24 December 2012

South Sudan: Army in Talks With Jonglei Rebels

Wau — The Jonglei-based rebel leader David Yau Yau is ready to "abandon" his insurgency in Pibor County, a top military officer close to President Salva Kiir told Sudan Tribune on Monday.

The senior member of the South Sudanese army (SPLA), said the military's general command have started exchanging contacts over plans to negotiate a new peace deal.

"Religious leaders have approached the [army's] general headquarters that they would want to continue the dialogue as part of the presidential committee on peace and reconciliation" said the official.

However Jonglei State's minister of Local government, Diing Akol Diing, said that there was no contact between between Bor and David Yau Yau's forces. The minister said that if the SPLA was negotiating with Yau Yau, the Jonglei government had not been informed.

The military officer who did not want to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media said the that the army accepted the continuation of dialogue in an attempt to bring about "the peace and unity of our people".

Yau Yau first rebelled against South Sudan's ruling party - the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) - after elections in April 2010 when, as an independent candidate, he lost his campaign to represent the Gumuruk-Boma constituency in Pibor County at the Jonglei State Assembly.

In 2011 Yauyau, who hails from the Murle ethnic group, accepted an amnesty from South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and joined the SPLA only to rebel again in April 2012.

Yau Yau's first rebellion was able to cause considerable instability in Pibor County, in one instance clashing with the SPLA outside Pibor town just two days before South Sudan's independence referendum.

Unlike other figures who led insurrections after the 2010 elections Yauyau was a civilian, who had previous trained to be a pastor, and not a member of the army before his rebellion. As part his 2011 peace agreement with the SPLA Yau Yau was given the rank of General.

After a mass violence, cattle raiding and abductions in Jonglei over the past two years - killing over 2,000 people according to the United Nations - a state-wide disarmament campaign was launched in March this year.

In May a peace deal was signed between Jonglei's six main ethnic groups but some armed groups, such as Yau Yau's supporters did not attend the conference. President Kiir's amnesty would still be available to Yau Yau according to the SPLA despite Juba accusing neighbouring Sudan of supporting the rebellion.

South Sudan shot down a UN helicopter on Saturday, killing its for Russian crew, believing it to be a Sudanese aircraft resupplying the rebels in Pibor County.

Although there has been no confirmation from Bor the anonymous SPLA officer told Sudan Tribune that the army has received information Yau Yau "is ready to abandon rebellion".

The officer made the revelation to Sudan Tribune at Wau Stadium on Monday hours before the arrival of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit. The head of the world's youngest nation is visiting the troubled capital of Western Bahr el Ghazal State to deliver a Christmas message and meet regional leaders.

Juba's decision to continue the dialogue with Yau Yau draws it legitimacy from Kiir's presidential amnesty, which he said remains a platform for rebel leaders to lay down their weapons and integrate themselves into the armed forces.

The SPLA became the official army of South Sudan after a 2005 peace deal ending decades of conflict with Khartoum, resulting is the independence of South Sudan in July 2011.

"There is no reason to fight ourselves. We did not fight in order to come and fight ourselves again. It will be an exciting time for them to return. Their grievances will be addressed if they are connected to power. Elections period is just around the corner", he said.

The next election in South Sudan is due in 2015 but next year the ruling SPLM will hold a general conference to nominate who will represent the party in the first election since secession from Sudan.

The military official added that some politicians and military officers are due for retirement soon, which will allow the promotion of "fresh blood".

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