President Salva Kiir entered South Sudan’s top office in 2011 after decades spent first in the military, and then in politics, reaching a peak when the country gained independence from Sudan.
Salva Kiir, from the Dinka tribe – the largest in South Sudan – was born in 1951 in the Bahr-el-Ghazal region of northwestern South Sudan.
He rose to the leadership of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party and its army, the SPLA, in 2005, only three months after Juba had negotiated a peace deal with the Khartoum government to end one of Africa’s longest civil wars where hundreds of thousands lost their lives and millions were displaced.
The move was made possible after the founding leader, John Garang – a fellow Dinka – died in a helicopter crash.
An independent South Sudan was Kiir’s long cherished dream – far more so than Garang, who favoured greater rights for southerners in a united Sudan.
In 2005, President Kiir said the choice was between either being a “second-class citizen in Sudan or a free person” in your own homeland, as he put in 2005.
The official website of South Sudan’s government compares him to “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”.