October 31, 2016 (JUBA) – United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, has asked for intervention of the UN Security Council to decide what to do with the several hundreds of South Sudanese opposition fighters taking refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President Salva Kiir speak to the media in Juba (File/AFP)
There are over 750 soldiers of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA-IO) loyal to former First Vice President, Riek Machar, who accompanied their leader across into DRC and were left behind when their leader was further transported to Sudan for medical treatment.
The opposition forces were part of Machar’s forces who fled the South Sudanese capital, Juba, when violence erupted on 8 July with troops loyal to President Salva Kiir.
In a letter dated 27 October written to the 15-member council, Ki Moon said up to 755 South Sudanese rebels had crossed into Congo’s Garamba National Park and their status was not clear.
The Congolese government on 3 October told the UN peacekeeping mission in DR Congo, known as MONUSCO, that the fighters should leave within a week, but added that the mission did not have the legal authority to expel the troops from Congo.
Ki Moon pointed out that the fighters, who had medical issues, are now healthy and that the UN mission in the DR Congo should not continue to support them.
“At the same time, there is no basis for MONUSCO to continue providing humanitarian assistance to them, as they are no longer in a life-threatening situation," he said, adding that the mission had told the Congolese government it could no longer take care of the South Sudanese fighters.
“I am, accordingly, bringing the matter to the attention of the Security Council in order that it might take such decisions or provide such guidance as it may deem appropriate,” Ki Moon said in the letter.
United Nations, Sudan Tribune learnt, has been in contact with the African Union (AU), East African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to resolve the issue.
The United Nations mission in Congo extracted Machar, his wife, son and 10 others of his aides from Garamba Park on the side of the DR Congo on 17 August at the request of the Congolese government.
The UN has been trying to broker an agreement between DR Congo and South Sudan on the repatriation of the fighters or their relocation to a third country until a political deal is in place.
Political differences between President Kiir, and his former deputy Machar, led to conflict in 2013 which reignited on 8 July in Juba. The two signed a peace deal last year, but fighting has escalated across the country.