Heavily armed Sudanese army troops and tanks lined the dusty streets of Khartoum, Sudan's capital, during the swearing-in of Salva Kiir Mayardit, who vowed to complete the peace process his predecessor, John Garang, worked so hard for.
"I wish to reaffirm my personal commitment as well as that of the SPLM to ensure the opening of political space to all parties and groups, including the media, within the parameters clearly defined in the interim constitution. In addition, and as I have said in Juba last Saturday, comprehensive peace requires a quick resolution to the problems of Darfur and eastern Sudan. I wish to affirm that it is neither my intention to depart from the route tread by John Garang nor to redefine the objectives of the SPLM," he said.
The brief, low-key ceremony contrasted with the massive street celebrations during Mr. Garang's swearing-in a little over a month ago.
Mr. Salva Kiir, longtime second-in-command in the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, was flanked by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Second Vice President Ali Osman Taha. The three of them joined their raised hands in a show of solidarity.
A peace agreement signed in January calls for a unity government to share power and oil wealth evenly between northern and southern Sudanese. It also gives southerners the right to decide whether to stay with Sudan or secede from the north within six years.
Abu Zeid, Sudan's ambassador to the African Union, says many northern Sudanese are wary that Mr. Salva Kiir, who lacks Mr. Garang's stature and charisma, will be unable to make unity attractive to the overwhelmingly secessionist south. "Actually, this has been said by some quarters, but I don't think it's true. Concerning unity, we have decided to respect any kind of democratic process. The south is a big area, and there are so many other people who are advocating peace. On the other hand, there are some people who are also advocating separation. Anyway, we have six years to go to see how things move on," he said.
Mr. Salva Kiir is expected to name southern members to Sudan's interim coalition government that will guide the country through the six-year interim period.
Sudan's coalition government was to be named this week, but the deadline has been pushed back to mid-September.
Sudan was rocked by violence following the death of John Garang, the former rebel leader who became the country's first African vice president. Many southern Sudanese, suspicious of foul play in Mr. Garang's death, went on a rampage in some parts of the country, which prompted swift revenge attacks from northerners.
At least 130 people were killed and hundreds more were injured in three days of clashes.
The helicopter accident in which Mr. Garang perished is being investigated.