SANDF troops deployed in the DRC are allegedly leaving babies born out of ‘sexual misconduct’ with local women. This was highlighted during the seventh Accountability Colloquium conference in Pretoria attended by 80 delegates from 30 African countries.
The revelations come at the backdrop of a wave of sexual misconduct and abuse claims against the SANDF troops which prompted the UN to consider expelling SA peacekeeping troops from DRC.
“One of the challenges we are facing is sexual exploitation and abuse. It is not necessarily rape, but basically troops having consensual sexual relations with the locals, like in the case of the DRC,” said Adjutant-General of the SANDF Major-General Eric Mnisi.
He said sexual misconduct by deployed troops, especially in the DRC, had become a huge embarrassment for the humanitarian sector.
“That is forbidden by the UN, but unfortunately our colleagues fall in love with the locals and this compromises the mission at hand,” Mnisi added.
Mnisi said this was of great concern because not only were soldiers sidetracked from and softened in their approach to their mission, but they also left children in those countries.
“Who is going to maintain them? We are dealing with paternity issues to make sure children that we leave behind in deployment areas are well looked after, just like those we have here at home.”
South Africa co-hosted the Accountability Colloquium conference with the United States of America Africa Command members, a specialised conference on military operations for African military commanders, chiefs of staff and legal advisers throughout the continent.
The annual conference discusses legal issues and the importance of operational commanders seeking advice from their legal advisers to ensure adherence to the rule of law.
Deputy legal counsel to the United States Africa Command Mark Maxwell said this was what the three-day conference sought to bring forth. He said they would also discuss ways to tackle numerous issues in the military within the confines of the law.
He reiterated that the military relationships between the legal advisers and commanders ensured operations were conducted in accordance with the law.
“The hope is to bring commanders and legal advisers together to talk and grapple with some of the issues they face, not only within combat but also within the garrison.
“It is also to make sure that the force which we are dealing with, regardless of the nation, is one that is trained, disciplined and understands what the rule of law dictates,” Maxwell said.
“A soldier has to be disciplined and focus on the mission. Fraternisation has a corrosive effect on the ability of that commander to carry out his or her mission,” he said.
Discussions throughout the conference were tempered with realism, as participants weighed new ideas with an understanding of military justice.
The attendees brought with them an impressive array of prior experiences to help define a better understanding of African military operations subject to the rule of law in Africa.
Other discussions included current legal challenges, the importance of adherence to the rule of law, and the positive impact of legal advisers.
Mnisi said he hoped that by 2025 the Military Discipline Bill became a law, which basically meant that soldiers found guilty of sexual misconduct would be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years.