugurated jointly by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her Ghanaian counterpart during that country's independence anniversary on July 26 2006, according to Nana Akufo-Addo.

Nana Addo also briefed the troops on developments back in Ghana and said notwithstanding some challenges the Government was doing its best to improve the priority areas of health, education and good governance. The troops were visibly excited by the Foreign Minister's visit and took the opportunity to have open discussions with him and his entourage that included Lieutenant-General Francis Adu-Amanfoh, Ghana's Ambassador to Liberia.

Others were Mr Ebenezer Appreko, Acting Head of the Africa-AU Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ms Carolyn Offe and Mr Amanor Mante, both of the Ministry, and Mr Japhet Ofosu-Appiah, Counsellor at the Ghana Mission in Monrovia.

On arrival at the contingent grounds, Nana Akufo-Addo also inspected a compliment guard formation by an all-women military squad, whose smart turnout and precision won the admiration of the visitors.

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