More than 100 opposition fighters from South Sudan crossed the border into Congo “in extremely bad shape” and were evacuated to health facilities for medical treatment, the United Nations said Wednesday.
Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that the United Nations is consulting with the governments of Congo and South Sudan “with a view of finding solutions for these combatants.”
Dujarric said the supporters of opposition leader Riek Machar were found in the area around Garamba near the South Sudan border and evacuated by the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo “so they can receive urgent medical assistance, pending their voluntary disarmament.”
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, but it was rocked by a civil war that began in December 2013 when government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, battled rebels led by Machar, his former deputy who is a Nuer. At least 50,000 people were killed in the fighting and over 2 million people were displaced.
A peace deal reached in August 2015 which established a unity government has been violated regularly by fighting.
Machar, who was vice-president again, fled the capital Juba in July after fighting with forces loyal to Kiir, which left hundreds dead. Machar then slipped across the border to Congo in mid-August, also needing medical treatment, and is now in Sudan. Kiir fired him as vice-president.
Dujarric said the condition of a number of Machar’s recently arrived fighters “was truly critical, and it was an issue of life and death.”
“On humanitarian grounds, I think we had no choice” but to get them medical care, he said.