Kiir: Plane Crash Survivor, Revolutionary Hero and South Sudan President

In December 1993, an ill-fated plane carrying a top Sudan People’s Liberation Army revolutionary leader crashed in Baringo County of Kalenjin area in Kenya.
President Salva Kiir

By Okech Francis

In December 1993, an ill-fated plane carrying a top Sudan People’s Liberation Army revolutionary leader crashed in Baringo County of Kalenjin area in Kenya.

Little was it known of the occupants who were pulled out of the plane by local herdsmen who were nearby when the plane plummeted to the ground.

It was only in April this year, three decades later, when those belongings of the occupants were checked out of curiosity by those who recovered them that it was realized that President Salva Kiir Mayardit was one of the people who survived that crash.

His document along with those belonging of other occupants of the ill-fated plane had been safely kept by the family that also collected armlets from the scene of the accident.

The plane is reported to have plummeted from 25,000 feet above the ground.

A Humble Man                                           

The life story of President Kiir is unique. He is one of the founding fathers of the SPLA and the only one surviving, and fellow comrade in the revolution, Hon Aleu Ayeny Aleu attributes his successful life to humility, both during and after the revolution.

Gen. Aleu Ayieny Aleu during the interview with The Dawn

Aleu explains to The Dawn who President Kiir is, his lifestyle and digs into the story of the plane crash.

According to him, the attributes of President Kiir is simplicity and humility.

“That is his strength, being humble and he doesn’t talk much about himself,” Aleu said.

“He is very forgiving, a situation so many took advantage of, and led to so many blames that he is so kind to people who are looting the country. He will always just slap their hands and maybe remove them,” he said.

“He is a religious person, at a certain stage he joined born again and he is a very good catholic and he has a family.”

Attributes for Survival in Life

“Salva by his humbleness has been able to survive. Most of his colleagues have died, most of them died of bullets, Dr John (Garang) crashed in a helicopter, and I think it was his destiny to be the leader of this country,” Aleu said.

“I am sure if he had so many mistakes, because we killed ourselves a lot in the bush, if he were to be responsible for so many problems we had in the bush, he would not have been alive up to now. It is now that he is president that he can be held accountable for other things that are happening otherwise he was a very good revolutionary. We have nothing we can count on him. From the days of the liberation he was a very clean man,” he said.

“He is among the five members of the high command. He is the only one surviving and I could say also that he is very instrumental in the fact that he was in the team that drafted the famous manifesto of the SPLA. Those who drafted this manifesto, only 2 are alive, himself and Gen. Thoua in Ethiopia.”

1993: Plane Crash in Kenya

“The story of the crash of the plane which Salva was in is long overdue,” Aleu told The Dawn.

“When people see him so frail and not moving well, they have to know he is actually a very strong and brave person. Everybody would have expected him to be in a wheel chair but he is doing his best to remain on his feet. Very few people know his predicament,” he said.

“I think the crush was around 1993 because I was by then a commander in Gogrial area. And when later I was wounded in Kapoeta, I also went to the same hospital that he was treated in by the same doctor through his advice,” Aleu said.

“He was coming from Nairobi on a duty back to the bush. I think he was supposed to come and land in Longucuk and then come by land to the bushes of South Sudan. Unfortunately he had an accident that was around Baringo in Kalenjin land. The plane fell where there were herders herding their cattle and sheep around that area so they rushed in and they saw only two Africans in the plane, the rest were all whites. Those people were kind enough to remove the Africans, himself with his bodyguard Bol Wek Agok. They didn’t know who they were, they were just rescuing Africans. Well, they took some of their personal belongings like the watch and some other things in their pockets.”

President Kiir’s Recuperation

“It was by then Deng Athorbei, the former Minister of Finance, who was running the SPLM office in Nairobi. They hired a helicopter when they heard that the plane crashed. They made an evacuation to Nairobi. I think one of the best bone surgeons in Nairobi, Dr Mulimba, took care of him. He is reported to have broken some bones in his knees, even some nerves were reported to have been damaged and what was very prominent was the collar bone, also broken. He spent some times in the hospital then he was released and recuperated in his house,” Aleu said.

Aleu’s Own Wartime Predicament

Aleu also suffered massive gunshot wounds during the revolution and it was President Kiir who recommended the same doctor to treat him because he was a good orthopedic surgeon.

“After less than a year, I was also wounded in Kapoeta, and a lot of bullets were poured into one arm and shattered my bone. So I was evacuated to ICRC hospital in Longucuk. By then, he himself and Dr John (Garang) and Mario Moro who was running the SPLM office in Nairobi was instructed to evacuate me to Nairobi and he (Kiir) actually advised that I be immediately taken to the same doctor who saved him,” Aleu said.

“Actually the ICRC doctors wanted to amputate my arm and I refused. From there, they evacuated me to this guy. He did a lot of antibiotic irrigation because there was infection and for over 3 months I was under irrigation, then he fixed my arm and that is how I was saved. Salva was the one person who actually advised that I be taken because he did an excellent work with Salva,” he said.

“You could see my hand there wasn’t really any power in it, and when we came in (after success of the revolution), he sent me to America and I got another surgery were they fixed my nerves. They are not mine, they are all from the nerves banks in America. They fixed them and I am able now to use my arm.” 

Insights into President Kiir

“I have known this President since 1964. I got him in second year in Kuajok intermediate with those of Kerubino Kuanyin and Mathok. They were in second year and I was in first year with those of Chief Justice Chan Reec. That was in 1964, then the school closed and we went home then we later joined Anyanya 1,” Aleu said.

“He is not that old. It is the crisis that is making him feel like an old man but we are all age mates. We joined Anyanya 1, came back and then we also went to SPLA.”

Kiir Suffered Yet Remains Strong

“Very few people know that he had such injuries. When people see him moving with sticks, they think maybe that is age or anything but the man is suffering. So it is important that the people of South Sudan know the predicament of the president. He suffered, if I were him, I would have already surrendered myself to a wheel chair,” Aleu said.

“President Roosevelt conducted the Second World War in a wheel chair and he was able to defeat the Germans,” He recalled.

“He (Kiir) had no damage in his head but actually he had so many in the bones. Imagine somebody falling from a plane, he got a lot and lot of bone damage by then and the same doctor who fixed him also fixed me. He has the strength to deliver to the country excellently,” Aleu said.

“The story of Salva must be told to the people of South Sudan. With old age now coming in, that is why you see him like that. The fractures in the bones, that plane crash is actually still with him but he is very capable in leadership and he is ever humble.”


  1. Throughout his suffered life and survived hardly left half of our current President Salva Kiir Mayardit, many of our young people across the globe 🌎 generally and in particularly South Sudan would always learns from him how far he has unexpectedly lived from all their new journeys to the rest of their endeavours. He is one amongst few selfless politicians who have truly survived hardly and finally achieved what he was aiming for. And for these reasons , we will never forget him with his other colleagues after gained our most independent and successfully owned our country South Sudan 🇸🇸 from total cost of struggles.

  2. When the crash was being commemorated those around the president forgot to mention the role played by Deng Athorbei and Dr Justin Yac who sent a helicopter to lift President Kiir from crash site.

  3. I wish President Kiir could write his autobiography while he is still alive. There are a lot of things to learn from him.

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