Salva Kiir - first Sudan vice president

Salva Kiir has been sworn in as Sudan's first vice president, replacing John Garang who was killed in a helicopter crash just three weeks after taking up the post.

Thursday's ceremony, attended by Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and second vice president Osman Ali Taha, opened with Muslim and Christian prayers at Khartoum's Republican Palace.

Posters of Kiir and his former archfoe, President Omar al-Bashir, were on display in the capital while security has been stepped up to guard against the kind of deadly rioting that rocked the streets after Garang's death.

Kiir has vowed to uphold peace in line with an agreement signed in January that ended a two-decade conflict between north and south, Africa's longest running war in which about two million people had died.

The peace process was interrupted by the death of Garang in a helicopter crash on 30 July, just three weeks after the former southern rebel leader had taken office as vice president under the January accord.

"Despite the fact that we have lost our hero, the man who brought peace, Dr Garang, we will continue with the same vision, with the same objective, and we will implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement," Kiir was quoted as saying by Aljazeera on Wednesday.

Kiir, 54, played a major role in negotiating the early stages of the peace deal which this year ended 21 years of north-south civil war. The deal, signed in January, grants the south a referendum on self-determination after six years.

Analysts say Kiir's stature within the SPLA/M has grown in recent years. Kiir never directly challenged Garang's leadership of the movement, saying he was a soldier not a politician. But he is one of a few SPLA/M leaders who voiced dissent in recent months over Garang's control over decision making.

Observers say Kiir's humble and quiet character could lead to reconciliation with other southern leaders, Reuters informs.

He was appointed SPLA chief of staff in 1999 and had been deputy chairman of the SPLA/M high command since 1997. He was made SPLA/M deputy chief of staff for operations and security in 1986. Garang last month appointed Kiir as vice-chairman for the government of southern Sudan.

Kiir fought for southern rebels against the northern government in Sudan's first north-south civil war, which ended in 1972. He is from the Bahr el-Ghazal region in southern Sudan and like Garang is a member of the Dinka tribe, although from a different clan.

Photo by Aljazeera.

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