At least 15 Ethiopian soldiers from the UN peacekeeping operation in South Sudan applied for asylum in Juba on Monday when they were to be sent back to Ethiopia. All are from the Ethiopian province of Tigray, where federal authorities have been conducting a military operation behind closed doors since November.
It is a scene that an eyewitness at Juba International Airport described as very violent and “very shocking”. It was 4pm on Monday when a fight broke out while Ethiopian soldiers in blue berets stood in line to catch their plane.
According to this witness, it started when some tried to flee. One woman in particular shouted that she “did not want to come back” and was caught and beaten. Passengers then intervened and separated them, isolating 17 soldiers, including the woman who had rebelled, the witness continues.
In all, there would be at least fifteen soldiers of Tigrayan origin out of the 169 Ethiopian soldiers from the UN mission in South Sudan (Minus) repatriated Monday, who therefore “chose not to get started” with the words of Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, who confirmed the incident. According to him, these soldiers “asked to stay” in Juba for fear of their safety if they returned home.
The theft is completely gone, but without them. According to I am on, all have applied for asylum in South Sudan as it is their right. The eyewitness, on the other hand, claims that some others were “taken by force” into the plane, threatened by their officers.