The United Nations is returning 10 peacekeepers to South Africa for serious misconduct in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), said the press office of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday.
Being repatriated are nine soldiers from the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUSCO, for assault and violating sexual abuse and exploitation policy, plus one senior officer who reportedly attempted to hinder an investigation and threatened mission personnel, said the office.
Two other senior South African military officers reportedly failed to exercise their responsibilities in the command of their personnel. The United Nations has requested the replacement of the two senior military officers.
According to a preliminary assessment, nine members of the South African contingent were seen fraternizing after curfew hours at out-of-bounds bars known as locations where transactional sex occurs, which is strictly prohibited under the UN standards of conduct, said the office.
The contingent members allegedly assaulted MONUSCO staff members and military police personnel, who were attempting to detain them during the patrol, it said.
The nine contingent members were detained and confined to barracks by the military police, said the office.
The United Nations has notified the South African authorities, who indicated their full cooperation, including through the deployment of a national investigation officer. Due to the very serious nature of the allegations, and the serious failure observed in the exercise of command and control, the world body has decided to immediately repatriate the nine contingent members and one senior military officer and requested the replacement of the two other senior military officers, it said.
“MONUSCO remains firmly committed to ensuring adherence to the UN’s standards of conduct and robustly enforcing the secretary-general’s policy of zero tolerance toward sexual exploitation and abuse,” said the office.