Salva Kiir Mayardit: The Joshua of South Sudan

Posted: February 14, 2016 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Books, Education, Featured Articles, History, PaanLuel Wël, Photos, Simon Yel, Speeches
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Who is President Salva Kiir Mayaardit?

 By PaanLuel Wël & Simon Yel Yel, Juba, South Sudan

President Kiir's speeches after independence

Salva Kiir Mayaardit: The Joshua of South Sudan. Grab your copy at

  1. Birth, Childhood and Education

He was the commanding officer, a captain in charge of the national army, at the Bentiu military garrison, when Chevron discovered oil[1] in Unity state in 1978.

Because he could not be trusted by Khartoum, being a southerner and ex-Anyanya officer, he was immediately transferred to Malakal, and northern troops under northern command were brought in and placed in charge of the newly discovered southern oilfields.

In 1994, he survived[2] a plane crash in Kapenguria, Kenya, when a chartered plane he was travelling in from Wilson Airport, Nairobi, to Nimule fell from over 25,000 feet, killing all passengers including the pilot, except Salva Kiir and his body guard.[3]

He escaped unscathed, with only minor injuries to his arm. As president, he later survived a joint Egyptian-Sudanese assassination plot on his life, according to Wikileak Dossier.[4]

He is the only surviving founding member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). He has been described as the ‘Biblical Joshua’ who led his beleaguered people to the “Promised Land shortly after the rise and fall of Moses.”[5]

His name is President Salva Kiir Mayaardit, the current president of the Republic of South Sudan.

Kiir Kuethpiny Thiik Atem—popularly known as Salva Kiir Mayaardit—was born on the 13th of September, 1951, into a pastoral Dinka family in Akon village of the Awan-Chan Dinka Community, Gogrial District in Warrap state in the Bahr el Ghazal Region of the historical Sudan. He was the eighth of the family’s nine children—six boys and three girls—born to Kuethpiny Thiik Atem of Awan-Chan (Payum clan) and Awiei Rou Wol Tong of Awan-Chan (Payii clan), both of Gogrial Dinka from the REK Dinka community.

According to the 2010 national census, the Rek Dinka community—comprising the Gogrial, Tonj and Aweil Dinka communities— are the largest subgroup in South Sudan, more than even the entire Nuer Community, the second largest ethnic group after the Dinka.

President Kiir’s father, who passed away in 2007, was a humble cattle herder while his mother was a diligent peasant farmer. His father had three wives—Awiei Rou Wol, the first wife, has 9 children; Adut Makuei Piol, the second wife, has 4 children namely, Kon (M), Ayen (F), Ajok (F) and Akook (M) and Awien Akoon Deng, the third wife, has three children namely, Awut (F), Lual (M) and Awan (M).

In order of birth, Salva Kiir’s siblings from his mother’s side are Anok (F), Lual (M), Thiik (M), Aguem (F), Akook (M), Atem (M), Adut (F), Salva Kiir (himself), Ayang (M). Thiik, Adut, Atem and Lual have passed away while the rest are alive. His youngest brother, Ayang, is a veteran of the SPLM/A war while his elder brothers—Lual and Akook—are cattle keepers in the village.

President Kiir is happily married to his wife, Madam Mary Ayen Mayaardit. Ayen’s father, Visali Dimitry, was of Greek origin while her mother, Nyanjok Kuach Aduol, is from the Apuk Dinka community of Gogrial District. Her mother is a cousin to Salva Mathok Gengdit. The two were married in 1980 in Wau while Salva Kiir was a 1st Lt. in the Sudanese army. It was Salva Mathok who handed over Ayen to Salva Kiir, according to Dinka tradition.

President Kiir and Madam Ayen are blessed with seven children—four boys and three girls. The boys are Mayaar, Manute, Lual and Ayang while the girls are Adut, Awiei and Aguem. Adut, the eldest, is married to an Ethiopian businessman, Nardes Gebeyehu Alemneh. Mayaar, the second eldest child, finished his studies in Malaysia after independence, while Manute, who trained in Uganda, is currently working for the national security. The youngest kids—Lual, Ayang and Aguem—are still in school.

Teenage Salva Kiir went to Akon and Kuacjok primary schools in the 1950s, and then Bussere Intermediate School in the 1960s. Before he could finished his studies, the Anyanya One war erupted in 1962, and Khartoum shut down all schools in Southern Sudan. A southern-wide student-led strike, which was triggered by a letter from the legendary South Sudanese freedom fighter Marko Rume,[6] broke out and most student leaders, including the young Salva Kiir, were expelled from their studies.

  1. Joining Anyanya One Movement

In 1967, at the mere age of 16, teenage Salva Kiir decided to join the Anyanya revolutionary movement—a southern separatist movement fighting against the Khartoum-based oppressive regime.

Like his predecessor and longtime comrade in the liberation struggle, Dr. John Garang, who joined the Anyanya One movement in 1962 at the age of 17, Salva Kiir is one of those iconic freedom fighters who left home at very tender age to dedicate the rest of their entire lives to the cause of South Sudanese people.

Subsequent to John Garang, Salva Kiir was trained in the third batch of military officers in 1970 by William Alira Yang’a, the younger brother to Joseph Lagu who is currently in Australia, and by Wani Kong’a, the first governor of the Central Equatoria State. Though still a young boy, President Kiir distinguished himself during the Anyanya One war and was subsequently promoted to the rank of a junior officer by Gen. Joseph Lagu Yang’a, the Anyanya One Supreme Leader.

Kiir's speeches before independence, cover

Salva Kiir Mayaardit: The Joshua of South Sudan. Grab your copy at

On the eve of the Addis Ababa peace agreement in 1972, President Kiir, just like his comrade John Garang, was among the Anyanya One senior military officers who were vehemently opposed to the accord. However, they were overruled and Salva Kiir, like the rest, had to go along and accept integration into the Sudanese army. After Joseph Lagu signed the Addis Ababa Accord with Khartoum, Salva Kiir, then a 21-year-old junior army officer, was absorbed into the national army, along with his army colleagues such as John Garang, Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, William Nyuon, Akuot Atem de Mayen, Ghai Tut and William Abdallah Chuol, among others.

After the formation of the autonomous government of Southern Sudan in Juba under the leadership of Abel Alier Kwai, Salva Kiir was among those ex-Anyanya officers selected by Gen. Joseph Lagu to attend the prestigious Khartoum Military College in the Sudan. Among the most illustrious graduates of Khartoum Military Training College are Gen. Joseph Lagu, Major Arok Thon and President Omar el-Bashir, among others.

Because of his military exploits during the Anyanya One war and his educational qualifications from the famous Khartoum Military College, a rarity at the time, President Kiir rose in military ranking within the national security service to become a captain.

Upon graduation, he was posted as commander of the Bentiu military barrack, in the Western Upper Nile region (Unity state). When oil was discovered in Unity state in 1978, Khartoum became suspicious of the military garrison manned by Salva Kiir’s soldiers, most of whom were ex-Anyanya combatants. He was subsequently transferred to Malakal where he remained as an intelligence officer with the national army until the outbreak of the second civil war in Bor on the 16th May, 1983.

  1. The Underground Movement

During the ten years between the signing of the Addis Ababa Accord in 1972 to the outbreak of the second civil war in 1983, Salva Kiir was a leading member of the Underground Movement, a clandestine group established by the progressive officers of the Anyanya One movement who had been opposed to the Addis Ababa peace agreement. This clandestine organization was first led by Abuur Nhial and then by Albino Akol Akol after Abuur-matuong was killed in 1976.

Later on, John Garang took over the leadership after his arrival from the USA in February 1982.

When John Garang was in the USA, Salva Kiir was constantly in touch with him concerning the security and political developments back home. Their correspondence was facilitated by Major Arok Thon Arok in Khartoum, and by Captain Chagai Atem Biar, the information officer of the Underground Movement, based in Malakal.

