South Sudan fighting forces thousands to flee to DR Congo, says UN

Thousands of South Sudanese are fleeing fighting and violence that started on January 19 between the national army and a rebel group, the United Nations says.

Some 5,000 South Sudanese refugees have arrived in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo over the past few days as fighting rages between the military and the National Salvation Front (NAS) rebel group, UN refugee agency UNHCR said.

“It’s estimated that 5,000 refugees have arrived in several border villages near the town of Ingbokolo, in north-east DRC’s Ituri province, according to local village chiefs,” the UN body said.

“There are reports that an additional 8,000 people are displaced inside South Sudan, on the outskirts of the town of Yei.”

According to the UN, those fleeing into Congo are mostly women, children and the elderly.

South Sudanese media say the National Salvation Front (NAS) is led by Gen Thomas Cirillo, who resigned in 2017 as deputy chief of staff of the military, citing rights abuses.

An unknown number of people have been killed since the fighting began in January in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria State.

Fighting in the world’s newest nation has killed almost 400,000 people, displaced millions and left millions in need of humanitarian since December 2013.

Last year, warring factions in the country signed an African Union-brokered peace agreement aimed at ending the five-year civil war.