JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa is recalling 50 soldiers from United Nations peacekeeping duties in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on charges of misconduct, the Defense Department said on Friday.
The troops had broken curfew and been off-base and were being investigated by military police, defense spokesman Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said. He did not provide further details.
Almost 1,400 South Africans form the backbone of a Force Intervention Brigade acting under the umbrella of U.N. peacekeeping operations in the region, home to rebel militias linked to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
The South African contingent’s involvement was extended this year to the end of March 2016.
Those accused of misconduct will be replaced as soon as they are withdrawn so as to keep the South African deployment at the agreed level, Mabanga said.
“We are awaiting approval from the U.N.,” he said.
Part of the investigation will be to find out where the troops went and what they did when they were not on the base, he added.
Allegations of misconduct by U.N. troops are not new. The U.N. cannot itself punish soldiers and rights groups complain that troop-contributing countries rarely take action, creating an atmosphere of impunity in peacekeeping missions.
A U.N. operation in Central African Republic has been dogged by allegations of misconduct, including rape and excessive use of force by its personnel.
Reporting by TJ Strydom; Editing by Ed Cropley and Ralph Boulton