Thus, as Salva Kiir was working as a military intelligence officer of the national army in Malakal, he became the eye and ear of the plotting progressive officers in their Underground Movement.

Since his abrupt expulsion from the oilfields in 1978, Salva Kiir had been residing in Malakal until he revolted in May 1983. In Malakal too were numerous other radical members of the Underground Movement such as Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, William Nyuon Bany, Francis Ngor-Makiech, William Abdallah Chuol, Salva Mathok Gengdit, Chagai Atem Biar, etc.

When John Garang returned from the USA in 1982, he could not pay a visit to these leading members of the Underground Movement because he was being monitored by the military intelligence. Kerubino Kuanyin, Francis Ngor and Abdallah Chuol went—on separate trip to avoid alerting the intelligence services—to see Garang in Khartoum where he was teaching at the University of Khartoum.

But then Salva Kiir devised a brilliant scheme[7] to get John Garang to Malakal. He sent an urgent message to John Garang in Khartoum telling him to report to Malakal immediately because his brother was seriously sick and was admitted to the hospital in Malakal. In reality, Garang never had a brother in Malakal, let alone a sick one; but because he understood the coded message, he left for Malakal the following morning.

In Malakal, Garang met with all the members of the clandestine organization who briefed him on the activities of Anyanya Two Movement under Gordon Koang Chol. He was given a detailed briefing on the security and political developments inside Southern Sudan as well as in the whole country.

Once Garang finalized his PhD studies and returned to the country, members of the Underground Movement met in Khartoum and resolved to launch their revolutionary war on 18 August 1983. That date was chosen as a tribute to the Torit Mutiny that erupted on 18 August 1955.

However, political and security events in Bor, where ex-Anyanya soldiers were resisting mass transfer to the North, were getting out of control. Consequently, members of the Underground improvised and launched their revolutionary struggle on May 16th, a war that dragged on for the next two decades with John Garang at the helm until his death in 2005 when Salva Kiir took over the leadership.

  1. The Founding of the SPLM/A

May 26, 1983, marked the day President Kiir revolted against Khartoum’s repressive regime and joined his comrades in the bush. By then, Captain Salva Kiir was a mid-level military intelligence officer in the Sudanese army stationed in Malakal, Southern Sudan. His rebellion came in the wake of the May 16th Bor and May 20th Ayod Uprisings led by Major Kerubino Kuanyin Bol and Major William Nyuon Bany respectively.

Why did it take so long—from May 16th up to May 26th —before Salva Kiir rebelled against Khartoum? It was mainly because he was the one coordinating the security and intelligence of the Underground group. For example, when Khartoum decided to launch a dawn attack on Bor, it was Salva Kiir who passed that message to John Garang in Bor informing them that Khartoum had finally decided to attack Bor. Using that insider information which only an officer in the Sudanese military intelligence could have access to, John Garang and Kerubino Kuanyin were able to strategize and repulse the dawn attack with minimal casualties on their sides.

Secondly, when Khartoum dispatched a battalion from Malakal to take reinforcement to Bor, Salva Kiir passed that crucial message to John Garang and William Nyuon. After the troops arrived in Ayod on their way to Bor, Nyuon lured their officers into a bogus meeting during which they were arrested and killed. Their soldiers were then attacked and scattered, never to reach Bor. Had this battalion reached Bor, the retreating soldiers of 104 and 105 might have been trapped and finished off. The history of liberationary struggle in South Sudan as currently known might have been a different one without Salva Kiir in Malakal.

It was only after John Garang and Kerubino Kuanyin—with their ragtag army—had retreated from Bor and William Nyuon had left Ayod for Ethiopia that Salva Kiir finally revolted from Malakal. With him were members of his family, and his maternal uncle Lt. Col. Francis Ngor, Sergeant Deng Garang Bany, and Atem Garang DeKuek, among numerous others.

Unlike Kerubino Kuanyin in Bor and William Nyuon in Ayod, Salva Kiir and Francis Ngor-Makiech did not have enough troops ready to join them in their rebellion. Consequently, their revolt barely made any impact on the town of Malakal. This point was later used by Kerubino Kuanyin to undermine the promotion of Francis Ngor, accusing him of having failed to capture Malakal and of having not brought any substantial number of soldiers to the Movement.

On 13 June 1983, Salva Kiir arrived at Kur-Mayom, a town at the Ethiopian border, where he caught up with Garang. By that time, Kerubino Kuanyin was still recuperating from his wound in a makeshift hospital outside Maar town in Ajuong village. Major Arok Thon had been arrested in Juba for aiding the escape of John Garang and was serving a prison term in Kober Maximum Prison in Khartoum, and William Nyuon was still making his way to the Ethiopian border.

By the time Salva Kiir arrived at the Ethiopian border in June 1983, there were already about five different, competing camps of the embryonic rebel movement in residence. The first group was the Bilpam camp composed of Anyanya Two elements from Bentiu Nuer under the leadership of Gordon Koang Chol and Vincent Kuany. Anyanya Two came about as a result of the 1975 Mutiny in Akobo in which Col. Abel Chol was killed.

The second group was the Pakedi camp, a student-led revolutionary movement of the South Sudan Patriotic Front (SSPF) formed by progressive Southern Sudanese students from various universities across the Sudan. Among the prominent student leaders of this revolutionary front, who launched their guerilla warfare in 1982 around Boma Post, were Nyachigak Ngachiluk, Pagan Amum Okiech, and Oyai Deng Ajak.

The third group was the Itang camp, which was made up of Anyanya Two elements from the Lou Nuer community under the leadership of Garjiek Wich Ganyjui. The fourth group was the Bukteng camp of the National Action Movement (NAM) under the leadership of Akuot Atem de Mayen, Samuel Ghai Tut and William Abdallah Chuol Deng.

The fifth group was the Adura camp, composed of elements from 104 & 105 under the leadership of John Garang, Kerubino Kuanyin, William Nyuon and Salva Kiir. The sixth group was the Abyei Liberation Front (ALF) led by Mayen Deng Majok, Chol Deng Alaak and Deng Aloor Kuol. The seventh group was the Anyanya Two Bahr el Ghazal group under the leadership of Paul Malong Awan and Anthony Bol Madut.

The last to arrive at the Ethiopian border was a group of veteran Southern politicians under the leadership of Joseph Haworu Oduho and Martin Majier Ghai Ayuel.

When the question of leadership for the inchoate revolutionary movement arose, these eight different groups coalesced and crystallized into four main, competing political and military camps: Adura, Bukteng, Itang and Bilpam. Some of the groups such as the Abyei front and Anyanya Two Bahr el Ghazal group, the Pakedi and the leadership of seasoned Southern politicians, all decided to join up with the Adura camp.

However, when push came to shove in the battle of supremacy for the leadership of the budding rebel movement, the Bilpam and Itang camps decided to be neutral; only the Adura and the Bukteng camps were left to square it off in the battle royal. This is how the Adura camp under the leadership of John Garang, Kerubino Kuanyin, William Nyuon and Salva Kiir defeated the Bukteng camp and won the leadership contest.

Salva Kiir was instrumental in the victory of Adura camp over the Bukteng, not only because he was a leading member of the Underground Movement but more so because of the vital role he played in winning the trust and support of the Abyei front, Anyanya Two Bahr el Ghazal group, the Pakedi and the group of seasoned Southern politicians to support the leadership of John Garang. Without it, Garang would have never been the leader of the revolutionary movement, and possibly, there would have been no SPLM/A and no war for independence—no independent South Sudan today.

  1. The Eye and Ear of the Movement

After the defeat of the Bukteng camp, the victorious Adura camp organized their ragtag army into a formidable revolutionary movement called the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army—the SPLM/A.

The manifesto was launched in July 1983 and the leadership lineup was announced with Salva Kiir as its fourth most powerful leader.

