The United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) announced on Wednesday that it has taken "strong measures" against peacekeepers suspected of "serious misconduct."
According to internal documents from MONUSCO reviewed by AFP, eight peacekeepers deployed in Beni, in the eastern DRC, were arrested on October 1st, and an officer was suspended on October 8th as part of a case involving alleged sexual exploitation and violence.
All of them belong to the South African contingent of the UN force and may be implicated in what internal reports describe as a "systematic and widespread violation" of UN rules against exploitation and sexual abuse.
"The Office of Internal Oversight Services has been informed, and interim measures have already been taken in line with the UN Secretary-General's zero-tolerance policy," MONUSCO stated on Wednesday in a press release.
The measures taken "include suspension, detention, and confinement of the concerned peacekeepers," added MONUSCO, which strongly condemns such behaviors as being unworthy of United Nations personnel.
In one of the documents, it is mentioned that "Soweto, Bloemfontein, Cape Town," brothels with names evocative of South African cities, and "makeshift bars in front of the MONUSCO Mavivi base, near Beni, are used for transactional sexual relations."
The officer in question allegedly "intimidated and verbally threatened" UN personnel after the arrest of peacekeepers in a case involving visiting brothels, which 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 calling on 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 seized large parts of the North Kivu province.
The DRC government also demands an "accelerated" departure of the UN force starting from December of this year, as it accuses the force of not having been able to put an end to the violence by armed groups after 25 years of presence.