U.N. refugee agency special envoy Angelina Jolie marked World Refugee Day in Kenya on Tuesday by calling for better treatment of refugees in conflict zones.
The actress and activist denounced the impunity with which rape and sexual assaults are committed in conflict zones and highlighted the mistreatment of vulnerable women and children at the hands of the peacekeepers who are tasked with protecting them.
“The horror of sexual violence is compounded when it is carried out by someone in uniform who has a taken an oath to protect,” she said during her visit to Nairobi, Kenya at a training centre on how to prevent sexual violence during crises. Kenya is home to the world’s largest refugee camp and has 491,000 refugees in the country, including more than 200,000 fleeing conflict in Somalia.
“The reality is that women and girls as well as boys and men can still be raped with near total impunity in conflict zones around the world and there are still appalling cases of rape and mistreatment of vulnerable women, children and men by peacekeepers sent to protect them,” she declares. “It is true that these are a minority of cases but when abuses are carried out by peacekeepers, as you know, it destroys the very purpose of peacekeeping which is to protect civilian life.”
During her visit she met with refugees from conflicts in Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia and Congo.
In her speech, Jolie made a call for action, pleading with peacekeepers to set an example.
“We are not going to solve this problem or gain much ground if we don’t work alongside those whose core mandate is to protect civilian population,” she said during her speech. “So it is a responsibility of those who wear uniform to take the lead now by correcting from within, setting an example and stepping forward with new commitments.”