On the military front, the SPLA’s Politico-Military High Command (PMHC) was made up of John Garang, Chairman of the SPLM and C-in-C of the SPLA forces; Kerubino Kuanyin, SPLM Vice Chairman and Deputy C-in-C of the SPLA forces; William Nyuon Bany, SPLM/A’s Chief of General Staff, and Salva Kiir Mayaardit, SPLM/A’s Deputy Chief of General Staff for Security and Operations.

When Arok Thon joined the movement after he was released from prison in 1984, he was appointed to position five as the SPLM/A’s Deputy Chief of General Staff for Logistics and Administration.

On the political front, the SPLM Provisional Executive Committee (PEC) was composed of John Garang (Chairman); Kerubino Kuanyin (Deputy Chairman); Joseph Haworu Oduho (Chairman for the Sub-Committee on Foreign and Political Affairs), and Martin Majier Ghai (Chairman of the Sub-Committee for Administration and Secretary for Legal Affairs).

The five permanent members of the Politico-Military High Command commanded the five new military axes. John Garang commanded Military Axis Number I, with the assistance of Alternate Commanders Martin Manyiel Ayuel, Kuol Manyang Juuk, and Lual Diing Wuol. It was assigned to Kapoeta, Torit, Bor, Juba and some parts of Western Equatoria.

Kerubino Kuanyin Bol commanded Military Axis Number II, with the help of Alternate Commanders John Kulang Puot and Galerio Modi. It was dispatched to Southern Blue Nile to towns such as Kurmuk, Geissana and Damazin areas where hydroelectric power was being produced at Roseiris Dam.

Military Axis Number III was headed by William Nyuon Bany Machar, with the assistance of Alternate Commanders Lam Akol and Gordon Koang Chol. It was given Northern and Eastern Upper Nile, especially the towns of Nasir, Maban, Melut, Renk, Kodok and Malakal.

Military Axis Number IV was led by Salva Kiir Mayardit and was assigned to cover the Southern Upper Nile region, particularly Pochalla, Pibor and some part of Bor. Finally; Arok Thon Arok was tasked with Military Axis Number V that was assigned to target Ayod, Waat, Akobo and Panjak in the Upper Nile region.

During the launching of the SPLA founding battalions, Commander Salva Kiir was put in charge of the third battalion—Tiger. The first battalion, 104 & 105, was given to William Nyuon, second (Jamus) to Kerubino Kuanyin and fourth (Timsah) to Arok Thon Arok.

But above all, Commander Salva Kiir, as the person in charge of security and military intelligence, was the ears and eyes of the movement. He protected the movement from enemies—both from within and from without.

However, some critics have postulated that Salva Kiir was somehow favored and protected by Garang, allegedly because he was not made to fight as much as Kerubino and Nyuon at the inception of the movement. But this was mainly due to the complexity of his assignment—security and intelligence for the entire Movement.

For a guerrilla revolutionary army, that was a daunting task since all military operations and campaigns of the Movement—particularly critical political and military decisions by the Chairman—relied on intelligence gathered and dispatched to the field. And it was up to Salva Kiir to supply that information.

Sometimes, such sensitive information gathered and supplied to the leadership of the SPLM/A by Salva Kiir could be on internal threats—perceived or real. And precisely because of his security and military intelligence portfolio, some of the top political and military leaders of the Movement were detained at the approval and order of the chairman based on the recommendations of the confidential security report.

A good case in point was the arrest and detention of Arok Thon Arok in 1988 at Boma Plateau during a purported hunting trip. Nonetheless, over 90% of senior political and military leaders of the Movement (particularly the progressive officers) were arbitrarily detained by Kerubino, Arok and Nyuon in their spirited campaign against John Garang and Salva Kiir.

  1. The 1991 Nasir Coup

However, there were other critical times when Salva Kiir was distracted from his security and intelligence work. For example, when the Lam-masterminded, Riek-led and Koang-backed 1991 Nasir coup began to take shape, John Garang was gone on an extensive tour of Western Europe and America.

By early 1991, it was already crystal clear to the leadership of the Movement that the Derg regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam that had been mothering the SPLM/A was on the brink of demise. Thus, in an effort to reorient itself from the socialist bloc to the West, the SPLM/A leadership preempted the imminent fall of Mengistu by launching a shuttle diplomacy in which John Garang and James Wani Igga visited Europe, the USA, UK and some African countries.

Thus, in the absence of the Chairman in the field, it fell on the shoulders of Salva Kiir and William Nyuon to organize and oversee the messy retreat of the SPLM/A into Southern Sudan from its Ethiopian bases. It was also during this chaotic repatriation from Ethiopia that the ringleaders of the 1991 Nasir coup were plotting to take over the leadership of the Movement.

Because their conspiracy was already apparent to the leadership, Salva Kiir struggled hard to ensure that war equipment, soldiers and refugees being repatriated from Itang, Panyidu, Bilpam, and Bonga camps were redirected to Eastern Equatoria via Boma and Pochalla; only those who refused to heed the dire warning, especially those who saw a common cause with the conspirators, made it to Nasir.

When Garang and Wani returned from their international trip after three months, it was Salva Kiir who met them in Nairobi, Kenya, to brief the Chairman on the conspiracy being hatched in Nasir by Lam Akol and Riek Machar.

Consequently, the Chairman convened an urgent meeting of the High Command in Torit, then the provisional headquarters of the Movement, to deliberate its fate in the wake of the demise of Mengistu’s regime in Ethiopia. However, the meeting was boycotted by the Nasir coup ringleaders, fearing that it was a trap to detain and arrest them.

On the 28th of August, 1991, Lam Akol and Riek Machar, with the backing of Gordon Koang and Edward Otome, declared a coup in the town of Nasir. In the press statement announced on the BBC, the ringleaders said that they had only removed the three top leaders—John Garang, William Nyuon and Salva Kiir—of the movement, adding that the rest of its leadership, rank and file remained in their respective places.

After the defection of William Nyuon in September 1992, it was Salva Kiir, again, who took up the burden—and challenges—of running a guerrilla movement in serious crisis. He became the vice-chairman and deputy commander-in-chief of the SPLM/A in addition to doubling up as chief of staff of the army on top of his core responsibility of security and military intelligence chief of the Movement.

speeches after independence, cover

Salva Kiir Mayaardit: The Joshua of South Sudan. Grab your copy at

He was also tasked with spearheading SPLM/A’s peace negotiation with Khartoum during the second leg of the Abuja peace talks. As chief negotiator of the Movement, Salva Kiir gave the keynote speech during the opening ceremony of the Abuja peace talks. “The objective of the Movement since it was launched in 1983,” Commander Salva Kiir began, “has always been and continues to be the creation of a New Sudan. This is still our preferred and principled objective—a democratic non-sectarian Sudanese commonality that transcends race, tribe, language and religion.”[8]

He went on, “Since subsequent regimes in Khartoum continue[s] to refuse our vision and as long as their objectives exclude the marginalized peoples, those peoples (the marginalized) will have the right to self-determination.”[9] He then concluded his address with a demand for full independence of Southern Sudan should Khartoum persist on the path of intransigence: “If Khartoum regimes continues with their Islamicization and Arabicization agenda, the South must demand its independence, even if that be achieved after a great deal of bloodshed and loss of life and misery.”[10]

In the aftermath of the 1991 Nasir coup—the dark ages of the SPLM/A—it fell upon the shoulders of John Garang, Salva Kiir and James Wani Igga to steer the Movement from the precipice of total annihilation to the victorious era of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

With the breakdown of the Abuja peace talks, Khartoum launched a multipronged military offensive, dubbed the last battle to annihilate the SPLM/A by Bashir. By 1991 when Lam Akol and Riek Machar declared their farcical coup, the Movement had captured over three-quarter of Southern Sudan and had military bases in both the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile. Just a year after the Nasir Coup, Khartoum had recaptured almost all the major towns controlled by the SPLM/A—only Boma and Nimule remained.

