MONUC troops in DRC
KINSHASA, 28 Aug 2006 (IRIN) - The United Nations has conducted more investigations into sexual exploitation and abuse by its peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) than in any other country, according to figures recently released by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Out of a total of 313 investigations of civilian and military staff since the beginning of 2004, 202 have been carried out in the DRC, UN News said on Friday. The UN's peacekeeping operation in the DRC is the largest worldwide, with about 17,000 personnel.
The latest investigation, announced on 17 August, is into a suspected child prostitution ring in Congo's South Kivu Province involving UN peacekeepers and government soldiers.
"A MONUC team of inquiry is currently there," a UN official in Kinshasa said on Monday. "There is a separate UN team from New York."
He said the teams were only looking into the behaviour of MONUC's civilian and military personnel. "There are things that troops in the national army have done that are not being investigated by the UN but by the Congolese authorities," he said.
NGOs had reported testimony of the sex ring by girls in the area. However, in a statement on 17 August, MONUC said, "The majority of their patrons are Congolese soldiers and civilians."
The UN official said the inquiry from New York had already found that many of the allegations against UN personnel were unfounded.
Most of the investigations the UN has launched worldwide since 2004 have been into the misconduct of military personnel. "At least 206 individuals in that category faced probes, with 144 people, including seven commanders, repatriated or rotated on disciplinary grounds," UN News reported.
However, investigations were also held into misconduct by 84 civilian personnel, leading to the dismissal of 10 staff members and seven UN volunteers.
"The work period of one contractor was not extended," UN News said. "Some 17 police officers were also repatriated after the completion of inquiries against 23 people."
In total, 109 peacekeeping personnel were either cleared of all charges or the allegations against them could not be substantiated.
"We are now under curfew," the UN official in Kinshasa said. "We cannot sleep with prostitutes or with minors [under 18 years old]. If we did we would be temporarily suspended from duty, sometimes without pay."
UN military personnel suspected of abuses are sent home to face their own national military courts, he said.