During last week several Ukrainian MONUSCO peacekeepers, part of a flight crew, were found in Goma with a Congolese passenger freshly-arrived from Beni province, where ADF-Nalu have been causing general havoc. The passenger was found to be in possession of FARDC uniforms, including that of the Presidential Guard. At about this point the known facts pretty much stop and the rumour mills grind on. Possibly the only reason this is a story is because a journalist just happened to be in the same place to take photos. Otherwise it’s entirely possible we would never have heard about this.

Thus far there have been two prevailing theories. The Ukrainian version is that the crew members were buying the uniforms to hunt in back in Ukraine. Given that these uniforms have a different camouflage pattern and look, well, interesting, it’s not entirely implausible that the individuals involved were simply looking to find some unique hunting gear to take back after their rotation.

Another possibility has been that these uniforms were part of some sort of ADF-linked scandal. Rumours have been permeating Goma and Beni that ADF rebels have been launching attacks while dressed in FARDC uniforms, allegedly even presidential guard uniforms -though it is important to stress that virtually no evidence corroborates either story. However, given the prevalence of ADF attacks in Beni, the capture of these uniforms and the Ukrainians trying to do something with them, is an embarrassment either way. Many in the Eastern DRC are discontent with MONUSCO and UN personnel on the strength of rumours alone. As such any suspicious behaviour by MONUSCO – even if it’s simply a case of trying to buy some new camouflage for hunting trips – is dangerous. Indeed, as a result of the scandal several UN offices in Goma were evacuated for a brief period, as a precaution against potential public outrage.