Former rebel leader Salva Kiir Mayardiit was sworn in today as the first elected president of the Government of Southern Sudan.  In his swearing-in speech, Kiir, who is a prominent leader of the Sudan People?s Liberation Movement,  promised to work towards developing the region.

?Fellow citizens,? he said, ?today is an end of an era and the beginning of a new phase in the history of Southern Sudan.  By the oath that I have just taken, I shall first and foremost re-dedicate myself to the ideals that inspired our struggle from its inception in early in the early 1980s.?

Kiir also promised to provide peace and security to a region that has been recently threatened by an outbreak of insurgents led by renegade General George Athor Deng?a former SPLA soldier and failed candidate for the governorship of Jonglei State.

Kiir paid tribute to thousands of people who took part in the struggle that led to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended nearly 20 years of civil war between the north and south.

?We lost thousands of heroes and heroines,? he said, ?not least among them was my dear brother Dr. John Garang de Mabior who has been immortalized by his accomplishments and the ultimate sacrifice that he paid in quest for a dignified life for our masses.?

Dr Garang was killed in a helicopter crash five years ago as he travelled back from neighboring Uganda.

Kiir?s swearing-in ceremony was held in a mausoleum dedicated to the late leader.

Salva Kiir, who is also the vice president of Sudan, promised to dedicate revenue proceeds from oil to the development of the rural areas in a policy he called ?taking towns to the villages.?  It?s a policy, he said, that had for years been impeded by war.

?The demands of security,  which is an indispensable prerequisite to keeping the CPA on track,  have deprived us of the financial resources required to expedite the process of translating the goal of taking towns to rural areas into concrete reality,? he noted.

Kiir promised to improve education, which he said was the only way towards development.

?In this day and age, uneducated society is a doomed society?Our new programs of rejuvenation of education in South Sudan shall be accelerated with a view of ensuring free universal basic education to all children,? Kiir said.

Besides improving health and education,  Kiir promised to fight corruption by ensuring that all government officials declare their wealth to the public and are not involved in commercial business.

The inauguration was attended by numerous foreign dignitaries including President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, former Kenyan President Daneil Arap Moi and the First Vice-President of Sudan Osman Taha.

Early next year, voters in Southern Sudan take part in a referendum that wil decide whether the region will gain independence from Sudan.