KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — U. N. peacekeepers who were detained for possessing Congolese military uniforms apparently bought them to wear while hunting back home, a spokesman for the force said Thursday.
The six members of a Ukrainian aviation crew were found Wednesday with the uniforms, including ones for the presidential guard, at the airport in Goma in eastern Congo.
The incident could further undermine confidence in the force, which has come under criticism for not doing enough to stop attacks on civilians.
Spokesman Lt. Col. Felix Basse tried to play down the incident, telling U.N.-backed Radio Okapi that the investigation was taking place "in total calm" and with the force's full cooperation.
"A Ukrainian solider admitted that he wanted to buy the uniforms to use them in Ukraine for hunting," he said, indicating that it was an isolated incident. He added that the investigation will determine if the explanation is true.
The 21,000-strong U.N. force patrols eastern Congo, which is home to armed groups competing for control of the region's vast mineral resources. The Congo conflict is mainly a spillover from the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda. Hundreds of Hutus who participated in the mass slaughter escaped into Congo and still fight there along with other armed groups.