Ninety-three South African soldiers have been disciplined for offenses committed while deployed in a United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
South African Minister of Defense and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said Wednesday that the offending soldiers were punished for charges that ranged from murder to drunkenness, as well as sexual misconduct.
One soldier was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 24 years in prison.
“The harshest possible sanction has been handed down,” Mapisa-Nqakula said, adding that the South African military would not accept any cases related to “reported incidences of the abuse of women and children.”
The UN had brought 93 charges against the South African soldiers, who were serving under the UN peacekeeping command in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 2003 and 2011.
The development comes at a time of heightened tension in Central Africa as several armed groups, including the M23 rebels, are fighting for control of the vast mineral resources of the Democratic Republic of Congo, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.
Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in the country, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
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