September 27, 2016 (JUBA) – The Cobra Faction of the armed forces composed of ethnic Murle community based in Pibor county have declared defection and joined opposition forces to fight against the government of President Salva Kiir, accusing him of no commitment to peace in the country.
- Greater Pibor Administrator and head of SSDM/A Cobra faction David Yauyau seen in Juba on May, 20, 2014 (AFP)
The top leadership of the Cobra Faction of the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army (SSDM/A), which signed a peace agreement with the government in 2014 that ended more than two years of armed struggle under the command of the current deputy defense minister, David Yauyau, said they have defected from the government and formed armed opposition under the command of General Khalid Boutros, Yauyau’s former deputy.
The armed opposition top military official declared war against the government under President Kiir, saying they will now consult with other rebel groups, probably the opposition forces under the leadership of former First Vice President, Riek Machar, to coordinate programs to overthrow the current government.
“We will consult with the other opposition forces on the ground, we want to coordinate so that we save the people of South Sudan from this regime,” he said.
“We are actually forced to fight, we signed a peace agreement, but the government violated the agreement, so we are forced to fight,” he was quoted in the media on Tuesday.
Khalid, an ethnic Murle, said he defected with about 16,000 soldiers of the SSDM-Cobra Faction in the newly established Boma state which was curved from Jonglei state. He called on the people of South Sudan to unite their ranks to topple the current government in Juba for the sake of development and democracy in the country.
Deputy defense minister, David Yauyau, whose deputy has now defected with the Murle forces to the opposition, told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that he was not aware of the defection of his former deputy. He however described it as unfortunate if proven to be true.
Yauyau said it was not time for war as the area was now in need for peace, reconciliation and stability than another war.
“I have no information about what you are telling me but if it is true, then it is unfortunate thing because our people need peace, they need to reconcile, they need to rest to rebuild their lives. It is not time for war,” Yauyau told Sudan Tribune when reached to comment on the reports that General Khalid Botrous, his former deputy, has defected with 16,000 troops in the area.
The SSDM Cobra Faction signed a peace agreement with the government in 2014, paving way for the appointment of Yauyau himself as the chief administrator for Greater Pibor before creation of more administrative units and Pibor became a new Boma state with a new governor.
Yauyau was however removed from the position as top administrator in the area, sparking tension and armed clashes before his appointment as deputy defence minister at the national level.
Yauyau later joined the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) under President Kiir in January 2016, effectively ending his membership with the movement he used to command.
He was later promoted by a presidential order to the rank of lieutenant general with several others, including his deputy but his forces were never fully integrated into the ranks and files of the government forces. They remained in their cantonment sites around Pibor and other areas in the state.
The delay in the integration and implementation of some programs agreed in the agreement pushed General Khalid to announce his defection from the government, accusing it of failure to honour the deal.
Khalid further said Yauyau was no longer leader of the group, saying he had lost membership since he joined the SPLM faction led by President Kiir in January this year.
The rebellion of the strong Murle force in the volatile area raises concerns of renewed fierce fighting as they may also team up with Machar’s opposition forces against the government.