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Eight South African ‘Blue Helmets’ Detained Over Sexual Abuse Allegations in the Congo

Following a United Nations (UN) press release on Wednesday, it has been revealed that eight South African peacekeepers working under the UN’s MONUSCO mandate in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been suspended from duty after “fraternizing, after curfew hours, at an out-of-bounds bar known to be a place where transactional sex occurs.” 

The press release continued, “The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) has taken immediate and robust action in response to reports of serious misconduct by UN peacekeepers. 

Those reports follow a series of measures that the Mission has proactively initiated across its areas of deployment to ensure compliance with United Nations values and standards of conduct. The Office of Internal Oversight Services has been seized of the matter and precautionary measures have already been initiated in line with the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse and other forms of misconduct. 

These initial measures include suspension from duty, detention, and confinement to quarters of concerned peacekeepers pending receipt of additional information on the allegations, including through the conduct of a full-fledged investigation. The Mission strongly condemns such behaviours that are unbefitting of United Nations personnel. MONUSCO is committed to ensuring that all personnel comply with the highest standards of conduct and will continue its efforts on prevention and to support the rights and dignity of the victims.” 

Despite the UN’s pledges, the organization only has the power to relieve the peacekeepers of their duty and investigate the alleged crimes, but they cannot follow through with a formal prosecution. 

A Failed Operation:

The UN’s operations in the DRC began in 1999 after the signing of the Lusaka ceasefire agreements, which formally ended the second Brazzaville-Congolese civil war and created the first mission MONUC. Following the signing of UN Security Council Resolution 1925 in 2010, the Mission was rebranded as MONUSCO. The mission’s objective has remained the same, focusing on maintaining stability and societal cohesion in the east, where rebels continue to fight over land and resources. 

The mission has been plagued with scandal, with protests erupting against the peacekeepers in late July in the Congolese cities of Goma, Beni and Butembo. At the end of the eight days of unrest, 56 civilians had been killed as well as two Moroccan peacekeepers.

Furthermore, the DRC is not the only country in which UN peacekeepers have been accused of ‘sexual exploitation and abuse’ by Human Rights Watch, with allegations of rapes by blue helmets common in Haiti, Somalia and the Central African Republic.MONUS

While Speaking in September at the UN’s 78th General Assembly, Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi requested the hastening of the withdrawal of the MONUSCO mission from his country. Tshisekedi declared, “it is to be deplored that peacekeeping missions deployed for 25 years … have failed to cope with the rebellions and armed conflicts, This is why I instructed the government of the republic to begin discussions with the UN authorities for an accelerated withdrawal of MONUSCO … by bringing forward the start of this progressive withdrawal from December 2024 to December 2023.”

Source : Atlas News