South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has signed a decree creating a special administrative area in Jonglei state's Pibor County, giving a degree of self-rule to the region, which residents say has long been marginalized.
The decree, which was read out on state television on Thursday evening, follows an agreement signed in May between the government and South Sudan Democratic Army/Movement Cobra Faction, led by David Yau Yau.
State officials and Pibor County residents said they were hopeful that the new status will help to improve the delivery of basic services and spur development in Pibor.
"Resources will go directly to Pibor," Jonglei State Information Minister Judi Jonglei Boyoris, said.
"This will create more opportunities, more positions. For example, there will be six commissioners and this will help in terms of security in Jonglei state," he said.
Boyoris said that the security situation in Pibor, which was wracked by violence less than a year ago, has improved markedly since Yau Yau agreed to a ceasefire in January and then signed the deal with the government in May.
"We saw no insecurity in the area since that time," Boyoris said.
Pibor was the epicenter of a rebellion led by Yau Yau for the past few years. In an interview with South Sudan in Focus in May last year, Yau Yau said he was fighting for Pibor to be made a separate state for ethnic minorities who are deprived of their rights.
Keeping Jonglei united
Residents of Pibor praised Thursday's presidential action, saying it has helped keep Jonglei state united and was likely to spur much-needed development in Pibor.
"The development will come through construction of roads... from Ethiopia to Pochalla and from Dimo to Boma, and that road will also link Jonglei state to Juba," resident Ogato Cham said, describing many parts of Pibor as "backward and marginalized."
David Ibon, a member of the Murle ethnic minority, said, "We have been marginalized for a long time and I believe it is the right time to focus on development."
"I think it is one step toward peace and unity," he added.
Yau Yau is widely expected to be the administrator of the newly created Greater Pibor Administrative region, which will consist of Pibor and most of Pochalla county and is backed by a development fund managed by the presidency.