Aid worker charged with abusing refugees

Nairobi - A senior Kenyan official of an aid agency working with the United Nations refugee arm (UNCHR) was on Thursday charged in a Nairobi court on four counts of sodomising boys in a refugee camp.

The development comes in the wake of revelations in February of numerous cases of sexual abuse of children by aid workers in refugee camps in west Africa.

Edward Lisamula Milimu, a deputy manager of the Lutherian World Federation's operations in Kenya, appeared before Nairobi Chief Magistrate Boaz Olao where he was charged on four counts of committing "unnatural acts" against boys in Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya.

Commission of "unnatural acts" is Kenyan legalese for sodomy.

Milimu pleaded not guilty and was released on bond. His trial was set for September 30.

The counts relate to "unnatural acts" allegedly committed between July last year and May this year.

LWF is one of UNHCR's implementing partners and provides camp management services in Kakuma, where more than 60 000 refugees are housed.

"We are aware about the case. One of the implementing partners' staff members was in court today (Thursday) and there were allegations of sexual abuse of refugees," UNCHR official Emmanuel Nyabera said.

"We welcome the decision by LWF to first suspend the person and also to take judicial action," he said.

"We reiterate our zero tolerance policy. There is no room for those who exploit refugees in any way," he added.

LWF's office in Nairobi declined to comment.

In May, UNHCR chief Ruud Lubbers admitted that the "dramatic situation of sexual abuse" of children in refugee camps was spreading.

"We have started action to be more tough on that. As Kofi Annan said, zero tolerance, that's what we need," Lubbers said, referring to the UN secretary general.

In February, UNHCR revealed that it had testimony of sexual exploitation of refugee children by staff of local and international non-governmental organizations, including UN agencies.

The announcement followed an investigation by UN and Save the Children officials who collected testimony from children during a mission to West Africa in October and November.

According to their report, about 70 people - workers for more than 40 UN and other aid agencies - were suspected of having provided aid in exchange for sexual favours from refugees aged 13 to 18 in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. - Sapa-AFP

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