The United Nations has reported the arrest of eight members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) who are part of the UN peacekeeping deployment in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The global body has also suspended the eight SANDF soldiers.
South Africa is a member of the United Nations Organization Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco), a peacekeeping mission in the troubled east of the country. According to UN Secretary-General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, the soldiers were involved in alleged sexual abuse. The world body, however, has undertaken an extensive probe.
Dujarric stated that the soldiers breached UN protocol and will be held accountable. “Upon receiving 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,” Dujarric said.
He said the UN missions, military police and conduct and discipline personnel visited the premises to assess the reports they had received. “After confirming their presence and attempting to detain the mission, the contingent members for breaching the UN standards of conduct and the missions non-fraternisation policy, UM mission personnel were physically assaulted and threatened by the contingent members,” he said.
“There’s also evidence indicating a serious failure in the exercise of command and control by senior military officials belonging to that same contingent.” He said the investigation was now underway. He added that the victims will be given support by the UN.
Monusco also confirmed that it has taken steps to deal with the case. The measures taken included “suspension from duty, detention and confinement to quarters of concerned members”.
This is not the first time that members of the SANDF in eastern DRC have been accused of sexual abuse. A few years ago, it was revealed that female army members were sexually abused by other soldiers while on peacekeeping deployments outside the country.
Cabinet said earlier this year that it had received a report on progress made in dealing with sexual assault allegations in UN peacekeeping forces. The government stated that a ministerial task force had been formed to address this issue.