But the resilient revolutionary movement survived the onslaught, under the guardianship of its able and determined, loyal and patriotic leaders—John Garang, Salva Kiir, and James Wani Igga. By 1996, the rejuvenated SPLM/A launched Operation Jungle Storm (OJS) which obliterated the Mujahedeen, recaptured most of the garrison towns from Khartoum, and in the process took the war back to the outskirt of Juba.

By the time of the preliminary peace talks leading up to the CPA, the SPLM/A was on the offensive all over the Equatoria, Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal regions. It had even dispatched the New Sudan Brigades to Eastern Sudan under the leadership of Commanders Pagan Amum, Adam el-Hillu, Yasir Arman, Thomas Cirillo, Augustino Madut etc.

Meanwhile, in Southern Sudan, the war was being led by young, patriotic commanders, among them Kuol Manyang Juuk, Paul Malong Awan, Oyai Deng Ajak, Pieng Deng Kuol, James Hoth Mai, Isaac Mamur Mete, John Koang Nyuon, Bior Ajang Duot, Augustino Jaddalla, Majak Agot Atem, CDR James Koang Chuol, Deng Ajuong, Garang Mabil etc.

  1. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)

By 2001, after the SPLM/A had taken the war initiative from Khartoum and placed Juba under siege, Khartoum, having run out of military options, reluctantly returned to the negotiating table in Kenya under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). And once more, it was Commander Salva Kiir who was dispatched by the SPLM/A leadership to lead the new peace talks with Khartoum.

This was the beginning of the Sudan’s historic Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed on 9 January 2005 by the NCP party of President Bashir and the SPLM/A under the leadership of John Garang in Naivasha, Kenya. The CPA was a landmark event in the troubled history of the Republic of the Sudan that ended the war, guaranteed self-determination for the South Sudanese people and successfully ushered in the independence of the current Republic of South Sudan.

The 2002 Machakos Protocol that enshrined the rights of the South Sudanese to self-determination through an international supervised referendum was negotiated and signed by Commander Salva Kiir Mayaardit. In the Machakos Protocol, the two negotiating parties—namely, the NCP and the SPLM/A—agreed on the following fundamental principle, paving the way for the independence of South Sudan in 2011: “The people of South Sudan have the right to self-determination through a referendum to determine their future status.”[11]

However, after signing the Machakos Protocol on 20 July 2002, Salva Kiir was replaced by John Garang at the insistence of Khartoum who had by then jetted in VP Ali Osman Taha to represent the government at the peace talks. Salva Kiir left for Yei to be in charge of the military affairs just in case Khartoum would resort to war as they have often played cat and mouse games with the South Sudanese people.

In late 2004, on the eve of the conclusion of the CPA, a rift erupted between John Garang and Salva Kiir. It began with a rumor that the SPLM/A leadership had met in Nairobi, Kenya, and resolved to replace Salva Kiir, the vice-chairman and deputy C-in-C, with Commander Nhial Deng Nhial.

Apparently, at the same time, Salva Kiir was complaining that he was not being consulted on matters pertaining the peace talks in Kenya. Salva Kiir felt that the Chairman, who was supposed to be consulting his deputy on a regularly basis, was exclusively relying on the young Turks—Pagan Amum, Nhial Deng, Deng Alor, Yasir Arman etc.

By November 2004, the rift had reached a fever pitch, with Salva Kiir refusing to meet John Garang, fearing arrest. Fortunately, with the hard work of such concerned commanders as Awet Akot, Kuol Manyang, Pieng Deng, Pagan Amum, Malong Awan, Riek Machar, Deng Alor and Malik Agar, a 3-day peace and reconciliation meeting between Salva Kiir and John Garang was arranged and held from November 29th to December 1st, 2004, in Rumbek, Lakes State. According to Salva Kiir, the “crisis was triggered by a lack of communication and by rumormongering by ‘hardliners’ trying to split the Movement. Some had also visited him and encouraged a confrontation.”[12]

Nonetheless, the two leaders were able to iron out their differences amicably in Rumbek. At the conclusion ceremony of the 3-day meeting, Salva Kiir and John Garang embraced each other, with Kiir “promising his allegiance to the Chairman, committing himself to fully support him in the finalization of the peace agreement. A military band started playing, and everyone in the room embraced each other in relief. The movement had survived one of its toughest tests. Salva Kiir had withstood the pressure from ‘hardliners’ within the SPLM/A who wanted him to overthrow Dr. John Garang for their own purposes and exploitations.”[13]

“When telling the story of these dramatic days,” writes Hilde Johnson in 2011, “Salva Kiir underscores that it was never his intention to try to take over the movement—he would rather have died at the hands of his comrades-in-arms than taking over.”[14]

By the time the leadership of the Movement went back to Kenya in January 2005 for the signing ceremony of the CPA, it was a more rejuvenated, united Movement. On the 9th of January, 2005, the two negotiating parties inked the CPA, ending the war in the Sudan.

For the long suffering people of South Sudan, and particularly to the most loyal and steadfast members of the SPLM/A such as Salva Kiir who had never betrayed the Movement, the CPA was but the culmination of all the previous peace accords negotiated, signed but dishonored, between the South Sudanese and the Khartoum regime. It was a fulfillment of the Koka Dam Accord, the Abuja I & II, the Juba Conference, the Torit, Bor and Ayod Mutinies.

It was the final realization and incarnation of the 1972 Addis Ababa Agreement and the fruition of all endeavors by the pioneers of the South Sudanese liberationary struggle. It was the embodiment of South Sudanese hard sacrifices and the manifestation of their resolve to liberate themselves from the Arab-Islamist Khartoum regime.

When John Garang went to Khartoum on the 8th of July, 2005, to be sworn in as the first vice president of the Sudan, it was Commander Salva Kiir who remained behind in Southern Sudan, in charge of political and military affairs of the Movement in the absence of the Chairman, much as he had done when Garang had gone to Kenya to negotiate with Khartoum and sign the CPA.

  1. Assuming the Presidency (2005-2011)

On 27 July 2005, John Garang returned to Rumbek from Khartoum and convened a general meeting of the SPLM National Liberation Council to deliberate on the formation of the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS). The meeting was concluded with “a public rally on Freedom Square in Rumbek. A picture was taken with everyone on stage holding hands with their arms upraised.”[15]

It was during this rally that Chairman Garang publicly anointed his longtime deputy and comrade, Salva Kiir Mayaardit, as his chosen successor. Without mincing words, John Garang told the public that should anything happen to him, Salva Kiir should take over because he had been loyal to the Movement from the founding of the SPLM/A in 1983 to the attainment of the CPA in 2005.

John Garang declared: “‘We have lost all our brothers from the start of the movement. What is left are the two ‘Abeer’ (Abeer is a Dinka expression for orphans). I want you, my people, to take care of Salva Kiir. Because he is the one who has remained with me always, loyally and I entrust you to him.’ Others heard him say even more plainly that should anything happen to himself, Salva Kiir is the one who should take over as SPLM/A leader. People were greatly puzzled by this, and not least [by] the timing of the message.”[16]

Three days later, on July 30th, John Garang was killed in a mysterious helicopter crash on his way to New Site from Uganda. Commander Salva Kiir later confessed that the speech in Rumbek haunted him thereafter, for little did he know that his boss was officially anointing him before death. “Nobody is more pained and chagrined by the loss of Dr. John Garang than myself,”[17] mourned Salva Kiir during Garang’s funeral in Juba on August 6, 2005.

