South African peacekeepers in DR Congo face paternity claims - UN

Washington - Five peacekeepers from South Africa face allegations of sexually exploiting women in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are now seeking child support, a United Nations spokesperson said on Tuesday.

One of the cases involves a minor who was allegedly sexually abused when the incidents took place between 2014 and 2016 in North and South Kivu.

"All five incidents involve paternity and child support claims," said UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

The latest allegations surfaced a month after South African troops were accused of beating a 17-year-old boy in the Kasai region and sexually exploiting women in North Kivu.

The United Nations is "gravely concerned," said Dujarric, adding: "Allegations against this contingent continue to occur despite our sustained efforts," to prevent such misconduct.

The UN mission in the DR Congo has asked UN agencies to help the women and children, and is offering to collect DNA samples of the South African troops for paternity tests, he added.

The United Nations has also asked South Africa to appoint officers to carry out a joint investigation.

Under UN rules, it is up to troop-contributing countries to prosecute their nationals accused of crimes while serving under the UN flag.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has vowed to toughen the UN response to allegations of misconduct against the blue helmets whose mission is to protect vulnerable civilians in conflict zones.

The United Nations has nearly 17 500 troops and police serving in the DR Congo, its biggest mission.

South Africa deployed around 1 300 soldiers as part of a UN intervention brigade deployed in the strife-torn eastern DRC region.

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