National, News

Over one thousand refugees forced to return from DR Congo

Hon. Janet Aya, member of parliament representing Morobo County.

By Keji Janefer Silver

Over one thousand South Sudanese who sought refuge in the neighboring Congo, were forced to return home by some forces who called themselves ‘Joint Operation’, and were stranded in Morobo County, in dire humanitarian need, said Janet Aya Alex, a member of parliament representing the area.

Hon. Aya condemned those forcing people to return from refugee’s camps at a time when the whole world is hit by a coronavirus pandemic, and movement restrictions have been imposed at border points. She however, said the returnees did not return voluntarily on their own nor in an organized manner.

“They did not return voluntarily, they were forced, that is why we call them forced returnees, but if it was organized, they would have been transported by UN and given something for them to start life, but in this case they were forced back by forces which we don’t know, who called themselves ‘joint operation’ under whom we do not know,” Janet revealed.

Aya further said the forces even entered Congo and beat people there, including Congolese, which created tension between SSPF forces and those of Congolese, which was later resolved. She said when there is peace, people will definitely return voluntarily, like after the liberation, in an organized way but not being forced.

Janet Aya Alex said majority of those who were forced to return from Congo returned with nothing in their hands and they need to be supported materially, and also to be counselled mentally. She said most of these people have been traumatized by the conflict, which led to thousands of internally displaced, and millions fleeing the country to neighboring countries.

“If they are given farm tools and seeds, they will be able to produce for themselves food during this last rainy season, since Morobo is an agricultural land and the returnees are also farmers,” Janet appealed.

Aya said when the people started returning, they said they were forced by a group calling themselves ‘joint operation’, claiming that they were representing the area. However, the SSPDF commander said the army was surprised to see the refugees returning, and were not aware of the group that called themselves ‘joint operation’.  

The parliamentarian called on the parties who signed cession of hostilities agreement to commit themselves to it, and respond to incidents of ill-treatment of civilians.  She accused CTSAM of failing to monitor and report accurately on the violations being committed by different armed groups. 

“Unfortunately, CTSAM is not really monitoring and reporting correct things, there are some incidents that are happening, but they only report one side of the story. They don’t report what other parties are doing. So I think we really want CTSAM to be impartial and report facts,” the parliamentarian stressed.    

Janet also appealed to UNHCR and IOM to observe and report on such incidents through a coordinated effort to ensure that people safely return when plans are put in place, to receive and integrate them into the community. She pointed out that such forceful returns cause crisis, especially at this time when there is restriction on movement due coronavirus pandemic.

When contacted by No.1 citizen newspaper, Maj. General Lul Ruai Kong, the spokesperson of SSPDF, also denied receiving any report of South Sudanese who have been forced to return from Congo into the country by forces who called themselves ‘joint operation forces’, not known to which party they belong. “I don’t have any information about South Sudanese who are forced to return to the country,” said Lul Ruai.

Janet Aya spoke during a handover of non-food items contributed by Panyobu United Association in Juba, that will be transported by the Archbishop of Central Equatoria Province of Episcopal Church of South Sudan, to support the returnees.

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