DR Congo to probe C. Africa peacekeeper sex abuse claims

In September 2014, UN peacekeepers went in to Central African Republic to take over from the African Union's MISCA force (AFP Photo/MARCO LONGARI) (AFP/File)

Kinshasa (AFP) - The government in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday announced a probe into fresh allegations of sexual abuse by Congolese soldiers serving in the UN mission in Central African Republic.

"I have given instructions to the chief military prosecutor to send three military magistrates to investigate on the scene with a view to legal proceedings," Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said.

The UN mission in the Central African Republic, known as MINUSCA, has been hit by a wave of allegations of sex abuse by its peacekeepers, whose mandate is to protect civilians in the strife-torn country.

On Tuesday, UN spokesman Farhan Haq revealed new abuse allegations against the DRC's MINUSCA contingent, concerning four children living in a displaced people's camp who were assaulted in 2014 and 2015.

Notified the same day by the UN, Congolese authorities then had 10 days to decide whether to carry out an investigation or leave it up to the world body.

Under UN procedures, if troops serving with UN missions are convicted, their country of origin should pass sentence.

Five DRC soldiers in MINUSCA were accused of raping five women last November, while three soldiers from the smaller Republic of Congo were accused of raping three young women, one of whom was underage.

Judicial authorities in DRC conducted an inquiry but it was inconclusive.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired the head of the 10,000-strong MINUSCA force in August over the mounting number of sex abuse cases, but the allegations have continued to surface.

An independent panel set up by Ban found there had been serious flaws in the UN's handling of the cases, despite an official zero-tolerance policy on sexual violence.

In January, MINUSCA decided to send home the whole contingent of 120 soldiers from the DRC on the grounds that the troops only partially met UN requirements on equipment, recruitment and the level of combat readiness.

Most of the troops returned home in January and the remainder are due to be repatriated soon.