SSPDF troops who were sent on DR Congo mission stuck in Mundri

SSPDF troops who were sent on DR Congo mission stuck in Mundri
SSPDF soldiers on a mission. [Photo: Sheila Ponnie, City Review]

South Sudan’s troops who were dispatched to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on a peacekeeping mission, in late December 2022, are still stuck in the country as the officials work round the clock to resolve teething logistical challenges.

Over 720 soldiers were flagged off by President Salva Kiir on December 28 as part of the East Africa regional Forces expected to flash out elements of M23 in Eastern DR Congo.

According to t Angelina Teny, the Minister of Defence, the forces were expected to arrive in Goma, the area of operation by January 1.

But City Review has reliably learnt that part of Juba forces is yet to cross the border. A section of the troops are still holed up in Mundri, Western Equatoria State.

“They (the troops) are processing the travel documents, but their commander has come back to follow up on some issues, especially things to do with logistics,” South Sudan Peoples Defense Forces (SSPDF) spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Lul Ruai told City Review.

“The travel documents include age assessment, nationality, and passports, and as soon as they are done processing their documents, the issue of being airlifted will be cut short,” added the army mouthpiece.

He, however, could not say with certainty how long the process will take.

Mundri West County residents have since expressed concerns with the prolonged presence of the troops in the area. “Citizens have been asking questions like. What are those soldiers who are supposed to be in the DRC doing in Mundri?’ posed Jackson Pirinda, area resident.

“Of course Mundri is peaceful, and seeing our own forces move around every time raises concerns among the people, although they are not harming anyone,” he added.

When contacted, Mundri West Commissioner Zilipha Dawa Sebit refused to comment on “security affairs”.

“Although I am the head of security here, that is the issue of security; do not ask me about it,” Dawa told City Review in a brief phone interview.

The East African heads of state-sanctioned a joint peacekeeping mission to the eastern part of the DRC, where Congolese troops are battling the March 23 (M23) rebel forces.

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