South Africa’s military has taken action to bring back eight soldiers who have been accused of sexual misconduct during their participation in a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the troubled east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).
The United Nations disclosed that these soldiers were linked to a “systematic, widespread violation” of the organization’s rules. Reports suggested that the soldiers disregarded a curfew and visited a bar known for incidents of “transactional sex.”
In response, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) issued a statement stating, “Due to the serious nature of the allegations, the SANDF made the decision to recall the implicated soldiers to South Africa to address the allegations and provide an account of the events that transpired.”
A formal investigation is underway, with investigators dispatched to DR Congo to conduct a thorough inquiry.
Notably, the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco) has been previously accused of sexual abuse, with a history of such allegations. In 2017, five peacekeepers were implicated in cases of sexual abuse and exploitation, including one instance where a soldier was alleged to have fathered a child with an underage girl.
Recently, a UN spokesman revealed that Monusco had received reports regarding the eight men, indicating that they were found “fraternizing after curfew hours at an off-limits bar notorious for transactional sex.” The situation escalated when UN military police officers attempted to detain the soldiers, and they were physically assaulted and threatened by the implicated contingent members.
SANDF expressed disappointment that the allegations were not directly communicated to them but were instead discovered through media reports.
The DR Congo has been advocating for the “accelerated” withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping force since December, accusing it of failing to effectively address the violence caused by armed groups during its 25-year presence.
Since May, Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi has urged Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, including South Africa, to deploy troops to DR Congo to counter the M23 rebels who have captured significant areas in the North Kivu province.
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