Thousands flee South Sudan fighting to Democratic Republic of the Congo

GENEVA, Dec 4 (UNHCR) – Recent fighting between local armed groups and the South Sudan army in the country’s Western Equatoria region has forced over 4,000 people to flee into a remote corner of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN Refugee Agency said.

Two UNHCR teams have so far this week registered 3,464 newly arrived refugees in areas near the border in DRC’s Dungu Territory, following clashes between the army and an armed group known as the “Arrow Boys.”

They also report that 1,206 Congolese refugees, previously in South Sudan, have fled to the same area as a result of the fighting. Ezo settlement in South Sudan, which was originally home to nearly 3,300 Congolese refugees, is now virtually empty, with the remaining refugee families having fled to nearby fields.

Registration of refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is ongoing in areas along the border and more arrivals are being reported. UNHCR’s nearest office is some 400 kilometres away in Bunia, and it took the teams several days to reach the localities where refugees are.

Ninety per cent of the South Sudanese refugees are women and children. Some had walked for three days, carrying only their most important belongings. Most men have stayed behind in South Sudan.