- Title: South Sudanese refugees escaping conflict at home continue to arrive in Congo.
- Date: 30th November 2016
- Summary: ****WARNING CONTAINS NUDITY*** VARIOUS OF WOMEN STANDING HOLDING THEIR CHILDREN
- Embargoed: 15th December 2016 13:43
- Keywords: Conflict Refugees Displaced Politics United Nations Salva Kiir Riek Machar
- Location: ABA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO/ JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN
- City: ABA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO/ JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN
- Country: Congo, Democratic Republic of
- Reuters ID: LVA0025AMYUDZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: By the time the more than 100 heavily-armed South Sudanese troops rolled into the south-western town of Tore Payam in April, they had already made their minds up about the local population.
Local residents said soldiers accused the local population of being rebels, and would make demands and kill if they didn't get them.
Tens of thousands of refugees from southern South Sudan's Greater Equatoria region were forced to flee and have streamed into Democratic Republic of Congo in recent months, offering a rare window into an expanding war the United Nations fears could lead to genocide.
Many have found shelter here in Aba, a city in the northeast of Orientale Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, near the border with South Sudan.
Many here recount similar stories of the conflict they experienced back home, the brutality increasingly along ethnic lines, and the scale of the displacement it has provoked.
"Ever since the soldiers arrived, so the situation immediately changed. Soldiers started complaining that they came because people of Tore are rebels. Everybody in Tore including even children. We stayed in Tore, we did not even see the rebels but they complained that every people in Tore are rebels. Then what they started doing, they could just go pick everybody and kill. They said they killed this one rebels. But when the civilians see these things were going worse, so they had to move out from the town of Tore," said Charity Mandulu, who had trekked seven days through the forest with three of her children to reach neighbouring Congo.
"The problems that forced us to flee our country, were that people from the Tinga tribe did not like us, and they would go to villages and kill people from different tribes. We didn't have the means to stay, they destroyed schools and hospitals. They didn't want anyone to go to school, they burnt our villages because they accused us of being rebels. There was nothing left, that's why we fled," added another South Sudanese refugee, Andre Toyota.
Fighting erupted in the country in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir sacked his first vice president Riek Machar, triggering ethnically charged clashes that the United Nations says have killed thousands and forced more than 2.3 million to flee.
Most of the 60,000 South Sudanese refugees who have arrived in Congo this year are sheltered by locals. That has allowed aid agencies to abandon traditional refugee camps.
But the recurrent crises have stretched resources to a breaking point as high-profile cases like Syria command donors' attention.
In recent years, the U.N. refugee agency in Congo has only been funded at about 25 percent of what it says it needs.
"The main problem here is that this is a difficult area to access, so much of the aid does not reach here. We try to do as much as possible as UNHCR to provide some basic necessities, along with partners such as WFP and distribute food and give refugees equipment to build their shelter," said U.N refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesperson in DR Congo, Andreas Kirkchhof.
As South Sudanese refugees continue to stream into DR Congo putting more strain on limited resources, those who are already here say they are worried about the future.
"We don't really have the means to live here. We only have the little food that we brought here, which has sustained us so far, but we don't know what we are going to do in future because we have no work in order to make a living," said Pita Malechi.
Aid workers say they don't expect the crisis to ease anytime soon.
A report by a U.N. panel of experts this month indicated that the war is increasingly viewed by both sides as "a zero-sum confrontation between the Dinka and non-Dinka tribes.
The increasingly ethnic undertones of the conflict has seen Adama Dieng, the U.N. Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, warn the Security Council that the violence was providing "fertile ground" for a potential genocide.
South Sudan has dozens of ethnic groups. Kiir's Dinka account for about 35 percent of the population and Machar's Nuer roughly 15 percent.
On November 26, South Sudan's government said was ready to accept the deployment of a U.N. regional protection force at any time. The country has been under international pressure to accept the force, which will help the existing U.N. mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) stabilise the five-year-old nation.
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