21 February 2013

South Sudan: Jonglei Rebel Leader Demands UN Mediation in Peace Talks

Juba — A rebel leader in South Sudan's troubled Jonglei state has vowed to respond to the peace process initiated by local leaders from the area, an official said on Thursday.

Ismael Konyi, who represents Pibor county in the Council of States, said David Yau Yau, had agreed to peace talks with the government, but demanded international mediators be part of the process.

"He [Yau Yau] demanded [that] UN representatives be present in [the] talks. He said the UN will be witnesses to the talks because last time when their person [James Kuburin] surrendered to the SPLA (South Sudanese army), clashes ensued," Konyi told reporters in Juba, the South Sudanese capital.

Last month, an SPLA soldier and two civilians died when their forces clashed with armed men commanded by Kuburin. The rebels had reportedly resisted orders from the army to surrender their weapons.

Yau Yau, who hails from the Murle ethnic group, initially rebelled against South Sudan's ruling party (SPLM) after losing his campaign to represent the Gumuruk-Boma constituency of Pibor at the Jonglei State Assembly in the April 2010 elections.

In 2011, the rebel leader responded to amnesty calls from South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir, and returned to Juba, only to re-launch his rebellion in April last year.

Since then, clashes between the army and forces loyal to him have gravely affected the security situation in Jonglei, with the latest peace attempt seen as key in efforts to salvage peace in the region.

A peace process, initiated by Murle traditional and political leaders early this year, suffered a setback following clashes between the SPLA and rebel forces.

Konyi said the peace committee sent six people with a letter to Yau Yau, which was handed over to his deputy, after they failed to meet the rebel leader.

"The committee demanded to meet Yau Yau, but did not find him. But the deputy told the committee to return back and promised that they will respond to the letter in three days", he said.

Sudan Tribune could not reach the rebels to independently verify the lawmaker's claims.

Hilde Johnson, the head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), said the recent attack in Walgak village in Akobo West county threatened to reverse efforts already made to achieve peace and stability in the state. Over 100 people, mainly women and children, died during the attack largely blamed on armed Murle militias.

"Everything must now be done to prevent a destabilisation of Jonglei", she told journalists in Juba on Friday last week, stressing that the UN is ready to support such peace efforts.

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