South Sudan's Vice-President Riek Machar is seated in his office, June 30, 2012.
South Sudan's Vice-President Riek Machar is seated in his office, June 30, 2012.

BOR, SOUTH SUDAN - South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar has travelled to Jonglei state to step up Juba’s efforts to end a rebellion led by David Yau Yau, which is suspected of being behind numerous attacks on civilians, including the deadliest cattle raid in two years.

Machar’s visit to Jonglei’s Pibor county, where Yau Yau is based, came after two lawmakers met with the rebel leader and invited him to peace talks with the government.

Last week, Yau Yau told the lawmakers that he would respond to the invitation for peace talks with the government in three days.

Juba also wants to revive a disarmament effort in Pibor that was disrupted when Yau Yau rebelled against the government.

Machar said he went to Jonglei to see if “…we get a new report if Yau Yau has [agreed] to talks … so that the process can be kicked off.”

The move to negotiate an end to the rebellion comes less than two weeks after South Sudan's Deputy Defense Minister Majak D'Agot Atem refused to negotiate with Yau Yau, whom he called a bandit and traitor, and vowed to defeat his rebel movement by "then end of the dry season," which usually runs until May.

"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," Atem told reporters in mid-February.

Yau Yau began his rebellion against Juba in 2010 after failing to win a seat in parliament in the Sudanese general elections. He accepted President Salva Kiir's offer of amnesty following South Sudan's independence in 2011, but re-launched his rebellion in April last year.

Yau Yau’s rebels are accused of being behind attacks on civilians, including a deadly cattle raid jonglei in January  in which more than 100 people, including 15 SPLA soldiers, were killed.

That attack was the deadliest reported in the state since the United Nations said 900 people were killed there in 2011, in violence that officials also linked to cattle rustling.