SA troops accused of 'beating up 17-year-old boy and sexually exploiting women in DRC'

New York - South African troops serving in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been accused of beating a 17-year-old boy and sexually exploiting women, a UN spokesperson said on Monday.

The UN and South African investigators will conduct a joint probe of the four allegations of misconduct that took place in Kasai province and in North Kivu.

The allegations, which surfaced last week, involve a 17-year-old Congolese boy who was subjected to "physical violence" in eastern Kasai, said spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

Given the "serious concern raised by these allegations", the United Nations has asked South Africa to send a team of agents to the DRC within five days and that the investigation be completed within 90 days, he added.

The other three allegations concern the sexual exploitation of women in the North Kivu towns of Sake, Beni and Goma, one of whom gave birth to a child and is seeking child support.

Dujarric did not say how many troops were involved.

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The military in Pretoria said in a statement that it took the allegations of "torture and assault" in a "serious light".

South Africa's military spokesperson Mafi Mgobozi told AFP that the investigators would be dispatched to the DRC within days.

Under the UN rules, it is up to troop-contributing countries to prosecute their nationals accused of crimes while serving under the UN flag, but the United Nations carries out joint investigations with the national authorities.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has vowed to toughen the UN response to allegations of misconduct against the blue helmets whose mission is to protect vulnerable civilians in conflict zones.

The United Nations has nearly 17 500 troops and police serving in the DRC, its biggest mission.

South Africa deployed around 1 300 soldiers as part of a UN intervention brigade trying to bring peace to the conflict-torn eastern DRC region.

In 2015 South Africa recalled home 50 of its peacekeepers for alleged "security breaches".