STORY: More details have emerged about a group of United Nations peacekeepers detained in Democratic Republic of Congo amid allegations of sexual abuse.
A U.N. source and a Congolese security source, both speaking on condition of anonymity, said the allegations concerned eight South African peacekeepers in the city of Beni.
The U.N. source said the allegations involved brothels that were set up near the camps where the South African peacekeepers were staying.
Here's what Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the U.N Secretary-General, had to say:
“Upon receiving information that contingent members from the U.N. peacekeeping force in the DRC deployed at a base in the eastern part of the country were fraternizing, after curfew hours, at an out of bounds bar known to be a place where transactional sex occurs, the U.N. Mission’s military police and conduct and discipline personnel visited the premises to assess the reports they had received. [WHITE FLASH] After confirming their presence and attempting to detain the contingent members for breaching the U.N.’s standards of conduct and the mission’s non-fraternization policy, U.N. mission personnel were physically assaulted and threatened by the contingent members."
Spokespeople from South Africa's defense department and foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Dujarric said there was also evidence indicating a "serious failure in the exercise of command and control by senior military officials."
The U.N. mission, MONUSCO, has 17,000 personnel in Congo's east where various militias and rebel groups continue to fight.
It and other peacekeeping missions in Africa and beyond have long been plagued by allegations of sexual misconduct.
Previous sex abuse scandals have emerged in Congo, Haiti and Central African Republic.
The U.N. has created special units in recent years to combat sexual abuse and assist victims, including in Congo, but has struggled to stop the problem.
Under the current system, the U.N. can investigate crimes and send peacekeepers home but has no power to prosecute.