Who Is Salva Kiir Mayardit?
Salva Kiir Mayardit was born on 20 August 1951, in a small village called Akuac, in Awan Chan Nyal area of the then Gogrial District, the former Bhar el Ghazal Province of south Sudan. Through his participation in two liberation struggles, his education was disrupted. In a enduring struggle fighting for the freedom and dignity for his people, he now leads the independent nation of South Sudan.
General Salva Kiir was one of the top Southern Sudanese rebel leaders who in 2011 became the first President of the newly independent country of South Sudan. He had previously served as the President of the semiautonomous region of southern Sudan, while simultaneously holding the position of the first vice president in the Sudanese national government between (2005-2011), and he has held the chair of the ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) since 2005.
President Salva Kiir, a devout Catholic, was born into a modest family of Kuethpiny (Mayardit) Thiik in Payum sub-clan of the Rek section of the Dinka Tribe, in the Bhar el Ghazal Region of the then Southern Sudan. In the 1960s, during the first (1955-72) of Sudan’s two devastating civil wars, he joined the Anya Nya, a southern separatist movement, in the fight against the northern-based Sudanese government. After the fighting ended, he underwent different courses where he was endorsed to Captain.
When the hostilities resumed in 1983, Salva Kiir and others, including Lt. Col. Francis Ngor Ngong Thiek (Ngor Makiec), 1st Lt Alfred Ajoung Makuer, and Sgt. Deng Garang Beny defected from the Sudanese army stationed in Malakal. Along with Col. Dr. John Garang, Major Kerbino Kuanyin Bol and Major William Nyuon Bany of Battalion 105 and 104 (stationed in Bor and Ayud) Kiir helped form the Sudan Peoplee’s Liberation Movement (SPLM/A), which would become the main southern rebel group fighting against the northern-based government. Major Arok Thon Arok later joined them and they formed the then SPLM/A Politico-Military High Command, the supreme body of the movement that was later prolonged to reflect regional and ethnic balance.
In the SPLA, Salva Kiir was one of Dr. Garang’s top deputies and ultimately held the position of commander and deputy to the SPLA Command Council; he also held the portfolio for domestic and foreign affairs/intelligence. When divisions within the SPLM and SPLA surfaced in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Kiir was a vital conciliator and handled negotiations between disagreeing factions. He was also an important participant in negotiations with the northern government, which ultimately led to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended Sudan’s second civil war.
According to the terms of the CPA, the semiautonomous region of southern Sudan was established in 2005. Dr. John Garang became the President of the autonomous region as well as the Vice President of Sudan. After his unexpected death later that month, Kiir succeeded him in both positions. Prior to the 2010 national and regional elections, there was much speculation on whether Kiir would choose to run for president of the country or president of the region; he chose the latter. Kiir received 93% of the vote to continue serving as southern Sudan’s president, he also continued in his capacity of first vice president of the national government, in fulfilment to the requirements of the CPA.
Another provision of the CPA was that a referendum would be held on whether southern Sudan should remain part of Sudan or become independent country. The southern Sudanese people voted in January 2011, with the results overwhelmingly in favour of independence. Upon the south’s secession on July 9, 2011, Kiir became the first president of an independent South Sudan.
First Term as President
As the first ever president of the newly independent country unfolded, His excellency President Salva Kiir was faced with many challenges, everything was to be built from scratch. This daunting task included forming institutes, creating the much-needed infrastructure to support the newest nation in the world, dealing with food insecurities, and handling the influx of refugees returning after decades of war.
In addition, President Kiir also had to deal with lingering skirmishes between the SPLA and other southern rebel groups and escalating ethnic violence within the country as we well as navigate South Sudan’s precarious relationship with the Sudanese government, particularly with regard to contested borders, which proved to be contentious in the years following independence. President Kiir also faced growing tensions within the ruling SPLM, signs of which were evident throughout 2013 and culminated in an incident on December 15, which was a coup attempt by his former vice president and SPLM rival, Dr. Riek Machar Teny. The failed coup attempt led to a conflict that was partially resolved through a peace agreement in august 2015.
Some progress in ending the civil conflict appeared to have been made in April 2016 when, after much delay, the transitional government, outlined in the peace agreement, was finally recognized. It included the return of Machar to the government, in the position of first vice president. A part of the agreement stipulated that Riek Machar would return to Juba with an armed protection force of 1,500 soldiers. This arrangement fell apart in July 2016 when the opposing forces clashed at the Presidential Palace during a meeting between President Kiir and the first vice president, Riek Machar. This led to the resumption of the conflict which has now been put to an end with the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic South Sudan. This new peace agreement has given hope to the people of South Sudan who yearn for development and peace and stability in their new nation. President Salva Kiir is committed to implementing this peace agreement in letter and spirit.
Learn More About: First Lady of the Republic of South Sudan