The organization said the peacekeepers have been suspended from duty and confined to quarters pending an investigation.
The United Nations has issued a statement saying it has detained peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and that it is investigating allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse.
It added that the Office of Internal Oversight Services is investigating the matter and the suspension is in line with its “zero-tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse and other forms of misconduct.”
The statement, issued on Wednesday, does not indicate how many peacekeepers belonging to the Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) have been detained, but media reports based on the internal documents of the Mission say they belong to the South African contingent of the UN force.
These documents indicate that eight peacekeepers had been detained on October 1 in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct, while a ninth had been suspended a week later for intimidating and threatening UN personnel.
Further details in the documents reported that bars and brothels named after South African townships and cities had popped up around the MONUSCO base at Mavivi, near Beni.
According to the UN, 1,184 South African peacekeepers serve in the country.
“These initial measures include the suspension from duty, detention, and confinement to quarters of concerned peacekeepers pending receipt of additional information on the allegations, including through the conduct of a full-fledged investigation,” the UN statement said.
It said it strongly condemns behavior that is unbefitting of personnel and is committed to continuing to “support the rights and dignity of the victims.”
Last month, the DR Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi told the UN General Assembly there was a need to accelerate the departure of the peacekeeping force, saying that it had failed to cope with rebellions and armed conflicts, despite being deployed for 25 years.
Tshisekedi added that he wanted the withdrawal to be accelerated from December 2024 to December of this year.
The Mission has also been involved in clashes with citizens. In February, eight people were killed and 28 wounded when a MONUSCO convoy was attacked in the east of DR Congo. Locals accused the UN peacekeeping mission of failing to protect them last year when a rebel group known as M23 staged a violent offensive that displaced hundreds of thousands and caused dozens of deaths in the region.
The Mission had said that it was conducting a joint investigation with local authorities into the circumstances of the incident.