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 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 16:25 GMT
Porn scandal rocks Eritrean peace force
UN soldiers in Eritrea [UN picture]
The UN force is keeping the peace with Ethiopia

A sex scandal has again troubled the United Nations peacekeeping mission to Eritrea and Ethiopia (Unmee).

The latest involves allegations of a pornographic video being made by an Irish peacekeeper in Asmara, involving a 22-year-old Eritrean woman.

Unmee has released a statement which said that the incident took place in March.

"As a result of an internal military investigation, the soldier has been severely disciplined and repatriated to his country of origin," it says.

The Eritrean woman involved has been jailed.

'Filthy'

The Eritrean Government press broke the story and railed against the man involved.

"To him our rich and wise culture is of no interest. What interests him is fooling around and seducing girls to do these filthy acts, recording them and selling them," it said.

To add to the story, the government media has carried interviews with the woman.

Eritrean refugees
Hundreds of thousands fled during the war

In the interviews she tells all. She says he gave her money, bought her everything she wanted and promised to take her to Ireland.

Her allegations go further, naming hotels where the prostitutes would operate, including the country's only five-star hotel, the Intercontinental.

Several Eritrean women who are alleged to be prostitutes have been arrested. Some hotels and night clubs which were popular with peacekeepers, foreigners and prostitutes were closed.

The Intercontinental remains open.

Public

But the most interesting thing about the whole issue has been that the allegations were made public by the government.

Most people thought that such things would have been kept quiet in a society which traditionally blamed prostitution on Ethiopians.

However, prostitution has become more public, and the issue of a video perhaps shocked the Eritrean authorities into action.

Secondly, the story does reinforce public wariness of the UN and foreigners.

President Isaias Afewerki
The government has tackled the issue openly

The Eritrean Government has made it clear that it wants the peacekeepers out as soon as possible.

And thirdly, revealing the allegations fits into a recent trend by the government of getting people accused of crime to confess publicly.

Under the title "Let's stop it before it takes root", others have been put on the media.

One week Ethiopians confessed to raping women, then there were Eritreans who helped fake ID cards, and some who helped other Eritreans leave the country without permission.

Each of these confessions comes with an interesting moral message, as in this case.

The last line of the interview with the woman in the video reads: "When I get out, I will cooperate to expose anyone who participates even in small illegal actions, let alone such films."


Border decision

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21 Oct 02 | Africa
25 Jul 02 | Country profiles
21 Nov 02 | Africa
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