In a crisis meeting convened by the Movement in New Site, South Sudan, after the tragic death of Chairman Garang, the leadership of the SPLM/A unanimously elected Salva Kiir Mayaardit on 2 August 2005. “Indeed, many political analysts and opinion leaders worldwide describe him as the Biblical Joshua who took the mantle of leadership from Moses just as the Israelites were on the verge of entering Canaan and capably established the then fugitives in the Promised Land.”[18]

Reportedly, he was nominated by Commander Kuol Manyang Juuk, seconded by Madam Rebecca Nyandeng Garang and endorsed by all members of the SPLM National Liberation Council as Chairman of the SPLM/A, president of the Government of Southern Sudan in Juba and first vice president of the Sudan in Khartoum.

When Salva Kiir officially succeeded John Garang on 11 August 2005 in Khartoum, he was relatively unknown to the outside world, having lived in the giant shadow of the late charismatic John Garang. “Garang was an intellectual who combined politics with military profession, unlike soft-spoken Kiir, whom associates called a soldier’s soldier, who is more comfortable among troops than among politicians.”[19]

Salva Kiir, “known for his modesty at that time, admitted that his feet were not big enough to fit into his predecessor’s shoes. He said Garang had been built over a long period of time to become what he was at the time of his death and appealed to Southerners to build him too so that he could measure up to Garang’s experience.”[20] Nonetheless, it took little time for Salva Kiir to triumphantly emerge from Garang’s towering shadow to international limelight and domestic acclaim.

Above anything else, especially in comparison to the exceptionally charismatic but tough John Garang, Salva Kiir was highly praised for his humility and calm temperament—having a cool head and being able to resolve disputes amicably—his quiet approach and lack of polarizing rhetoric.

“In contrast to Garang,” writes Dr. Francis Mading Deng, Salva Kiir “is widely believed to be a team leader who would consult broadly before taking a decision. Quiet in mannerism, strikingly deferential, and glowing with dignified humility, he projects a winning personality and invokes more respect than fear.”[21]

According to experts on, and observers of, South Sudanese affairs, “The new leader of [the] former southern Sudanese rebels is a natural consensus-builder more skilled at solving political disputes in the oil-exporting south…However, unlike the man he succeeded at the highest office in South Sudan, Kiir has no personality cult, although he is popular with the citizenry.”[22]

“He’s a pragmatic military man, a commander on the ground, who has the personality to bring people together,” said Kenyan diplomat Bethuel Kiplagat.[23] “He’s a stabilising influence,” said veteran Sudan watcher and aid worker Dan Eiffe. “It’s going to be a different style of leadership. It will be more of a group.”[24]

“I know him as somebody who thinks before he takes a decision, but when he takes a decision, he sticks with it,” said Jan Pronk, the United Nations representative in Sudan. “I know him as somebody who has the respect of all the commanders in the SPLA and who has respect also from the people in Khartoum because he is a strong military commander.”[25]

“The man is no slouch intellectually, and he is a leader,” said Roger Winter, the U.S. special representative to Sudan. “He’s his own man, a successful man, a well-liked man in the movement, he’s got a broad following, he’s got a different set of experiences . . . In spite of the fact that he’s a military man, he’s also got a reputation for being collegial in the way he does business.”[26]

“Those dealing with him are always at ease, more than they used to be in the presence of Garang,” Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani, a former presidential adviser to Bashir, told Al-Wan newspaper in Khaartoum. “Therefore, he is more capable of handling a political action with wisdom and would be able to unify the southerners.”[27]

Although Salva Kiir lacked the chequered diplomatic experience and the exceptional charisma of his predecessor John Garang, writes Amy Assad, an English–Syrian, London-based writer who is an editor at The Majalla, “his strengths however, are his consulting skills, his patience and ability to listen…he is usually met with affectionate cheers when speaking in public—and observers say that it is precisely his quality as a conciliator that has kept the South united.”[28]

Rift Valley Institute Executive Director John Ryle said: “if anyone can unite the south, it is Salva Kiir. He is genial and quiet-spoken, but can be eloquent as a public speaker, and in more than one language.”[29] “The SPLM is likely to be more unified under Salva and the speed with which he was appointed reflects that,” said Horn of Africa expert Alex de Waal. “He is the right man for the job. Bashir would be a fool to do anything other than welcome him.”[30]

Salva Kiir is very “popular among the military wing of the SPLM for his battlefield victories and among the populace for his unambiguous pro-secession stance.”[31] Indeed, for his core supporters, “much of the military campaign successes of the SPLM/A in its separatist struggle to emancipate Sudan’s Christian and traditional religion adherents-dominated South from the Muslim-dominated North is credited to Kiir.”[32]

In April 2010, he was elected president of the Government of Southern Sudan, with a whopping 93% of the popular vote. This was a resounding endorsement of his leadership style and skill in handling the precarious relations with Khartoum regarding the full and timely implementation of the CPA.

His decision in January 2010 not to contest the Sudanese presidency in Khartoum, coupled with the overwhelming margin of his win in April was an unmistakable signal to Khartoum and the international community that Salva Kiir’s priority was secession.

  1. Independence (2011-2013)

On 15 May 2005, John Garang, during a speech at Rumbek Freedom Square, revealed his preferred position on what he wanted the South Sudanese to do during the then forthcoming CPA-mandated referendum:

“I and those who joined me in the bush and fought for more than twenty years have brought to you CPA in a golden plate. Our mission is accomplished. It is now your turn, especially those who did not have a chance to experience bush life. When [the] time comes to vote at referendum, it is your golden choice to determine your fate. Would you like to vote to be second-class citizens in your own country? It is absolutely your choice.”[33]

In October 2010, Salva Kiir, echoing John Garang’s exhortation in Rumbek, told the South Sudanese people that “the upcoming referendum is a choice between being a second-class citizen in your own country, or a free person in your [own] independent state.”[34]

Salva Kiir warned Khartoum: “Critically important is that the referenda take place on time, as stipulated in the CPA. Delay or denial of the right of self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan and Abyei risks dangerous instability. There is without question a real risk of a return to violence on a massive scale if the referenda do not go ahead as scheduled.”[35]

When asked by the media whether he would take things into his own hands and declare unilateral independence if Khartoum proved a stumbling-block to the aspiration of the South Sudanese people, Salva Kiir responded that the Movement “will not declare unilateral independence, but will instead press forward with the vote without the cooperation of Khartoum.”[36]

The Machakos Protocol that Commander Salva Kiir negotiated and signed on 20 July 2002 had guaranteed the right to self-determination for the people of South Sudan besides offering the first priority to “making unity attractive” under a “democratic system of governance taking account of the cultural, ethnic, racial, religious and linguistic diversity and gender equality of the people of the Sudan.”[37]

According to the stipulations of the 2005 CPA, the end of the six-year interim period was going to usher in the plebiscite on South Sudan self-determination in which “there shall be an internationally monitored referendum, organized jointly by the GoS and the SPLM/A, for the people of South Sudan to: confirm the unity of the Sudan by voting to adopt the system of government established under the Peace Agreement; or to vote for secession.”[38]

In January 2011, the long-suffering people of South Sudan went to the polls and overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence from Khartoum, with 98.83% of them preferring secession from the North. The Republic of South Sudan became an independent state on the 9th of July, 2011, with Commander Salva Kiir, the only surviving founder of the SPLM/A, as its first president.

In his inaugural address to the new republic, President Salva Kiir called upon the South Sudanese people “’to forgive, though we shall not forget’ perceived injustices at the hands of the northern Sudanese over the preceding decades and announce a general amnesty for South Sudanese groups that had warred against the SPLM in the past.”[39] His new administration embraced and promoted the “big tent policy” under which all the former militias—armed and supported by Khartoum against the aspiration of the people of South Sudan—were forgiven and integrated into the new government of South Sudan.

Thus, such renegade militia leaders and warlords such as Paulino Matip Nhial, Lam Akol, Riek Machar, Clement Wani Konga, Ismail Konyi and Theophilus Ochang Lotti, who spent a great chunk of their wartime fighting against the people of South Sudan on behalf of Khartoum, were absorbed and promoted to senior positions within the government.

