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Murle faction announces defection to S. Sudan rebels

February 13, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – In a unexpected move on Friday, a splinter group of the Cobra forces of Greater Pibor Area of Murle ethnic group has announced their defection from president Salva Kiir’s government and declared their allegiance to the rebel leader, Riek Machar.

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The South Sudan government delegation and their SSDM/A Cobra faction counterparts after sigining a final peace deal in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 9 May 2014 (ST)

In a press statement to extended to Sudan Tribune, the commander of the Greater Pibor Forces, Colonel Paulino Zangil, said Pibor forces have joined Machar’s rebel movement and accused the government of dishonouring a peace agreement the area leadership signed with the government last year, describing the deal as a “hoax”.

“On behalf of the Cobra forces, we declare our opposition to the regime of Salva Kiir Mayardit. This regime has killed our people. It dishonoured its commitment to peace agreement with Cobra forces. The Greater Pibor Administrative Area is a hoax. It is meant to deceive the people of Greater Pibor,” declared the force commander on Friday.

Colonel Zangil further accused president Kiir’s government of trying to use the Murle forces in Jonglei state to fight against the rebel group and neighbouring Nuer communities seen to be anti-government, saying the Murle had chosen a peaceful co-existence with their neighbours.

“We also reject the attempt by the regime to use the Cobra forces and Murle people to fight alongside it in this unjust war,” he said.

The government forces have been trying during the recent months to persuade the Cobra forces to participate in attacks on the rebel positions in the Lou Nuer territory in large Jonglei state.

The Pibor area force commander seemed to have echoed a previous observation by the administrative leader of the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, David Yauyau, who in December last year disapproved government plans to involve Murle in the conflict , saying his area should not also be used as a launching pad to attack the rebel positions and preferred dialogue with Machar’s group.

Colonel Zangil accused the government of not implementing the agreement and now using “tactics to promote ethnic conflicts between neighbouring communities”.

Yau Yau, who rebelled after April elections in 2010, signed a peace agreement with government last year, giving the Greater Pibor administrative area special status under the office of the president.

MURLE FOR FEDERALISM

The commander of the Cobra forces further declared his area’s full support to the 21 federal states proposed by the rebel group under the leadership of Riek Machar and declared Pibor a state.

In the states created by the rebel group on the basis of former old districts, Machar has elevated Pibor to a federal state.

“The Murle are for federal system of governance. We therefore declare Pibor a state,” announced the area commander.

“Finally, we announce through this press statement our joining the armed struggle led by SPLM/SPLA under the leadership of Dr. Riek Machar Teny,” he said.

Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, confirmed to Sudan Tribune that the Pibor force commander made the announcement after consultations with the rebel leader.

(ST)