The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has welcomed the Government of Morocco's decision to arrest six of its soldiers who were accused of sexual assault on civilians in the African Great Lakes country.
The UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) said it considers that the jailing of the suspects, pending their court martial, "shows that the Moroccan authorities attach as much importance to eradicating sexual abuse within UN peacekeeping missions as does the UN."
The Mission said it hoped the vigorous and public reaction from the Moroccan Government would serve as an example for other troop-contributing countries to follow.
According to the web site of the Moroccan Permanent Mission to the United Nations the country has 750 soldiers and four officers in the DRC.
The UN has no authority to discipline peacekeepers, so it must rely on the troop contributing Governments to take action.
According to a recent UN report, hungry children have been given payments ranging from a few eggs to a few dollars in exchange for sex. Some of the victims were abandoned orphans and they were often illiterate. One has been said to be a deaf mute.
Last week, after the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) imposed a curfew and forbade fraternization between peacekeeping troops and the Congolese, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for 100 more police and several French-speaking investigators to strengthen MONUC.
A UN spokesman in New York said that other measures that have already been taken to help combat the problem include clearing brush around UN military camps to make surveillance easier; establishing a curfew from 6 pm to 6 am; shutting down marketing stalls near the UN camps to reduce peacekeepers' contact with the local population; and increasing patrols.