ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, September 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A secret cable from the US embassy in Ivory Coast stating that UN peacekeepers in the town of Toulepleu coerced underaged girls to trade sex for food has been brought to light by WikiLeaks.

The cable written in January 2010 notes that the aid group Save The Children UK questioned ten young girls in 2009 and found that eight of them had submitted to sexual acts with peacekeepers from the Republic of Benin in exchange for food or other basic necessities of life.

“Eight of the 10 said they had ongoing sexual relationships with Beninese soldiers in exchange for food or lodging,” the US diplomat wrote in the cable, citing information obtained by the embassy from an officer of Save The Children.

The officer said that the “sexual exploitation and abuse problem among (UN) personnel is more extensive than is recognized.”

According to the cable, the young girls were encouraged by their parents to have sex with the peacekeepers so that they would provide food for them.

On August 30 United Nations spokesman Michel Bonnardeaux confirmed that in April, 16 Beninese peacekeepers, including ten commanders, were repatriated to Benin and are now barred from serving with the United Nations after a year-long probe into the incidents. They “failed to maintain an environment that prevents sexual exploitation and abuse,” he said.

Although UN sources normally keep incidents of abuse from the media, Bonnardeaux noted that, since 2007, UN staff in the Ivory Coast have been accused of sexual abuse on 42 occasions, with sixteen of the allegations involving minors.

In 2007, according to an AP report, a battalion of UN peacekeepers from Morocco was told to leave the northern Ivorian city of Bouake after allegations of sexual misconduct involving local girls were sent to the UN.

UN peacekeepers have been accused of sexual abuse in missions from Bosnia and Kosovo to Cambodia, East Timor, Somalia, West Africa and Congo.

In 2004, the UN investigated approximately 150 allegations of sexual abuse by UN staff and peacekeepers in the Congo, including rape, prostitution and pedophilia. At the time, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan said, “I am afraid there is clear evidence that acts of gross misconduct have taken place. This is a shameful thing for the United Nations to have to say, and I am absolutely outraged by it.”

Former US Navy Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, with the Pray In Jesus Name Project (www.prayinjesusname.org) commented to LifeSiteNews on the lack of morality displayed by the UN peacekeepers.

“As a former Navy Chaplain I’ve seen firsthand how teaching Christian ethics makes our troops effective peacekeepers, but sexual immorality among troops can create discord, or even hostile aggression with cruelty and oppression,” Klingenschmitt observed.

Chaplain Klingenschmitt, who made national headlines after he was court-martialled for taking a stand for the rights of military chaplains to pray publicly “in Jesus’ name” and was subsequently vindicated by Congress, noted the lack of Christian ethics training is as apparent in the US military as in soldiers from third world countries.

“Our own sad American history at the My Lai massacre shows how U.S. Troops need Christian ethics training too. But today atheist complainers are trying to censor St. Augustine’s ‘Just War Theory’ from American military ethics and lectures.”

“Even worse, it appears our own Pentagon fears offending complainers more than the risk of giving weapons to young soldiers without ethics training. If they succeed, they will harm our national security, and turn American troops into unethical militants with no conscience, and no moral compass,” Chaplain Klingenschmitt warned.