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SANDF denies accusations of not co-operating with UN probe into alleged sexual abuse

Cape Town – The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has shot down accusations that it has not been co-operating with United Nations investigations into allegations of abuse by peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

On Thursday, the SANDF described the accusations as "disturbing and disconcerting".

"In view of these [allegations] having surfaced, the SANDF swiftly moved to send its legal officers and investigators to the mission area to deal with the efficacy of such reports," SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi said.

"Once again, it must be noted that these investigations are being conducted in close liaison with the United Nations office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

Earlier this week, reports emerged of sexual exploitation and abuse, involving five South African military members in the DRC, which allegedly occurred between 2014 and 2016.

There were paternity and child support claims in all five cases, according to a transcript of a media briefing on Monday by Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN secretary general António Guterres.

One case involved the alleged sexual abuse of a minor, who is now an adult.

Dujarric suggested that the SA government previously rejected their request for a joint investigation into the allegations, and added that they expect a similar response this time around.

AFP reported that the latest allegations surfaced a month after SA troops were accused of sexually exploiting women in North Kivu, and beating a teenager in the Kasai region.

About 1 300 SA soldiers were deployed in the eastern DRC as part of a UN intervention brigade, according to the report.

Mgobozi said these reports suggested there were new allegations which had surfaced, "when in actual fact these incidents being referred to occurred a while back".

"They are presently under investigation and will be concluded as quickly as required by the UN. The investigating team that is currently in the DRC is also mandated to investigate any such incidences that have surfaced beyond 2016."

SANDF chief General Solly Shoke emphasised that ill-discipline and criminal behaviour would not be tolerated.

Those found to have transgressed the code of conduct and the military disciplinary code would be dealt with "without fear of favour". DM

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