The South African National Defence Force has recalled eight of its soldiers who were recently implicated in serious misconduct. These soldiers were detained by the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation.

By Staff Reporter

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has recalled eight United Nations (UN) peacekeepers who were deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) due to allegations of sexual misconduct.

This action comes after reports of the alleged abuses were brought to light by sources who informed Reuters last week.  According to the UN insider who spoke to Reuters, there have been reports of brothels being set up near the camps where the South African contingent is stationed.

These soldiers were deployed as members of the UN peacekeeping mission in the eastern region of the DRC, commonly referred to as MONUSCO.

The UN peacekeeping operation in the DRC, originally established in response to a protracted civil war spanning from 1998 to 2003, currently maintains a deployment of approximately 17 000 personnel in the eastern region of the country. This area remains plagued by ongoing conflicts involving multiple militias and rebel factions.

In a statement released on Sunday, the SANDF said it had obtained a report from the UN that contained allegations of “serious acts of ill-discipline and misconduct.”

“Due to the serious nature of the allegations, the SANDF took a decision to recall the implicated soldiers back to South Africa to answer to the allegations and to give an account of events that transpired on Sunday, 01 October 2023 in Beni,” read a statement released on Sunday.

The SANDF also said it has dispatched national investigating officers to the deployment area to carry out a comprehensive investigation. It further stated that it would respond once this investigative process has been completed.

“Furthermore, National Investigating Officers have been dispatched to the MONUSCO deployment area to conduct a formal investigation. Upon completion of the investigation, the SANDF will pronounce itself.”

It also expressed disappointment, saying it was “unfortunate” that the UN did not inform South Africa, as a country that contributes troops, about the allegations in the usual procedure. South Africa only became aware of the allegations through the media.

“The reporting procedure was not followed by the United Nations because the RSA Defence Advisor nor the RSA United Nations Representative were not informed as per the Standard Operating Procedure for all Troop Contributing Countries.”

The UN can conduct investigations into criminal activities and repatriate peacekeeping forces to their respective countries. However, it is constrained by a lack of jurisdiction to execute prosecutions within the current framework.

In a formal statement, MONUSCO announced that it has “immediate and robust action in response to reports of serious misconduct by UN peacekeepers”.

The actions taken by MONUSCO “include suspension from duty, detention, and confinement to quarters of concerned peacekeepers, pending receipt of additional information on the allegations, including through the conduct of a full-fledged investigation”.

MONUSCO emphasized that these actions align with the UN Secretary General’s unwavering commitment to a zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as other forms of misconduct.

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