/ 6 April 2016

More UN peacekeepers accused of sex crimes

The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC has been rocked by claims that its soldiers raped civilians.
In its statement, the Security Council reiterated the readiness of MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, "to provide support if requested." (Phil More/AFP)

A group of 11 Tanzanian peacekeepers accused of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) also face paternity claims from their alleged victims, the United Nations said this week.

Troops from the mission’s Force Intervention Brigade in the village of Mavivi in the eastern DRC have been confined to their base camp pending an investigation, Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesperson for UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, said.

Unlike other international peacekeeping troops, the brigade has an unprecedented mandate to take military action to neutralise and disarm rebel groups to help end the DRC’s long-running conflict.

Dujarric said the 11 accused peacekeepers included four from the mission’s current deployment and seven from a previous contingent.

Meanwhile, the first soldiers to appear in court over the wider sex abuse scandal went on trial in the DRC on Monday. The three Congolese men from the UN’s Minusca peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) wore blue prison gear as they appeared before the tribunal in Ndolo, a military prison north of the capital, Kinshasa. They are the first troops to be prosecuted.

Another 18 soldiers from the DRC who are accused of the rape – or attempted rape – of the civilians they were meant to be protecting during a peacekeeping mission in the CAR were also present in the court.

“We want absolute transparency in this trial,” the country’s justice minister, Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, told AFP, adding that “a few individuals cannot discredit our army”.

The UN has been in the spotlight for months over allegations of sexual abuse by its peacekeepers, especially those in the DRC and the Central African Republic.

On Thursday, the UN said more than 100 girls and women had come forward with new sexual abuse accusations against peacekeepers in the CAR.

The UN’s mission in the DRC announced last week that it had received allegations of sex with minors and sex for pay against the Tanzanians, and that a response team had been sent to investigate. The UN said it would provide medical and psychosocial support to the victims.

Dujarric said it was impossible to say whether more allegations against the Tanzanian contingent could surface. But he encouraged anyone who had information about alleged abuses to come forward.

The 20 000-strong DRC peacekeeping mission began in 1999. The conflict there is a spillover from the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda.

Hundreds of Hutus who participated in the mass slaughter escaped into the DRC and still fight in the mineral-rich and volatile east, with other armed groups. – ©?Guardian News & Media 2016