Earlier today, the South African military made an announcement regarding the recall of approximately eleven peacekeepers who were suspected of involvement in a system of organized prostitution activities near their base in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Last Wednesday, the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco) disclosed that it had apprehended eight South African peacekeepers stationed in the eastern town of Beni on charges of “systematic and widespread violation” of UN regulations against sexual exploitation and abuse. Additionally, one officer was suspended.
Due to the gravity of these allegations, the South African military confirmed the decision to recall these soldiers back to South Africa, where they will be required to provide responses. Furthermore, investigative teams have been dispatched to the Democratic Republic of Congo to thoroughly examine the matter.
According to internal Monusco documents accessed by AFP, the arrested peacekeepers are accused of participating in an arrangement involving the establishment of “brothels” and “makeshift bars” that were established in front of the Monusco base at Mavivi, near Beni, and were utilized for prostitution.
A preliminary report indicates that the involved officer “intimidated and verbally threatened” UN members following the arrests of peacekeepers who were found frequenting the brothels. This led to an attempted escape, an altercation, and a pursuit involving the UN military police.
Earlier this week, the spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, Stéphane Dujarric, stated that Monusco had received information suggesting that the implicated soldiers “were congregating after curfew in a bar located beyond the boundaries (of the base) and known to be a place of prostitution.”
Upon arriving to detain the accused, UN police officers “faced physical aggression and threats from members of the South African contingent,” he added.
Since May, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi has been urging countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including South Africa, to deploy forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo to support the Congolese military in dealing with the M23 rebellion, which has taken control of significant portions of the eastern region of the country.
Furthermore, the DRC government has been calling for an “expedited” departure of the UN force starting from next December, claiming that after 25 years of presence, it has failed to put an end to the violence perpetrated by armed groups.
UN contingents in Africa have faced accusations on multiple occasions in the past, concerning their involvement in promoting prostitution, exploitation, and sexual abuse of local men and women around their bases.
Just last June, Tanzania declared the complete repatriation of a 60-strong military unit following allegations of “sexual exploitation and abuse” involving 11 of its members.