NEW DELHI, June 7: The Indian Army is probing allegations that its troops committed sexual offences on Congolese women and fathered their children during a UN deployment in the African country, local reports said on Tuesday.
“An entire battalion of the Indian Army is in the dock after allegations in Congo that Indian peacekeepers fathered around a dozen children while posted there on a United Nations peacekeeping mission in 2008,” The Indian Express said.
Based on the allegations, the army ordered a Court of Inquiry last month against the 6th Sikh Battalion, which comprises 12 officers and 39 jawans. A UN probe into the matter had been inconclusive. The inquiry is being conducted at Meerut, where the 9th Infantry Division is based.
The allegations surfaced after DNA tests commissioned by the UN in Durla, Congo, showed that the children were born with “distinctive Indian features”. The UN wrote to Army Headquarters, requesting further investigation. The latest reminder for action was sent in August 2010.
Following the UN letters, Army Headquarters wrote to Western Command in January this year asking it to inquire into the matter.
The Express quoted an army official at HQ as confirming that an inquiry has been ordered. “There are some allegations and we are investigating into the issue,” the official said. “We have received a report from UN. Their inquiry into the allegations was inconclusive, that is why we are investigating the matter here.”
Earlier, in March 2008, allegations surfaced that three Indian officers posted at the UN Mission in Congo had sexually exploited a local woman while holidaying in South Africa. Before that, in 2007, there were allegations that Indian blue berets had exchanged food and information for gold with Rwandan rebels in Congo’s North Kivu. There were separate allegations that Indian soldiers had paid minor Congolese girls in North Kivu for sex. In most of these cases, the army has given a clean chit to its personnel, the Express said.
The Mail Today said the accused troops are currently located near Chandigarh. The inquiry was ordered on May 24 by the Western Command, headquartered at Chandimandir, near Chandigarh.
In 2008, following allegations that over several years Indian peacekeepers had indulged in gold trafficking and sexual abuse, the Congo government had requested the United Nations not to send any more Indian troops for the peace-keeping contingent. The troops have also come in for praise for their valour and had the largest contribution to the UN contingent.