It was reported yesterday that negotiators for David Yau Yau’s unnamed rebel movement had signed a ceasefire deal with representatives of South Sudan’s government in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. These direct talks had followed months of talks between the South Sudanese government and intermediaries, first members of Yau Yau’s Murle ethnic group, and then members of the Catholic Church, notably retired Catholic Archbishop Paride Taban. The first reports that a ceasefire agreement might be in the offing came in early January.
The ceasefire will be monitored by a team consisting of Church mediators, UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) personnel, South Sudanese soldiers, and Yau Yau rebels. It is also reportedly only the first step in negotiations with the rebel group. One key remaining demand is the partitioning of Jonglei state, where the insurgency is focused, providing a separate state not just the Murle, both other ethni minorities, the Anyuak, Kachipo, and Jie. Joseph Lilimoi, the spokesman for the rebel negotiating team in Ethiopia said this was the only solution and that the minority populations were unable to live in harmony in Jonglei with the majority Dinka.
The issue of Dinka domination of the political process and government institutions has been becoming a major issue in the country, even for the Dinka themselves. Following a reported coup attempt this past December, President Salva Kiir, a member of the Dinka ethnic group, accused former Vice President Riek Machar, a member of the Nuer ethnic group, of being responsible. Machar denied any knowledge or participation in such activity, and suggested the reported coup might have been staged by the government to help President Kiir consolidate power. Machar, however, subsequently became the face and defacto leader of the resulting Nuer rebellion, which has thrust the country into crisis.
At the end of January, negotiators for these rebels signed a ceasefire agreement with South Sudanese authorities following weeks of talks in Addis Ababa facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an east African economic bloc. Teams from IGAD member nations to monitor the ceasefire began deploying to the country yesterday. The humanitarian situation in the country, where over a half a million have been displaced and an unknown number have been killed, remains fluid.
In addition, the rebels also demanded that those detained following the reported coup attempt be released. This past week, South Sudanese authorities did release some of the detainees, who were immediately deported to Kenya. They however, announced their intention to proceed with treason charges against those not released, as well as individuals not in their custody, including both Riek Machar, and the head of the rebel delegation to the IGAD talks, Taban Deng. What effect this will have on that ceasefire, or even possibly the one with the Yau Yau rebels, remains to be seen.