South Sudan refugees release UN hostages


A hundred unarmed South Sudanese refugees in east DR Congo took 13 United Nations mission staff hostage demanding to be moved to a third country before releasing them unharmed.

They were among 530 people who have been living in Munigi base, outside Goma, since fleeing South Sudan last August, UN Goma bureau head Daniel Ruiz told Reuters.

Most are ex-fighters loyal to former vice president Riek Machar, who clashed with President Salva Kiir’s forces starting in July 2016.
“The camp is quiet and under full control of MONUSCO,” UN peacekeeping spokeswoman Ismini Palla said at the United Nations. “All staff returned safely to their homes. No casualties were reported. The mission is investigating the incident.”

The United Nations estimates about three million South Sudanese have been uprooted by violence in their country leading to the biggest cross-border exodus in Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Ruiz said camp occupants were demanding to be moved to a third country, but no one would take them.

Congo’s government, mindful of threats to its stability from past refugee influxes, and from armed groups in its lawless east, is also keen to move them.

Last Friday, eight agreed to be repatriated to South Sudan’s capital Juba. Others fear going back and are frustrated at being confined in the tiny camp in eastern Congo.
“They’re saying if the eight were transferred to South Sudan, why shouldn’t we be able to go to a third country?” Ruiz said.