UN starts probe into DRC sex abuse claims

Kinshasa - The United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo said on Saturday it had opened an investigation into claims of sexual abuse against Tanzanian peacekeepers.

The allegations "centre on UN personnel from the Tanzanian contingent" of the mission's Force Intervention Brigade serving at Mavivi, a village near Beni in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu, Monusco said in a statement.

Monusco said it "immediately sent a team to the area... to check on the facts" on March 23 after it received the allegations.

"Initial results suggest that there is converging evidence relating to transactional sex and sexual relations with minors," the mission said, adding that "paternity claims" had also been made. It did not give other details.

"If the cases are proven, punishment will follow," Monusco promised.

The allegations follow a spate of similar claims against French and other EU troops earlier this year against the UN's Minusca mission in Central African Republic (CAR).

Monusco was put in place following a five-year civil war which ended in 2003 and with its 20 000 troops is the world's largest peacekeeping operation.

Claims of sexual misconduct have long cast a shadow on several peacekeeping missions in Africa and beyond.

In 2005 the UN banned its peacekeepers from having relationships with local Congolese people following allegations that soldiers had abused 13-year-old girls and similar allegations prompted investigations into several other missions including Liberia and Haiti.

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