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Congo: Peacekeepers accused of sex abuse

Publish Date: 12 Jul 2004
Source: The Star, South Africa
By: Kate Holt and Sarah Hughes

SA troops accused of sexual abuse in DRC

The United Nations has sent a team to the Democratic Republic of Congo to investigate allegations of widespread rape and sexual exploitation of children by its peacekeepers, including South African troops.

The probe, by the team from the Office of Internal and Oversight Services, which arrived in Bunia last month, is "ongoing".

The investigation comes after an explosive cable was sent from the Kinshasa office of the UN mission in the DRC, known as Monuc, on June 8. It detailed sexual abuses against minors by Monuc troops in Bunia over the past year. The abuses numbered a staggering 50.

A week later, a second cable was sent, recording a further four allegations and adding that special attention must be paid to the behaviour of South African Monuc troops in Kindu, Moroccan Monuc troops in Kisangani and Monuc troops from Uruguay, Pakistan and Nepal.

This year, a total of 68 allegations against Monuc soldiers have been recorded.

In Goma, 10 girls alleged that they had been sexually abused by Monuc forces. One of them was 12-year-old Anna, who described being raped by South African soldiers.

Anna, who now lives in a shelter for women and girls who have been raped, said: "I came to Goma with my family from Massissi over two years ago when the war got very bad. My father and my two brothers were killed on the way. We had to escape the war and came here to be safe ...

"Then, a few weeks ago, I was walking past a UN vehicle and there were South African soldiers standing around with guns.

They asked me if I wanted a biscuit and ... as I came close, one of them grabbed me and took me inside the vehicle and shut the door. Then he ripped off my dress and made me do it with him."

Defence Ministry spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi said he could not comment until a copy of the reports sent to the UN headquarters had been received. "I'm hearing about this for the first time. We'll have to check with the UN's offices about the reports and their authenticity."  - Independent News Service

Copyright © The Star / Independent Online 2004