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The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known by the acronym MONUSCO, says it registered 755 SPLA-IO fighters who crossed into the Democratic Republic of the Congo in July, following clashes in the South Sudanese capital, Juba.
The men, loyal to former vice president Riek Machar, were on the losing side of fighting with the soldiers of President Salva Kiir. They escaped with Machar into Garamba, a national park that stretches across a huge swathe of northeastern Congo, where they were rescued by MONUSCO.
The violence in Juba effectively killed a painfully negotiated peace agreement between Kiir and Machar. The South Sudanese fighters have now joined a list of foreign rebel groups that eastern Congo is unwilling to host but struggling to remove.
They include the Rwandan FDLR, the Burundian FNL, and two Ugandan exports, the ADF and the LRA. These groups, along with equally violent homegrown militia, have terrorised the local population for decades.
MONUSCO has responded to the growing public concern by pointing out their SPLA-IO rescue mission was on humanitarian grounds, and at the request of the Congolese government.
The peacekeeping mission said it handed over 117 South Sudanese to the Congolese authorities, and cantoned the rest at three of its bases in eastern DRC, where they were given food and medical assistance. Security is tight at the bases, and MONUSCO is doing its best to downplay any security threat.
The writer filed this article for IRIN from North Kivu, DRC
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