South Sudan rebels find “haven” in DR Congo

GOMA – Hundreds of South Sudan rebels who fled Juba with the opposition leader Riek Machar in July 2016 are now camped in Goma, DR Congo under the UN care, it has now emerged.

The former fighters are fed and clothed by MONUSCO, the UN mission in the DRC, in their camp at Munigi with strict movement orders.

The commander of these fighters  named Keah was on Saturday quoted by Arab news, saying they are “confined” but the deputy chief of the UN mission in the DRC, David Gressly, said the South Sudanese had been asked to stay within limits in exchange for humanitarian assistance.

“We describe it as a voluntary liberty restriction,” he said.“They agree they are disarmed and demobilized,” added the UN official, who previously served in South Sudan.

These rebels walked thousands of kilometres while under fire from airstrikes by the government troops until they entered DR Congo and finally evacuated by the UN forces to Goma.

Deprived of freedom without being prisoners and living in a UN camp without refugee status, the rebels are now asking to be transferred to other countries where they might relatives  such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan .

South Sudan’s civil war, which began in December 2013, continued in 2016 with serious abuses against civilians by both government forces and opposition fighters despite a peace agreement signed in August 2015.

Government soldiers and the rebels have been accused of  killing, raping, and torturing civilians as well as destroying and pillaging civilian property during counterinsurgency operations in the southern and western parts of the country.

According to Human Rights Watch Report in 2017, at least 2.4 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Those left behind, including people with disabilities, have faced serious abuses.

Although the two sides formed a national unity government in April 2016, following the August 2015 peace agreement, they continued to fight in various locations. In July, clashes in the capital, Juba, caused Machar to flee the country.

President Kiir then appointed a former ally of Machar, Gen. Taban Deng Gai, as first vice president, prompting Machar’s group to call for a return to war.

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