November 19, 2015 / 6:59 PM / in 2 years

U.N. says Congo failed to properly vet Central African Republic troops

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Thursday it is in talks with the Democratic Republic of Congo about the country’s future involvement in a peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic because it had not adequately vetted its troops.

According to the U.N. peacekeeping website, there are currently 809 Congolese troops and 123 police deployed as part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic, known as MINUSCA.

“As per standard procedure, U.N. Peacekeeping has conducted recently a pre-deployment assessment of the incoming DRC contingent,” a U.N. peacekeeping official said on Thursday. Peacekeeping contingents are rotated regularly.

“The results of this assessment and the vetting of the unit were unsatisfactory. U.N. Peacekeeping is in discussions with the DRC authorities on the future of the DRC contingent in MINUSCA,” he said.

In August, three Congolese peacekeepers in Central African Republic were accused of raping three female civilians, including one minor. Congolese Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe said at the time the allegations would be investigated.

Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said on Thursday the Congolese troops were not guilty of rape. He said the country was in talks with the United Nations about upgrading the equipment of its troops ahead of a planned visit by Pope Francis to Central African Republic later this month.

“This Congo bashing has to stop. We are fed up with it ... The contingent of our armed forces in Bambari deserve respect and not to be slandered on the basis of claims as flimsy as those that have been invoked,” he said.

The 10,600-strong U.N. mission in Central African Republic, which was deployed in September last year, has been hit with a series of allegations of sexual abuse and excessive use of force by peacekeepers. The head of the mission was sacked in August.

The landlocked former French colony descended into inter-religious violence some two and a half years ago after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, sparking reprisal killings by Christian anti-balaka militias.

Seleka later handed power over to a transitional government under heavy international pressure. Long-delayed presidential and parliamentary elections are due to take place on Dec. 27.

The United Nations said on Monday it plans to redeploy some 300 peacekeepers to Central African Republic from a U.N. mission in Ivory Coast for eight weeks to boost security ahead of the country’s elections and the pope’s visit.

Additional reporting by Aaron Ross in Kinshasa, editing by G Crosse

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