This “position-for-peace-and-stability” policy was necessitated by the need to ensure a smooth implementation of the CPA and the timely conduct of the referendum—the desire to ensure successful secession and political stability in the new republic.

“The South-South dialogue which brought all the different opposition parties in unity with the SPLM and made possible for a successful conduct of referendum and attainment of separation,” said Aleu Majok Aleu, “was attributed to Kiir’s striking humility, stabilizing influence and consensus building ability represented in a series of amnesties to the opposing groups.”[40]

  1. December 15th Crisis

The violent conflict that erupted in Juba on the 15th of December, 2013, was an utter collapse of the 2002 power sharing deal between Riek Machar’s SPDF and the leadership of the historical SPLM/A under John Garang, Salva Kiir and James Wani Igga.

Riek Machar, together with other militia groups armed and supported by Khartoum, had returned to the fold on the eve of the CPA. They were rewarded with important positions in exchange for peace and stability in Southern Sudan to preclude Khartoum from using them as proxies to undermine the CPA and derail the referendum.

The policy was dubbed the “big tent” arrangement and it reached its climax with the 2006 “Juba Declaration” in which militia leader Paulino Matip was appointed deputy commander-in-chief of the national army.

However, it failed spectacularly, with dire consequences for the infant nation. As more and more of the armed militia groups and warlords were integrated into the government and the SPLA, the tent became smaller—and smaller—until friction soon emerged to undermine the very principle underpinning the policy.

Positions became limited and resources to maintain the loyalty of the renegade leaders became stretched and scarce.

Moreover, because of the large rate of absorption and integration of various militia groups, it soon emerged, to the horror of Salva Kiir, that the war veterans within the SPLA were soon outnumbered by former Khartoum militias. On the political front, Riek Machar was openly challenging the president, boasting to the Americans that the national army “is over 70% Nuer.”[41]

Suspicion, mistrust, and simmering conflict surfaced in early 2013. President Kiir’s belated attempt in mid-2013 to equalize the numbers in the army only led to more suspicion and the vitriolic accusation of training a private army to usurp the constitution.

Convinced that his vice president was scheming against him, President Kiir, on 15 April 2013, “withdrew all powers he had delegated to Dr. Machar, and restricted him to only those duties stipulated in the transitional Constitution.”[42] That is, Riek was stripped of “extra powers including chairing Cabinet meetings and his role as government liaison with the United Nations.”[43]

Riek Machar did not take the reprimand lying down. He “issued a veiled warning”[44] to President Kiir “telling him to stand down and vowing to replace him before or after elections due by 2015.[45]” He demanded a transformational change in leadership within the SPLM party: “To avoid authoritarianism and dictatorship, it is better to change. Our time is limited now. I have been serving under Salva Kiir. I do my best serving under him. I think it is time for a change now.”[46] In what he might have regarded as a consolation prize to the president, Riek Machar concluded that he would be more than “happy for Kiir to serve under him as president”[47] of the Republic of South Sudan.

Things came to a head in June 2013 when President Kiir suspended Cabinet Affairs Minister Deng Alor Kuol and Finance Minister Kosti Manibe Ngai on an alleged corruption case and placed Pagan Amum under house arrest. On 24 July 2013, President Kiir dissolved the entire cabinet along with Riek Machar—a drastic escalation of the intra-SPLM political war.

President Kiir’s rivals did not opt to form a new political party because “Whoever controls the SPLM brand controls the politics and the country as well as the resources.”[48] The ex-ministers under the leadership of Pagan Amum, Madam Nyandeng, John Luke and Deng Alor simply “united with Dr. Machar in a desire to regain their ministerial portfolios.”[49]

On December 6th, President Kiir’s political foes convened a press conference at the Dr. John Garang’s Mausoleum in Juba in which they chastised the president for “driving our beloved republic… into chaos and disorder.”[50] Salva Kiir the soldier, they declared, “has not made the transition from military commander to politician – and remains intolerant of dissent.”[51]

However, the allies of the president, led by James Wani Igga, convened their own press conference in which they sardonically dismissed the group conference as a futile work of disgruntled political opportunists. ”Growing disenchantment and international criticism created fertile ground for opportunists masquerading as democrats,”[52] grumbled one of President Kiir’s allies.

One foreign diplomat in Juba overtly warned that “there is a danger that this country that fought so hard for its liberty is going to end up resembling the country it fought against.”[53]

On the evening of December 15th, violence exploded among the presidential guards unit stationed at Gieda military barrack in the heart of Juba. Different narratives emerged about what exactly happened that evening.

For the government, the conflict was triggered by a thwarted coup attempt against the leadership of President Kiir by disgruntled elements under the leadership of Riek Machar.

For the rebels and the G-10, the conflict was deliberately sparked by the government in order to eliminate President Kiir’s party-political opponents from the political arena in the country.

However, for the international community, the firefight among the presidential guards was generated by “heightened paranoia, tribalized political agitations and poisonous rumors that accompanied the political wrangling within the SPLM party.”[54]

“If it was a coup attempt it was the worst organised, worse conceived and worst executed coup ever,” said a diplomatic source in Juba. “There’s a constant battle between chaos and conspiracy in South Sudan. Nine times out of 10, it’s chaos.”[55]

Soon, the international press converged on the country and, “The conflict, which was sparked by fighting in the presidential guard, was quickly framed as an ethnic contest between the Dinka and the Nuer. That fit nicely and conveniently into the good-guy, bad-guy narrative preferred by international media serving global audiences with little time and short attention spans.”[56]

After a 20-month conflict between the rebels and government forces that ended in a military stalemate, a peace deal was brokered by regional leaders and the international community under the auspice of IGAD. With “serious reservations”,[57] President Kiir finally agreed to sign the IGAD compromise peace deal—the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS)—on 26 August 2014, “more than a week after refusing to do so, at a ceremony in the capital Juba attended by African regional leaders.”[58]

The peace agreement awards the position of the first vice president, 33% of the national government, 40% and two governors of Unity and Upper Nile states to the rebels of Riek Machar, and calls for the demilitarization of Juba, among other things. There will be a 30-month transitional government of national unity preceded by a 3-month pre-interim period in which there shall be two separate armies. An internationally-supervised, free and fair general elections will be conducted at the end of the interim period.

The government, however, still maintains that the peace accord was imposed on them. For example, on the 15th of September, 2015, President Kiir, while addressing the nation live on SSTV, characterized the peace agreement as “the most divisive and unprecedented peace deal ever seen in the history of our country and the continent of Africa at large.”[59]

  1. Legacy: Joshua and the Promised Land

President Salva Kiir Mayaardit will go down in the history of South Sudan as the humble boy from a peasant family who, through sheer determination, hand work, and sacrifice, rose to become a leader of an armed revolutionary movement and delivered his long-suffering people from bondage to freedom. In the words of John Garang, he will be remembered as the most loyal, patriotic South Sudanese leader who never betrayed the enduring aspiration of the beloved people of South Sudan.

Although he will be known in history as the leader who brought independence to South Sudan, there are areas where he has come up short. For instance, Abyei, the nine chiefdoms of the Ngok Dinka people that were transferred to the North in 1905, is still occupied by Khartoum, contrary to the stipulation of the 2005 CPA that called for a concurrent referenda in both Abyei and Southern Sudan in January 2011.

speeches before independence, cover

Salva Kiir Mayaardit: The Joshua of South Sudan. Grab your copy at

Moreover, the Republic of South Sudan, which has the moral duty and responsibility to support their struggling brothers and sisters in the Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, Darfur and Eastern Sudan, has been too ambivalent about providing direct material, military and moral support to them. Yet, sons and daughters of the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile fought and died in their tens of thousands, fighting for the SPLM/A in the war of independence of South Sudan.

Inside South Sudan, the government of the liberators has been involved in widespread corruption and wanton mismanagement of national resources. Hardly any development has taken place, a decade after the establishment of the government of Southern Sudan, awash in petrodollars.

