UN assesses SEA risks in DR Congo

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That the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) takes sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA) seriously was ably shown when eight South African soldiers were suspended and repatriated in October.

Further evidence of the strong stance adopted by MONUSCO on this issue comes with the deployment of multi-disciplinary risk assessment teams. Their task, according to Erin Kennedy on the MONUSCO website, is to identify and understand the risks of SEA by UN personnel. The South African soldiers were allegedly caught fraternising in places known for promoting transactional sex, prohibited by a UN Secretary-General zero tolerance policy on SEA.

Since October, conduct and discipline teams assessed risk factors in over 28 rural and urban areas, visiting places in three provinces where MONUSCO personnel are deployed and where misconduct is likely to occur. This includes brothels, bars and markets, often set up near MONUSCO bases. Armed with their findings, MONUSCO will upgrade preventive and response measures.

To further deter UN personnel from visiting prohibited areas, UN military police and UNPOL formed police units conduct joint patrols and have intensified checkpoints to screen employees for alcohol and substance abuse. Detecting unauthorised passengers in UN vehicles are also on the to-do list for police.

“MONUSCO,” according to Kennedy, “strongly condemns any sexual exploitation and abuse as it has a devastating impact on victims. The rights and dignity of victims are central to UN efforts to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct and MONUSCO stepped up preventive, enforcement and remedial measures”.