BOR, SOUTH SUDAN— Officials in Jonglei state expressed hope Wednesday that proposed talks between local leaders of the Murle community and rebel leader David Yau Yau will be the key to getting Yau Yau to lay down arms and hold peace talks with the government.
Ismail Konyi, a leader of the Murle in Jonglei, believes he might be able to convince Yau Yau, who is also a Murle, to end his rebellion against the government in Juba because of their shared ethnicity.
Murle community leaders have previously tried to get Yau Yau to end his rebellion, but have never held face-to-face talks with him.
Jonglei Deputy Governor Hussein Maar Nyuot said he believes the new tactic will work.
“With the involvement of all the intellectuals, and these are the leaders of the Murle community, we believe they will actually bring peace," he said.
"They will work together with the government of the state and the national government. They will make some contacts with David Yau Yau and we hope all these bring peace in Jonglei State."
A team of 15 people will be dispatched to find out where Yau Yau’s headquarters are; the rebel leader is believed to be based near Pibor town.
Murle youth leader Nyany Korok voiced the hope that Yau Yau could be convinced to stop fighting, saying the conflict in Jonglei has deeply impacted everyone.
"The SPLA soldiers who go there, don’t go and fight Yau Yau. They only go there and when they find a civilian going on the street, they shoot him, saying: 'This is Yau Yau.' A woman on the street is Yau Yau, a young child is Yau Yau. So we can’t keep quiet anymore. We must find Yau Yau and get him to accept peace," Korok said.
SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer said the army has never targeted civilians.
Konyi did not say when the talks with Yau Yau would take place, but was confident that they would.
“We are going to meet Yau Yau but I will not tell you tomorrow or the next day. What you should know is that these people are going to meet with Yau Yau," he said.
Yau Yau said last month in an interview with South Sudan in Focus host John Tanza that he is fighting for a separate state for ethnic minorities who are deprived of their rights in South Sudan, and dismissed as "a joke" an offer from the government in Juba to hold peace talks.
Last month, the rebels captured the town of Boma, but government forces quickly recaptured the psychologically important town, which was the first that was captured by the South Sudanese army from the Sudan Armed Forces during the long civil war in once-unified Sudan. The south took control of Boma in 1985 and held the town until the end of the war, in 2005.