A retired Roman Catholic bishop in South Sudan who is leading an effort to get rebel leader David Yau Yau to lay down arms has voiced doubt that insurgents led by Yau Yau were behind deadly cattle raids in Jonglei state last month.
Taban instead blamed out-of-control youths in the restive state, saying neither Yau Yau nor the government of South Sudan is able to keep them under control because "they are too many."
The retired bishop, whom President Salva Kiir appointed to head a delegation tasked with engaging Yau Yau in peace talks, also said the rebel leader has not clashed with government forces in the past few months.
“From the time we started talking, now three months, there is no attack between the SPLA and Yau Yau. There is no fighting," Taban said.
Yau Yau has denied that the attack last month in Twic East County, in which officials have said 79 people were killed, 20 children abducted, and some 25,000 head of cattle rustled, was carried out by members of his rebel group.
But some lawmakers in Jonglei state remain convinced that the rebel leader was behind the attacks and have introduced a motion in parliament calling on Kiir to revoke an amnesty offer he made to Yau Yau in July.
A former student of theology, Yau Yau first rebelled against the government in 2010 after failing to win a seat in the Jonglei state parliament.
The following year, he accepted an offer of amnesty from Kiir and returned to Juba, but later defected and resumed his rebellion in 2012.