At least 15 South Sudanese ex-combatants loyal to former first vice president Riek Machar arrived in Juba on Friday after a sojourn in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The former fighters arrived in the capital ahead of next week’s regional peace revitalization meeting aimed at restoring stability in the war-torn nation.
Agnes Oswaha, Director of Haman Rights, Gender, Child and Social Welfare in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received the 15 ex-combatants on behalf of the government.
She thanked the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for facilitating the evacuation of the group to Juba.
“We are so delighted to receive our returnees that fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in July 2016 as conflict escalated,” said Oswaha.
She said her government will provide support needed to cater for the welfare of the ex-combatants as they wait to be integrated into the army and encourage warring factions to lay down arms.
“It is a sign of peace that demonstrates the government’s effort to restore hope and trust among people in the country, “Oswaha said.
Sadam Paru Manyang, team leader of the returning ex-combatant thanked the UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO) for feeding and clothing them throughout their stay in the camp.
“We are here today as citizens of this country because Juba belongs to all of us and we are ready to work for the stability and development of this nation,” Manyang said.
Florence Marchal, Spokesperson for the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) told Xinhua by email that the UN mission sponsored the 15 former rebel forces by plane from Goma to Juba and handed them over to the South Sudan government.
She revealed that the group was part of a larger group of opposition elements that have been hosted in MONUSCO camp in eastern part of DRC on humanitarian ground since August 2016.
Marchal disclosed that 350 opposition elements are still in the camp whereas around 280 have already left the country.
South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting between mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.
The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital Juba forcing Machar to flee into exile.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions that have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.