South Sudan: Gov’t official says Kiir has pardoned Riek Machar’s fighters trapped in DR Congo

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South Sudan President Salva Kiir has reportedly pardoned the over 700 fighters loyal to his opponent Riek Machar who fled with him into Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during recent fighting.

The resumption of fighting between forces loyal to rebel leader Machar and government troops in the capital Juba in July prompted the opposition leader to flee the into the bushes of the South towards Congo with hundreds of fighters.

United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) said evacuated Machar and the fighters reportedly on humanitarian grounds because they were in need of medical attention. Machar would later be airlifted to Khartoum for further medical care as his men remained under UN Camps in DR Congo.

South Sudan’s Defence Minister Kuol Manyang told local media that President Kiir was ready to welcome the armed opposition forces back home.

“The President of the Republic made an amnesty for those who will be ready to come back and this is the message we were carrying to the authorities in DRC,” he said.

Last month, outgoing UN chief Ban Ki-moon asked the Security Council for help to resolve a stalemate between UN peacekeepers and the Congolese government over the fighters whom Kinshasa considered as a threat to its security.

Ki-moons appeal came after authorities in Congo had given the MONUSCO up to a seven days to fly hundreds of fighters out of its territory.

Machar’s spokesperson James Gatdet Dak, currently detained in Juba after deportation by Kenyan athorities had asked the UN mission to fly the fighters to “our headquarters in Pagak [Upper Nile state, South Sudan],”

Defense Minister says a team, would be sent to convey the amnesty message to the rebels, whose leader declared armed resistance against President Kiir in September.

“Those who will want to go back to the army; we will send them to contentment sites where they will be screened. And those who will want to be in the police, will be re-trained,” added the minister.