KINSHASA OCTOBER 28, 2016 (CISA) – The United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has called on the Security Council to help resolve a stalemate between the Democratic Republic of Congo and UN peacekeepers over what to do with hundreds of South Sudanese rebel fighters.
In a letter to the 15-member council on October 27, Ban said 755 South Sudanese rebels had crossed into Congo’s Garamba National Park with opposition leader Riek Machar in August, Reuters reported.
The rebels fled Juba in July, after fighting erupted between Machar’s forces and troops loyal to South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir.
UN peacekeepers in Congo extracted Machar, his wife, son and 10 others from Garamba at the request of the Congolese government in mid-August, Ban said.
Since then the UN has been trying to broker an agreement between Congo and South Sudan on the repatriation of the fighters or their relocation to a third country until a political deal is in place.
On October 3, the Congolese government told the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MONUSCO, that it wanted the fighters to leave within a week, but the mission does not have the legal authority to expel the troops from Congo, Ban said.
“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,” Ban said.
The UN has been in contact with the African Union, East African regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the International Committee of the Red Cross to resolve the issue.
Political rivalry between President Kiir, and his former deputy Machar, led to conflict in 2013. The two signed a peace deal last year, but fighting has continued.