Such was the high level of corruption within the government of South Sudan that President Kiir was reduced to lament: “We fought for freedom, justice and equality. Many of our friends died to achieve these objectives. Yet, once we got to power, we forgot what we fought for and began to enrich ourselves at the expense of our people.”[60]

During an emotional speech in Juba at the Governors Forum on 2 October 2008, President Kiir warned: “If the money is eaten by a few, all the rest will go hungry, and a hungry citizen is an angry citizen.”[61] According to an official letter written by the president on 3 May 2012, 75 former and current government officials with close ties to the government have stolen an estimated $4 billion from government coffers.

The combination of rampant corruption and lack of economic development, coupled with tribalism and nepotism, fueled armed rebellions and political instability across the country. Numerous cases of intra-communal violent conflict in Warrap and the Lakes states, cattle rustling, land dispute and inter-tribal wars in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states are widespread.

The infant republic has also been subjected to armed rebellions by George Athor Deng, David Yau Yau Jongkuch, Johnson Olony, Peter Gatdet Yak etc. The current civil war between the armed rebels of Riek Machar and the government is the latest tragedy to befall the young nation.

In terms of foreign policy, President Kiir has established diplomatic relations with Israel, gave oil contracts to China, pursued membership in the East Africa community, and maintains good ties to the West, particularly the USA, Europe and the UK. However, relations with Khartoum has never stabilized since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, mainly over outstanding issues regarding border demarcations, the status of Abyei, security concerns, and a row over oil transit fees.

This simmering tension between Juba and Khartoum has occasionally flared up into open hostilities, as shown by the April 2012 brief war over the oil-rich border town of Panthou/Heglig.

Moreover, the 2015 revelations by the Wikileaks dossier implicated Khartoum in an assassination attempt on the life of President Kiir. Among the thousands of Saudi Arabia diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks on 17 June 2015 was one official letter issued by a former Saudi foreign affairs minister in Riyadh informing the royal palace about “a joint plot by the Egyptian and Sudanese intelligence to assassinate President Kiir.”[62]

According to the Saudi embassy in Khartoum, Egypt’s intelligence apparatus had sent three assassins to the Garden City area in Khartoum with the aim to “formulate a joint plan with the Sudanese intelligence for the elimination and assassination of Kiir and some of his aides.[63]

  1. Conclusion

“If Salva Kiir Mayaardit ever harbored the idea of one day becoming the overall leader of the SPLM/A,” writes Jacob Jiel Akol, Chief Editor of the Gurtong newspaper, in August 2005, “he kept it well to himself. But, judging by his character, it would be safe to assume that such an idea never occurred to him. Carrying out his duty as a soldier and giving practical service to his people has always been paramount.”[64]

However, as fate has had it, the humble, ever-loyal commander who never aspired to become a leader of his party, let alone the entire country, has become the first president of the Republic of South Sudan.

As the only surviving founding member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army, destiny placed upon his sole shoulders the entire hopes and aspiration, duty and responsibility of all past and future generations to deliver the long-fought for independence.

He did. With his trademark “consistency, and a determination to see any commitment through to the end,”[65] the promise of liberation was finally realized and an independent South Sudan born as the newest state of the world and a proud member of the UN.

Although the young Republic of South Sudan is presently mired in a self-inflicted, devastating civil war, there is hardly any doubt that President Salva Kiir Mayaardit “has steadily been built to claim a prime page in the history books of South Sudan as the man who led the country to independence.”[66]


[1] Abel Alier Kwai, Southern Sudan: Too Many Agreements Dishonoured, 1992.

[2] James Wani Igga, Southern Sudan: Battles Fought and the Secrecy of Diplomacy, 2008.

[3] The body guard of President Kiir who survived the plane crash together with him is Bol Wek Agoth, the current chief administrator in the office of the president and former South Sudanese ambassador to Norway

[4] “Sudan denies plan to assassinate President Salva Kiir.” Radio Tamazuj, 22 June 2015.

[5] Tanalee Smith, “Sudan’s Salva Kiir has Scant Experience.” Associated Press, 10 August 2005.

[6] Scopas Poggo, The First Sudanese Civil War: Africans, Arabs, and Israelis in the Southern Sudan, 1955-1972, 2009.

[7] Please see Arop Madut Arop, “Dr. John Garang’s 1987 Heritage Interview With Arop Madut Arop,” in The Genius of Dr. John Garang: Tributes to the Late SPLM/A’s Leader, Dr. John Garang de Mabioor, edited by PaanLuel Wël, 2014.

[8] Please see “Commander Salva Kiir Mayaardit’s Remarks at the Abuja-II Peace Talks, May 1993” in Salva Kiir Mayaardit: The Joshua of South Sudan, edited by PaanLuel Wël and Simon Yel, 2016

[9] Ibid.

[10] Please see “Commander Salva Kiir Mayaardit’s Remarks at the Abuja-II Peace Talks, May 1993” in Salva Kiir Mayaardit: The Joshua of South Sudan, edited by PaanLuel Wël and Simon Yel, 2016

[11] Please see the Machakos Protocol signed by Commander Salva Kiir on the 20th of July, 2002.

[12] Hilde Johnson, Waging Peace in Sudan: The Inside Story of the Negotiations that Ended Africa’s Longest Civil War, 2011.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Hilde Johnson, Waging Peace in Sudan: The Inside Story of the Negotiations that Ended Africa’s Longest Civil War, 2011.

[16] Hilde Johnson, Waging Peace in Sudan: The Inside Story of the Negotiations that Ended Africa’s Longest Civil War, 2011.

[17] Paul Ejime, “Sudan’s Kiir: From Garang’s shadow to international limelight.” PANA, 12 August 2005

[18] Ibid.

[19] Paul Ejime, “Sudan’s Kiir: From Garang’s shadow to international limelight.” PANA, 12 August 2005

[20] Otieno Onyango, “Modest leader lights the path to freedom for Southern Sudanese.” Sudan Mirror, July 2011

[21] Francis Mading Deng, “ Dr. John Garang: In the Shadow of a Giant,” in New Sudan in the Making, 2010

[22] William Maclean, “New SPLM Leader, Commander Salva Kiir, Can Unify South – Experts.” Reuters, 2 August 2005.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Tanalee Smith, “Sudan’s Salva Kiir has scant experience.” Associated Press, 10 August 2005.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Amy Assad, “Shrewd Successor: First President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit.” The Majalla, 29 July 2011.

[29] Ali Sheikholeslami, “Who is Salva Kiir?” Euronews, 15 January 2011.

[30] William Maclean, “New SPLM Leader, Commander Salva Kiir, Can Unify South – Experts.” Reuters, 2 August 2005.

[31] Otieno Onyango, “Modest leader lights the path to freedom for Southern Sudanese.” Sudan Mirror, July 2011

[32] Paul Ejime, “Sudan’s Kiir: From Garang’s shadow to international limelight.” PANA, 12 August 2005

[33] Dr. John Garang’s famous ‘Rumbek Exhortation’ on the eve of the 22nd anniversary of May 16th

[34] Otieno Onyango, “Modest leader lights the path to freedom for Southern Sudanese.” Sudan Mirror, July 2011

[35] Andrew McGregor, “From Guerilla Fighter to Independence Politician: The Story of South Sudan’s Salva Kiir Mayardit.” Jamestown Foundation, 1 December 2010.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Please see the Machakos Protocol signed by Commander Salva Kiir on the 20th of July, 2002.

[38] PaanLuel Wël, “January 9th, 2012: The 7th Anniversary of the CPA between the Government of the Sudan and the SPLM/A.” South Sudan News Agency, 9 January 2012.

[39] Benon Hebert Oluka & Gerald Bareebe, “South Sudan: Salva Kiir Calls for Forgiveness as South Gains Independence.” Ugandan Monitor, 9 July 2011.

