Allegations of sexual abuse by soldiers serving in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have declined substantially in the past few years, the commander of the force said today, noting that strict measures have been instituted to prevent such misconduct.
“We have instituted specific measures to bring down these figures to something like zero per cent,” said Lieutenant-General Chander Prakash, the commander of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), at a news conference at UN Headquarters.
“We have issued a code of conduct for the peacekeepers, we provide them orientation training – we make them aware of the circumstances in which they are operating. We even have curfew hours for them in late evenings,” said Lt-Gen. Prakash.
Statistics compiled by the UN Department of Safety and Security (DSS) indicate that there were allegations against 59 staff with MONUSCO (then operating as its predecessor, MONUC) in 2007, compared with 36 last year and just 11 so far this year.
Similar measures have also succeeded in discoursing sexual misconduct among troops serving in the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the operation’s Force Commander, Major-General Muhammad Khalid, told the same news conference. He said three recent allegations of sexual abuse were not proven and could have been launched with ulterior motives.
Asked about movement restrictions for the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s conflict-hit region of Darfur (UNAMID), force commander Lieutenant-General Patrick Nyamvumba explained that the force had carried out more than 20,000 patrols in Darfur during the first six months of this year with only 135 incidents of movement restriction.
“Put in context they [restrictions] don’t in any way inhibit much of our operations activities,” said Lt.Gen. Nyamvumba. “Under the status of forces agreement, the host nation agreed for this mission to deploy, therefore for us to be able to move around we do not require additional permission other than what is provided for in the status of forces agreement.”
However, he added that in certain circumstances, it would be unwise to put peacekeepers in harms way because their mandate is not to stop active belligerents in the conflict from fighting but to protect civilians. “I think to a great extent we have done that job of protecting civilians,” Lt. Gen. Nyamvumba added.
Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, the Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), said he would not speculate as to whom was responsible for yesterday’s bomb attack on the force’s convoy near Saida, adding that the incident will be investigated.
Six soldiers were wounded in the attack, but none of them sustained life-threatening injuries, Maj-Gen. Asarta Cuevas said.
The force commanders of UN peacekeeping missions were in New York to brief the Security Council.