UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A group of 11 Tanzanian peacekeepers accused of sexual exploitation and abuse in Congo also face paternity claims from their alleged victims, the U.N. said Monday.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters that troops from the mission's Force Intervention Brigade in the village of Mavivi in eastern Congo have been confined to the mission's base camp by its commander pending investigation.
Unlike other international peacekeeping troops, the brigade has an unprecedented mandate to take offensive military action against rebel groups to help end Congo's long-running conflict by neutralizing and disarming the fighters.
Dujarric said the 11 accused peacekeepers include four from the mission's current deployment and seven from a previous contingent.
The U.N. has been in the spotlight for months over allegations of sexual abuse by its peacekeepers, especially those based in Congo and Central African Republic. On Thursday, the U.N. said more than 100 girls and women had come forward with new sexual abuse accusations against peacekeepers in CAR.
The U.N.'s Congo mission first announced on Friday that it had received allegations of sex with minors and sex for pay against the Tanzanians and that a response team was dispatched to investigate. The U.N. said it will provide medical and psycho-social support to victims.
Dujarric said it was impossible to say whether more allegations against the Tanzanian contingent could surface. But he encouraged anyone who has information about alleged abuses to come forward.
"We want to make sure that the communities and those members in the communities who may have been abused feel free . safe enough to come forward," he said.
The 20,000-strong Congo peacekeeping mission began in 1999. The conflict there is a spillover from the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda. Hundreds of Hutus who participated in the mass slaughter escaped into Congo and still fight in the mineral-rich and volatile east, along with other armed groups.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report.