JUBA, 22 February 2021 – At least 15 Ethiopian soldiers members of the peacekeeping contingent to South have refused to return to Ethiopia, choosing instead to seek asylum.
The soldiers, orginally from Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region demanded asylum Monday in the South Sudanse capital, Juba, fearing for their lives should they return to Ethiopia, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees said Monday.
The soldiers refused going back home, resorting to fist fights earlier Monday at Juba International Airport, to avoid being forcefully embarked on a plane taking them home.
The soliders fear that they are being called back home in order to be deployed to Tigray, where they say they would be ordered to fight against as well as kill their own people.
The soldiers who resisted to board the plane back to Ethiopia were beaten by other Ethiopian soldiers who wanted to force them to board the flight, Sudans Post reported Monday, citing sources at Juba International Airport.
“Most of the peacekeepers have concerns for their safety once they arrive in Ethiopia,” an officer told Sudans Post under cover of anonymity, adding that those fearful come from Tigray.
A staff member of the UNHCR in South Sudan said that the refugee agency had to intervene on behalf of the soldiers.
For most of the afternoon and early evening, most of the peacekeepers registered as asylum seekers.
Eyewitnesses said some of the Ethiopian soldiers had to be protected from brutalization by South Sudan security forces.