Five new cases of sexual exploitation and abuse are being investigated against five members of the South African National Defense Force serving as United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The new allegations surfaced just a month after four similar cases, which included three of sexual exploitation, were reported against South African troops serving in the Monusco mission bringing the total number in 2018 to 2019.
The incidents are said to have taken place between 2014 and 2016 in North and South Kivu in the country’s east.
The allegations against South African troops serving in the UN mission since 2015 range from rape to taking advantage of women and forming relationships .
Secretary General’s Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric says, “The mission has received reports of sexual exploitation and abuse involving five members of the South Africa military contingent in the DRC. According to the information available at this time, all five incidents involve paternity and child support claims.”
“Four of the incidents were reportedly on-going sexually exploited relationships with adults; one incident concerns the sexual abuse of a minor though she is now an adult.”
Dujarric says they have informed the South African Government and requested that national investigative officers be appointed within five working days and that the investigation be completed within 90 days.
Troop Contributing countries have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute their own troops.
Dujarric says, “We are, of course, gravely concerned over the allegations which come only a month after three reports of sexual exploitation involving the South Africa military contingent were received by the UN mission in the DRC.”
“Allegations against this contingent continue to occur despite our sustained efforts to partner with member states and to prevent and address sexual exploitation and abuse as well as other forms of misconduct. The mission and its partners on the ground encourage anyone who becomes aware of such behaviour to report, so that it can take action.”
There are currently close to 1 200 South African troops serving in the world’s largest UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC.
Dujarric says, “Ensuring the provision of assistance to victims is our priority. The women and children have been referred to UNFPA and Unicef respectively for support and assistance. The mission will continue to monitor their well-being and needs as well as provide any additional assistance such as the collection of DNA samples for paternity testing.”
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) leadership has previously indicated that if the allegations are proven to be true, that those responsible will be dealt with in terms of the Military Disciplinary Code and Code of Conduct.
The UN says they had requested a joint investigation with a team from its office for International Oversight Services but the government previously rebuffed the request, expecting that in this instance Pretoria’s stance would remain the same.