October 2, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan said on Wednesday it had started direct talks with Jonglei-based militia leader David Yau Yau, in an apparent bid to end the almost two-year conflict which has claimed more than 100,000 lives and uprooted scores of people from their homes.
- South Sudan rebel leader David Yau Yau (UN photo)
“There is a positive beginning this time. The Murle elders - especially religious leaders - have taken big strides towards ending conflict in Jonglei state. They have been holding direct talks with knowledge of the government with David Yau Yau”, a senior official with the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.
A source who spoke on condition of anonymity said the talks were sanctioned by president Salva Kiir Mayardit during series of meetings with Murle community leaders and intellectuals from the area reportedly held in August in the country’s capital Juba.
Senior military sources have also confirmed the talks, stressing that the government had decided t to give the peace initiative spearheaded by the Murle community and religious leaders a chance to resolve the conflict.
“As far as I know the constitutional mandate, the SPLA (South Sudanese army) acts on orders to protect lives and properties but does not decide what the government should do to address conflict. It is the government to come up with the way forward to addressing the Jonglei which is what the president had decided to do. He has now given peace initiative by Murle elders and religious a chance”, a senior military officer told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.
Baguoot Amum Okiech, a national legislative assembly member on a special women’s ticket, told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that the president remained committed to seeking peaceful dialogue as a means to end the conflict.
Okiech is the wife of the late Nyancigak Nyachiluk, a highly respected former senior member of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) from the Murle ethnic group in Jonglei state.
She said Kiir is now working to develop initiatives with various institutions and groups to end the conflict in Jonglei.
“I want to say that the government is also ready to take any step to see if, once and for all, we can end the conflict, said Okiech.
“We have the support from peace loving group. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has made it very clear that it would be ready to assist [the] peace process in the country, she added.
Jonglei has been the scene of ongoing violence between the rival Murle and Lou Nuer tribal groups, as well as fighting between Yau Yau’s fighters and the SPLA.
Meanwhile, SPLA spokesperson Colonel Philip Aguer said on Wednesday that Gordon Koang, a militia leader whose forces have already decided to abandon a rebellion against the South Sudanese government in Upper Nile state, had yet to return to the country.
Some 1,500 rebel fighters under Koang’s command handed themselves over to the SPLA on 28 September after accepting a presidential amnesty.
“Still there is no official information about Gordon Koang. It is [General] Oyuok Ogot who has come. Arrangements are being made to verify the actual number of this group”, he said.
Aguer said weapons and ammunitions, as well as vehicles in possession of the group loyal to Koang were most likely supplied by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).
Koang and his forces were integrated into the SAF after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the more than two-decades-long war between Sudan and the South.
He was not among the armed groups to join the Juba declaration in 2006 and remained an active officer in the Sudanese army.
In a separate interview, Gordon Buay, who identifies himself as spokesman of the former rebels, said that Koang himself was also due to follow once certain arrangements had been made.
“His (Koang) forces have come with General Oyuok Ogot. There are no forces left behind anymore with him. There are only some arrangements which need to be completed before he comes. We hope that these arrangements would be completed soon … The government is working on that”, Buay told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
Sources that spoke to Sudan Tribune said Koang was due fly to Nairobi from Khartoum before joining his fighters who surrendered with Ogot.
In April, Kiir offered an amnesty to six militia groups irrespective of the crimes they had committed while fighting against the government.