Hundreds of Congolese refugees have reportedly arrived in Western Equatoria fleeing from the alleged activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
According to the Secretary-General of the defunct Gbudue State, the refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo started arriving at Gangura Payam this week.
Wilson Thomas Yanga says security forces have been deployed to protect people at the South Sudan- DRC borders.
“The Congolese started arriving Gangura Payam which is in the South of Yambio town on Thursday running from the Lord’s Resistance Army,” Yanga told Eye Radio on Friday.
“I received the information that they are now 74 households and 249 individuals that includes children women and the elderly.”
Yanga added that the refugees have been temporarily settled at Buma by the UNHCR.
Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency has commended the government for what it described as its “continued generosity” for allowing people fleeing recent violence in D.R. Congo to seek refuge in the country, despite the current movement restrictions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is the first reported official cross-border movement from a neighboring country since South Sudan’s borders were closed in late March 2020 in order to curb the spread of the new virus.
According to the UNHCR, nearly 250 people from DRC have crossed into rural areas of the Western Equatoria State over the last week – many among them are vulnerable women and children.
It says the new arrivals have been sensitized on the new coronavirus disease and the measures in place to tackle it, in compliance with South Sudan’s National COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan.
The refugee agency further stated that the new arrivals have agreed to undergo and complete the 14-day mandatory quarantine in a safe location, a facility that has been identified by the authorities, with the support of UNHCR and its partners.
Adan Ilmi, UNHCR’s Representative in South Sudan says the government’s actions are an example of how COVID-19 preventative measures can be managed while still allowing people fleeing in fear of their lives to seek asylum and observing international protection.
By 2004, the LRA had abducted more than 20,000 children while 1.5 million civilians had been displaced and an estimated 100,000 civilians killed.
The rebel group originated in Uganda but it also operated in South Sudan, DRC, and the Central African Republic.
However, in recent years, its activities had declined due to regional efforts.
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