Internal documents from MONUSCO reviewed by AFP reveal that eight peacekeepers of the South African contingent deployed in Beni, eastern DRC, were arrested on October 1st, while an officer was suspended on October 8th. They are involved in a case of alleged sexual exploitation and violence, which constitutes a significant violation of UN rules against exploitation and sexual abuse. Internal reports describe the incident as a “systematic and widespread violation” of these rules.
MONUSCO announced in a press release on Wednesday that the Office of Internal Oversight Services has been informed about the incident. In accordance with the zero-tolerance policy of the UN Secretary-General, interim measures have already been taken. The measures include suspension, detention, and confinement of the peacekeepers involved. MONUSCO strongly condemns such behavior as being unworthy of United Nations personnel.
One of the documents mentions the use of brothels with names evocative of South African cities, such as Soweto, Bloemfontein, Cape Town, and makeshift bars in front of the MONUSCO Mavivi base near Beni for transactional sexual relations. The officer in question reportedly intimidated and verbally threatened the UN personnel following the arrest of peacekeepers who visited these brothels. This resulted in an attempted escape, a brawl, and a chase with elements of the UN military police.
Since May, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi has been asking the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, including South Africa, to deploy in the DRC to support the Congolese army against the M23 rebellion, which has taken control of large parts of the North Kivu province. The DRC government also demands an “accelerated” departure of the UN force, starting from December this year. The government accuses the UN force of not being able to put an end to the violence by armed groups after being present for 25 years.