South Sudan peacekeeping forces yet to snake to DRC month on

South Sudan peacekeeping forces yet to snake to DRC month on
SSPDF soldiers on patrol. [File]

Over 700 soldiers flagged off by President Salva Kiir in December 2022 for a mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are yet to cross the border.

It is almost a month since the forces left Juba for the DRC, and it was expected that by now they should have settled into their camps.

The 720 soldiers were part of South Sudan’s peacekeeping forces deployed to the DRC after East African heads of state authorized the deployment of troops to the eastern part of the DRC, where Congolese troops are fighting the March 23 (M23) rebel forces.

The personnel were supposed to be in the operation area of Goma by January 1 after graduating on December 28, 2022, according to Angelina Teny, the minister of defence and veterans affairs.

However, yesterday, The City Review learned that the Juba forces have not yet crossed the border into the DRC.

“Currently, the troops are in Nabiapai, near the borders of South Sudan and the DR Congo,” the spokesperson of the South Sudan Peoples’ Defence Forces (SSPDF), Maj. Gen. Lul Ruai, told The City Review exclusively.

Nabiapai is located in Yambio County in Western Equatoria State.

Lul said only the group’s assessment team had arrived in Congo, and that the rest of the unit is still awaiting final arrangements.

He said the exact day for the forces to arrive in the DRC to begin their assignment was not certain.

“I’m not sure when they’ll leave, but I know they’re still working on logistics.” The forward team are already in Congo doing assessments, and as soon as they are done and confirm all logistical issues are resolved, they will cross,” Maj. Gen. Lul said.

He said that although the documentation concerns have been resolved, other logistical challenges, such as food, tents, medical supplies, trucks, and other equipment, have not yet been resolved.

“Documents are already taken care of; the only logistical issues left are those involving food, medical care, more vehicles, equipment, and a few other items,” said the army boss.

“The SSPDF coordinators have advanced to Congo to lay the groundwork and cooperate with others,” he added, “We will keep you informed when they pass into the DRC.”

It remains unclear when the forces will join their colleagues from Kenya, Uganda, and Burundi, who are already in Goma.

Last year, the East African Community (EAC) heads of state resolved to send a joint force to deal with multiple armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

But South Sudan’s deployment was delayed by logistical preparations, which took longer despite the $6 million approval for the mission.

The 750-man special battalion is made up of a number of SSPDF divisions, including the engineering corps, national security, and military police.