South African soldiers serving with the United Nations’ MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been mentioned no less than six times in the latest list of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) cases released by the UN.
In total the world body late last month released 70 new SEA allegations received between April and June this year. The incidents did not necessarily take place during that timeframem with some going as far back as 2005, according to a Conduct in UN Field Missions report.
South Africans were reported for alleged incidents of sexual abuse, exploitation and rape while deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of the single largest peace support operation the UN has mounted to date.
They were joined on the list by a colleague each from Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries Malawi, charged with alleged sexual exploitation, and Tanzania, where the charge is listed as rape.
The names of soldiers, other uniformed military personnel as well as civilian contractors to the UN, police and civilian mission employees are also on the Conduct in UN Field Missions report.
Twenty-seven of the 70 reported incidents took place this year, nine in 2017, five in 2016, ten in 2015 and two allegedly occurred in 2014. The date is unknown for 17 allegations.
The vast majority – 46 – are categorised as sexual exploitation, defined as “any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another”.
Another 18 are categorised as sexual abuse, defined as “the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions”. Six were classified as “other” or of an unknown nature.
Of the 84 reported victims 46 are women, 17 are girls (under 18) and 12 are females whose age is unknown. In addition, a boy (under the age of 18) and five males of an unknown age are also among the victims.
Out of 88 alleged perpetrators, all but eight are men, with four women and four individuals whose gender is unknown.
The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is making efforts to eliminate sexual abuse and exploitation incidents by soldiers deployed on continental peacekeeping and peace support missions.
Earlier this year, Cabinet said it was “satisfied with interventions made in addressing these abuses against SANDF members supporting the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. South Africa will continue to react swiftly when dealing with such incidents. Ill-discipline and criminal behaviour in the ranks of the SANDF is despised and will not be tolerated”.
In April 2018 the SANDF held a three-day conference dealing specifically with the elimination of SEA from within its ranks.
In May this year there were 11 SEA allegations under investigation by the SANDF. Some date back to 2014 with at least four incidents reported this year. According to Brigadier General Mninimzi Sizani, military advisor to the South African Mission to the UN, some of the cases relate paternity issues. He pointed out some of the cases are allegations only and have not been proven yet.