DRC: South Sudanese refugees temporarily detained UN staff

MONUSCO troops on patrol

The UN says 16 of its staffs held hostage on Monday by South Sudanese refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been released.

Media reports earlier said that the South Sudanese refugees took 13 UN workers hostage, demanding they are relocated to an East African country.

The staff were taken hostage by a group of 100 unarmed South Sudanese refugees, who are among 530 people living in the Munigi base outside Goma since fleeing South Sudan last year.

UN’s Goma bureau head, Daniel Ruiz, said most of the refugees are former fighters loyal to the former First Vice-President, Dr. Riek Machar.

He said the camp occupants had been demanding to be moved for months. On Friday, eight of them agreed to be repatriated to South Sudan’s capital, Juba, while others fear going back and are frustrated at being confined in the tiny camp.

“They’re saying if the eight were transferred to South Sudan, why shouldn’t they be able to go to a third country?” said Ruiz.

Mr. Ruiz added that the UN mission was currently negotiating with them.

On Monday, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, said in a statement that the matter has been resolved with the refugees.

“All staff have returned safely to their homes. No casualties have been reported,” said Ismini Palla, UN peacekeeping spokeswoman.

The head of the North Kivu U.N. bureau, Daniel Ruiz, said that two of the hostages were expatriates. He said the South Sudanese refugees had demanded asylum in Uganda, Kenya or Ethiopia.