DRC on the lookout for rebels among South Sudan refugees

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The Democratic Republic of Congo is arresting anyone suspected of being a South Sudanese rebel fighters as refugees from the neighbouring country pour in.

Hundreds of South Sudanese refugees have entered the DRC after South Sudan’s national army captured a rebel base in the country’s southwest last week. However, the DRC government is concerned that an influx of rebel fighters could bring conflict into the country and destabilise the border area between the two countries.

DRC arresting suspected rebel fighters

While the DRC is attempting to arrest any rebel fighters entering the country, refugees say that innocent young men are being caught up in the crackdown. One refugee staying at a shelter in the border town of Aba – where over 30,000 refugees are currently staying – told VOA that her brother was arrested by DRC troops last week and is still being detained.

“Among us eight, only my brother was arrested,” Grace Gaba told VOA. “Maybe they may think my brother is a soldier, but he is not a soldier.”

Gaba and her brother, Joseph Moro, both registered as refugees at the site in January but returned last week to rescue family members as violence in South Sudan escalated.

Moro was arrested upon his return as a suspected rebel fighter.

No refugee status for rebels

Congo’s National Refugee Commission in Aba says that anyone considered to be a rebel fighter is sent to a military base in the town of Dungu. Even soldiers who enter the DRC unarmed and renounce their military allegiances won’t be granted refugee status and could be extradited back to South Sudan.

“Once you’ve carried a weapon you cannot be accorded refugee status as a civilian,” Alexi Kabambi, leader of the commission, says. “Even if you’re granted refugee status, if it is revealed you engaged in military activities in the past, your status can be revoked.”

Featured image: By DFID – UK Department for International Development – Working with UNHCR to help refugees in South Sudan, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26240425

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.