[40] Aleu Majok Aleu is a South Sudanese student of Chemical Engineering in Malaysia under the Petronas scholarship

[41] See the separate “Final Report of the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan,” authored by Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, 27 October 2015

[42] “South Sudan’s Kiir withdraws delegated executive powers from VP Machar.” Sudan Tribune, 15 April 2013

[43] Ibid.

[44] Simon Tisdall, “Vice-president’s leadership challenge raises fears of renewed violence in country beset by food shortages and corruption.” The Guardian, 4 July 2013

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid

[48] Daniel Kalinaki, “South Sudan- what you don’t see tells the real story.” The EastAfrican, 25 January 2014

[49] PaanLuel Wël, “Bullet or Ballot: Resolving the Burgeoning Conflict in South Sudan—Part 3.” PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers, 14 February 2014.

[50] December 6th Press Statement from Riek, Pagan and Nyandeng’s Faction.” PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers, 6 December 2013.

[51] Paul Ejime, “Sudan’s Kiir: From Garang’s shadow to international limelight.” PANA, 12 August 2005

[52] David Smith, “South Sudan: the death of a dream.” The Guardian, 20 January 2014

[53] David Smith, “South Sudan: the death of a dream.” The Guardian, 20 January 2014

[54] PaanLuel Wël, “Bullet or Ballot: Resolving the Burgeoning Conflict in South Sudan-Part 3.” PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers, 14 February 2014.

[55] David Smith, “South Sudan: the death of a dream.” The Guardian, 20 January 2014

[56] Daniel Kalinaki, “South Sudan- what you don’t see tells the real story.” The EastAfrican, 27 January 2014

[57] Please see “The Reservations of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan, on the Compromise Peace Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan,” Juba, 26th August 2015.”

[58] “South Sudan president signs peace deal with rebels.” Aljazeera News, 27 August 2015

[59] Please see “President Salva Kiir Mayaardit’s statement to the nation on the implementation process of the signed IGAD-brokered peace deal between the government and the rebels of Riek Machar, September 15, 2015,” in Salva Kiir Mayaardit: The Joshua of South Sudan, edited by PaanLuel Wël and Simon Yel, 2016

[60] Please see “President Kiir’s Letter to the 75 Corrupt Government Officials Who Stole $4 billion, May 2012,” in Salva Kiir Mayaardit: The Joshua of South Sudan, edited by PaanLuel Wël and Simon Yel, 2016

[61] Please see “President Kiir’s Speech at the Governors’ Forum in Juba, October 2008,” in Salva Kiir Mayaardit: The Joshua of South Sudan, edited by PaanLuel Wël and Simon Yel, 2016

[62] “Sudan denies plan to assassinate President Salva Kiir.” Radio Tamazuj, 22 June 2015.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Jacob J. Akol, “With Kiir Mayardit, South Sudan Is In Good Hands.” Gurtong, 16 August 2005.

[65] Tanalee Smith, “Sudan’s Salva Kiir has scant experience.” Associated Press, 10 August 2005

[66] Otieno Onyango, “Modest leader lights the path to freedom for Southern Sudanese.” Sudan Mirror, July 2011


About the Editors

About PaanLuel Wël: PaanLuel Wël, the co-founder and the Executive Director for The Center for Strategic and Governance Studies (C-SAGS), is a South Sudanese national currently residing in Juba, South Sudan, where he works as a Regional Program Development Coordinator for an international NGO. He is the author of “Who Killed Dr. John Garang” and also the editor of the essential speeches and writings of the late SPLM/A leader, Dr. John Garang, published as “The Genius of Dr. John Garang,” vol. 1-3. He graduated with a double major in Economics and Philosophy from The George Washington University, Washington D.C., USA.
About Simon Yel Yel: Simon Yel Yel, the co-founder and Secretary General of The Center for Strategic and Governance Studies (C-SAGS), is a South Sudanese citizen living in Juba, South Sudan. He is an engineer by training, with specialization in oil Exploration and Production from the Institute Technology Petroleum in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia.
  1. Joe says:

    Poor-thinking Joshua!


  2. Owner of Paanluel wel is messing up with people History. This is nonsense. “Kiir Kuethpiny Thiik Atem—popularly known as Salva Kiir Mayaardit—was born on the 13th of September, 1951, into a pastoral Dinka family in Akon village of the Awan-Chan Dinka Community, Gogrial District in Warrap state, Bahr el Ghazal Region of the historical Sudan. He was the eighth of the family’s nine children—six boys and three girls—born to Kuethpiny Thiik Atem of Awan-Chan (Payum clan) and Awiei Rou Wol Tong of Awan-Chan (Payii clan), both of Gogrial Dinka from the REK Dinka community.”


  3. Woi Ngong says:

    You cannot play with people History. Educator have to have an accurate History of people. Who is going to believe on this. t


  4. president Kiir, the true liberator and only permanent survivor of the SPLM/A party even thought he was surrounded by those thugs who have just come from Khartoum government.

    thanks for narrating Paanluelwel and Yel Yel


  5. Atem says:

    history is being skewed to suit the living persons of splm. Karbino was not treated in mar but in Jalle. When karbino was wounded in his arm, Thon Ayii Jok who was a captain in wildlife dept and who fought in bor’ war with Jok Reng Magot, who was a sargent and secretary to 105 under karbino brought karbino kuanyin to a bone specialist person called Awuok Atem Awuok from juet section of jangdor clan. Major Thon Ayii later became the deputy of Salva kiir of tiger and timsah during formation of splm/spla and is the one with kawach makuei, Atem gualdit,erjok akuom who captured pochallah before proceeding to bor and bhar elgazal respectively in 1984. please make proper consultation before putting garbage into public domain. please consult majur nhial or kawac makuei.


  6. Thank you Atem for that info, correction, with detailed people to contact. Our history is yet to be recorded fully, and is therefore susceptible to mistakes and errors. As for the source of Ajuong village and Kerubino, consult Hon. Arop Madut Arop’s 1987 interview with John Garang and also his book.


  7. Atem says:

    Thanks paanluelwel for your courteous response. talk to kawac, majur nhial, salva kiir himself, chagai atem, manyang agook who was corporal in 105. John garang and arop madut can’t mention where karbino was treated because they were not with karbino at the time. Garang himself can’t mention thon ayii because he has a hand in his death. (Garang,thon agoot, kuol M, atem ag and hakim aluong)


  8. Atem says:

    please consult spla/splm original manifesto. it is rich in history. for your information, salva is not the only one among those who formed spla/splm who is still alive today. the people i mentioned above were part and parcel of peoples’ movement. the original manifesto of which i think you have, mentioned the earlier commanders and leaders of political height command. we can authoritatively say salva kiir is the only one still living among the height command original lineup. we can’t say that he is the only one still living among those who form the splm-this is wrong statement.


  9. David says:

    My brother Atem you are right million times Karbino was exactly treated by that person you mention, No doubt about that. they will agree with you later when they find it out.


  10. God de kuei says:

    Mr. Simon Yel, your analysis is in question! Kiirdit has failed the nation, let other people will tell you who was kiir during the movement? Currently, you have seen the messed you have created with your uncle.
    If you think Kiirdit never betray the cause, what was the reason for him to station in Yei in 2004?

    Do you know that he[ KIIR] never captured any district during the movement because failure?

    If your uncle failed to fulfill the mandate for the people of south Sudan when the Nation have billions of Dollars, Do know that he never deliver for life?

    millions of Dollars are being stolen in his office by relatives, and you pretend to build him up.

    Do you know the failure of Joshua in the history of Israel when they rule themselves on tribal basis[ 12 tribes]?


  11. deng says:

    maar/pan ene piol is the headquarter of pakeer. paliau is the headquarter of ajuong. arop madut got it wrong. somebody was trying to skew history.


  12. […] captain in charge of the national army, at the Bentiu military garrison, when Chevron discovered oil[1] in Unity state in […]


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