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February 14, 2013

South Sudan Vows to Defeat Yau Yau Rebels

by Charlton Doki

South Sudan has vowed to defeat "by the end of the dry season" an armed rebel group led by David Yau Yau, which is suspected of killing more than 100 cattle keepers in Jonglei last week.

"I want to assure you that we have the capacity to tackle this problem and, hopefully, before the end of the dry season, I am confident that we shall have completely defeated this rebellion in Pibor county," Deputy Defense Minister Majak D'Agot Atem told reporters in Juba this week.

The dry season usually runs until May.

Atem also ruled out holding talks with Yau Yau, calling him a bandit and a traitor who has been excluded from an amnesty offered by President Salva Kiir to armed groups fighting the government in after South Sudan became independent in 2011.

"There will be no basis for the government to engage with bandits, to engage with people who have no cause at all, and to negotiate with them on matters that are clearly acts of treason against the state," he said.

Atem’s comments came after an attack last week on cattle keepers in Jonglei, in which 103 people, mainly women and children, were killed. Fifteen SPLA soldiers who were traveling with the cattle herders were also killed in the attack, which has been blamed on rebels led by Yau Yau.

Yau Yau first took up arms against Juba after he failed to win a parliamentary seat in the 2010 general elections, which he said were rigged.

In 2011 he accepted Kiir's offer of amnesty and returned to Juba where he was promoted to the rank of general in the SPLA.

But last year, he resumed his rebellion against Juba.

Juba has accused Khartoum of backing Yau Yau's rebellion -- accusations that Sudan has repeatedly denied.

This week, South Sudan spokesman, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said Sudan's support for Yau Yau was aimed at destabilizing South Sudan, and particularly Jonglei, where Juba plans to build a pipeline that would allow crude oil from the landlocked country to transit eastward through Ethiopia to Djibouti for export.

“We have Total oil company that has got rights to exploit oil in that territory [Jonglei] -- a company is ready to go in [but] the Sudan government is not comfortable with this.

"So there are economic-strategic reasons why the Sudan government does not want any stability in that area,” Marial said.

South Sudan took control of most of the oil-producing territory when it seceded from Sudan in July 2011. 

A dispute over how much Juba should pay to Khartoum to transport South Sudanese crude oil through Sudanese territory and pipelines led to a shut down in oil production, the biggest source of revenue for the south, early last year.

The dispute has left South Sudan looking for alternative ways to transport its crude to export terminals, including a possible route from Jonglei state through Ethiopia to the port of Djibouti.