South African Soldiers Arrested for Sexual Abuse in DR Congo

By PETER DUBE

Eight members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have been arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for alleged sexual abuse, the United Nations (UN) announced on Friday.

The SANDF members had been deployed in the eastern parts of the DR Congo as part of the UN peacekeeping mission known as Monusco.

As a result of the alleged crimes, the United Nations has also suspended the eight SANDF peacekeepers who are part of the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco), a peacekeeping mission deployed in the volatile eastern region of the country.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, said the organisation had to act on information it had received about the involvement of South African soldiers in a sexual abuse case.

However, Mr Dujarric also confirmed that a full investigation is underway as the world body, the UN, seeks answers.

Mr Dujarric said the eight SANDF peacekeepers had violated UN policy and would be held accountable for their actions following formal investigations. He added that the UN had been tipped off about the soldiers’ alleged misconduct in eastern DRC.

We received “information that contingent members from the UN peacekeeping force in the DRC, deployed at a base in the eastern part of the country, were fraternising after curfew hours at an out-of-bounds bar known to be a place where transactional sex occurs,” Mr Dujarric said.

According to the spokesperson, a team of UN mission staff, military police and conduct and discipline personnel visited the premises to investigate the reports received.

“After confirming their presence and attempting to detain the contingent members for breaching the UN standards of conduct and the mission non-fraternisation policy, UM mission personnel were physically assaulted and threatened by the contingent members,” he added.

“There’s also evidence indicating a serious failure in the exercise of command and control by senior military officials belonging to that same contingent.”

Mr Dujarric revealed that the investigation is now underway and that the victims will receive support from the UN. Monusco has confirmed that it has taken steps to deal with the case, including suspending the accused soldiers from duty, detaining them and confining them to quarters.

Allegations of sexual abuse by SANDF members in eastern DRC are not new. Several years ago, it was reported that male soldiers had sexually abused female soldiers during peacekeeping missions outside South Africa.

Earlier this year, the South African Cabinet received a report on the progress made in dealing with cases of sexual abuse in UN peacekeeping missions. Cabinet also announced the formation of a ministerial task team to address the issue.

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