Armed fighters loyal to former South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar are among over 20,000 refugees in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, a UN mission said Thursday.
UN spokesman Felix Prosper Basse said some of the armed men and refugees were in very poor health and had been evacuated to Goma town in the east of the country for treatment.
Basse said: “There has been a wave of people moving from South Sudan to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some armed members of Riek Machar’s fighters are among the refugees who have fled into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
One of the refugees, Tom Lagu, said: “We walked over 150 kilometers [93 miles] … to escape fighting in our country.”
He said some of his companions died along the way as they fled unrest in South Sudan.
A Congolese national living near where the South Sudanese are camping said that while they sympathized with the refugees, they have fears the newcomers may affect their welfare as resources are scarce.
South Sudan fell into chaos in July this year when government troops started fighting Riek Machar’s fighters in Juba. Fighting soon spread into other parts of the country. Thousands of South Sudanese refugees have fled to neighboring countries.