South Africa’s progressive attitude and work in minimising and hopefully eliminating sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA) in military ranks will be acknowledged by the UN today (Monday, 28 June) during an Action for Peacekeeping event.
The event at UN headquarters in New York and is the brainchild of two of the world body’s departments – Peace Operations and Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance.
South Africa, while a substantial contributor to UN peacekeeping and peace support missions, is nowhere near the top of the list of contributing countries. That honour is currently Bangladesh’s with over 6 200 “experts on mission, formed police units, individual police, staff officers and troops” according to the UN. Second on the current list is Ethiopia (6 113), followed by Nepal (5 686), Rwanda (5 604), India (5 548), Pakistan (4 516), Egypt (3 072), Indonesia (2 795), China (2 477) and Ghana (2 288) rounding off the top ten of 31 countries currently with active UN peacekeeping deployments.
South Africa, with 1 005 on active duty in African UN missions, is 19th on the list, ahead of Zambia and behind Cameroon.
The somewhat tarnished reputation of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers and other military personnel in the Democratic Republic of Congo and previously in Darfur with regard to SEA allegations and offences added to similar incidents in South Africa was too much for Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Earlier this year she used International Women’s Day (8 March) to release a 128-page report on SEA in the SANDF. The report was compiled by a ministerial task team and its completion and release was delayed by the national state of disaster instituted last year – and still ongoing – to limit the spread of COVID-19.
A UN source told defenceWeb South Africa’s progress on curtailing SEA incidents in the DR Congo mission MONUSCO was “noticeable and appreciated” months ahead of today’s virtual event. South Africa has, according to a Department of Defence (DoD) statement, been requested by the world body to share the outcomes of its report and the recommended best practices.
“South Africa as a troop and police contributing country launched a number of investigations into SEA allegations by SANDF personnel deployed on peacekeeping missions externally as well as internal deployments including border protection to hold perpetrators accountable in line with established legal and medical processes required to facilitate such cases,” the statement said.