PRETORIA–The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) says it has sent legal officers and investigators to probe reported cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by its troop serving as United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The mission has received reports of sexual exploitation and abuse involving five members of the South African military contingent in the DRC. According to reports, the incidents involve paternity and child support claims.

The SANDF on Thursday reiterated its stance against any abuse of civilians where it is deployed in support of the peace-keeping efforts of the UN, saying it views such allegations in the most serious light.

In view of these (allegations) having surfaced, the SANDF swiftly moved to send its legal officers and investigators to the mission area to deal with the efficacy of such reports. Once again it must be noted that these investigations are being conducted in close liaison with the United Nations Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi said.

The allegations surfaced just a month after similar cases, which included three of sexual exploitation, were reported against South African troops serving in the Monusco mission in the eastern DRC. The incidents are reported to have taken place between 2014 and 2016 in North and South Kivu provinces in the country’s east.

The allegations against South African troops serving in UN peacekeeping missions have been in the news since 2015 and reported incidents range from alleged rape to taking advantage of women and forming relationships.

Mgabozi said all reported cases are currently under investigation and will be concluded as quickly as required by the UN. He dismissed the media reports accusing the SANDF of not cooperating with the UN in such matters.