President Salva Kiir Mayardit

Salva Kiir Mayardit

President Salva Kiir Mayardit (born in 1951) is the first and current president of the independent Republic of South Sudan. He will continue to lead South Sudan’s transitional government until elections are held. Prior to the independence of South Sudan, President Kiir was the President of the Government of South Sudan and served as Vice-President to John Garang.

President’s Kiir career in politics was preceded by a military career in which he played a pivotal role in securing the independence of South Sudan. He joined Anyanya, the Rebel military force during the First Sudanese Civil, as a young man in the 1960’s, serving as a low-ranking officer.  Over time he established a reputation for leadership and strategic ability and was eventually promoted to leader of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the primary driver of independence from Sudan.  Throughout his military career, President Kiir always worked towards the goal of complete independence for South Sudan.

“The current situation in our country calls for a national dialogue; it calls for unity and an end to the cycle of violence and atrocities … The process of national dialogue must be seen as credible, genuine and open to all the people of South Sudan.”

Neither President Kiir nor the government of South Sudan itself has a direct role in the National Dialogue. However, Kiir is one of its most enthusiastic supporters. He used his position of President of the Republic to formally call for National Dialogue in December 2016. In subsequent months he galvanized the government to sponsor the inauguration of the National Dialogue’s organizing bodies, solicited support from the international community, and sought out volunteer participation from some of the most important and influential individuals in South Sudan, including Abel Alier, the former Vice President of Sudan, and Francis M. Deng, an influential author and scholar, as well as South Sudan’s first ambassador to the United Nations.

President Salva Kiir with President Barack Obama
President Salva Kiir with President Barack Obama

President Salva Kiir swore in members of the National Dialogue’s organizing body on May 22nd of 2017, shortly thereafter revoking any ownership over the National Dialogue by the Government of South Sudan. President Kiir has continually insisted on the independence and autonomy of the National Dialogue and refused to allow the government to leverage any influence over it.

Though critiqued for initiating the National Dialogue for self-serving political reasons, President Salva Kiir made an effort to embed key principles of inclusivity and transparency while initiating the process.  In appointing the membership of the National Dialogue’s organizing bodies, Kiir was careful to include non-Dinka (Dinka is South Sudan’s predominant ethnic community) as well as other marginalized groups, including women, the Muslim minority, and labor groups. He is also understood to have selected many distinguished civic and intellectual leaders in order to ensure the highest likelihood of the National Dialogue achieving its goals of peace, free and fair elections, and economic development.