Monday, August 01, 2005

Sudan: Vice-President John Garang killed in helicopter crash

Dr. John Garang, newly appointed Vice-President of Sudan, has been killed in a helicopter crash near the Sudan-Uganda border on Sunday. According to various media reports the crash occurred while Garang was returning to his home base city New Site in southern Sudan travelling aboard a presidential M-71 helicopter after a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni at his ranch in Rwakitura, southern Uganda. It was reported that as many as 17 bodies have been recovered from the wreckage, six of which were part of John Garang’s party. The SPLM/A leadership, now headed by Garang’s deputy Salva Kiir Mayardit, is urging all Sudanese people to remain calm and stressing that the crash was an accident due to bad weather over the mountainous region of the southern Sudan and northern Ugandan borders. The SPLM has requested from the Ugandan government details from the helicopter crash investigation and information from the helicopter’s flight recorder. Rioters and Sudanese security forces are clashing today in Sudan’s capital Khartoum and in some cities in southern Sudan according to several media reports. There are approximately 4 million Sudanese refugees living in and around Khartoum who were forced away from their land and homes during the 21-year civil war.

The charismatic tough leader of the SPLM was a hero to millions of southern Sudanese people for his relentless fight for justice against the brutal military regimes ruling the country for more than two decades from Khartoum. Born 1945 in the remote Bor district of southern Sudan, Garang was one of the few southern Sudanese young people to receive a secondary school education (in Tanzania) and he went on to study agriculture and economics at Grinnell College and the University of Iowa in the U.S.A. In 1970 Garang turned down a graduate fellowship at University of California - Berkeley to take up arms against the Khartoum regime. The Sudan Mirror published an editorial on Dr. John Garang before his death titled “Sudan’s Garang: From rebel leader to statesman”. Tributes and condolences are pouring in from ordinary citizens and political leaders from around the globe for the late Dr. John Garang.

I am personally very saddened about the news of John Garang’s death and concerned about the absence of any independent investigation into the crash by accredited international aviation accident experts. To make matters worse it wasn’t 2 weeks ago that I was discussing the taking of office by John Garang in Khartoum with a friend of mine here. My friend, a devout Muslim from Senegal, and I rarely agree on global politics and issues and we have especially heated debates (near fistfights) about issues in Africa and the Middle East but on one opinion we were in complete harmony: If John Garang remains in Khartoum the Bashir regime there would kill him. Now he is dead, by an accident, they say.

A very good independent news site to visit in order to keep track of developments surrounding the death of Dr. John Garang and the very fragile peace and power-sharing processes in the Sudan is the Sudan Tribune. Two popular news aggregator blogs on Sudan are Sudan Watch by Ingrid Jones in the U.K. and Sudan: The Passion of the Present based out of the U.S.A. I’m afraid that I could not find good profile info on the SPLM/A’s Salva Kiir Mayardit but I’m certain the folks over at Human Rights Watch (allegedly) know all about this guy. Here is a list of people HRW keeps track of in southern Sudan according to their 581-page 2003 report: Sudan, Oil, and Human Rights. The SPLMToday website has a good backgrounder on the evolution and union between the two main southern Sudan political parties, the SPLM and the SPLA.

UPDATE August 02:

The International Crisis Group has issued a statement of condolence to the people of Sudan and I thought that I would share it with my readers here today. The Brussels-based organization is well known for their excellent reports and briefs on Conflict Analysis and Resolution. I would recommend their special section Crisis in Darfur and all of their reports and briefs on Sudan, including the June 2005 Africa Brief No.26 - ICG/Zogby International Opinion Survey: Do Americans Care About Darfur? I would like to see a report from some credible organization about where the rest of the World's citizens stand nation-by-nation on Darfur but I wouldn't hold my breadth waiting on it. Here is the press statement from the ICG regarding the tragic death of SPLM leader Dr. John Garang:

Brussels, 1 August 2005:
The International Crisis Group offers its condolences to the people of Sudan and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) following the tragic death of First Vice-President and SPLM Chairman Dr John Garang.

Dr Garang has left a legacy of peace, and we hope that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which he negotiated and signed can still take root in Sudan. The SPLM and the Government of Sudan must continue their efforts to implement the agreement in order to fulfil his vision for peace and end the cycle of violent conflict.

The rioting and looting that have followed the announcement of Dr Garang's death threaten to further destabilise the situation if not brought under control. Calm and tolerance must now be promoted by all sides to help salvage this dangerous moment. The international community must continue to strongly support the peace agreement and help the SPLM at this critical time for it.

It is through the continued implementation of the peace agreement and a lasting end to hostility in Sudan that Dr Garang's legacy can best be remembered and honoured.



Emmanuel Deng said...

Allow me to pose here my duped comment about the unfortunate disappearance of our golden leader, Dr. Garang de Mabior

May be reason has it for John Garang to die like that while leaving his room disorganized and in messing for others to gain some petty momentum but little thing I know so far is that, Garang died of ignorance; none of the host Countries, example - in this case Uganda. Regarding low flying planes, it failed to some extent in following some international rules and regulations. A chopper can not cross international boundaries at 5.00pm carrying a person of highly complex responsibilities and expected to cross well from Jerusalem to Gaza. I wondered a lot but Only myth could have better explanation than any person who did it or saw it happening.

Ridiculous enough, no follow up was done by either the Ugandan government as part of diplomatic courtesy nor did any of the Global Intelligence or Global Air Surveillance almost for 24 hours. It stunned every one in South Sudan, Nuba Mountains, Angesna, Darfur and East Sudan and the cold ice of chock and despair filled our hearts and our stomachs; that news terrified anyone who knew Garang and who has his/her strongest empathy on him and the Sudanese in general. Perhaps, the doer could have not done away with his life if he were to know how loaded our leader was.

In short, we lost unexplored package of knowledge and wisdom that will take us time to see as it will time for God to bring him to the Sudanese again. We remained the same people but not same Sudan; Sudan will never be the same again even without Garang; it will change massively though we will miss him each moment- each minutes and each second.

Emmanuel Deng Jogaak

Black River Eagle said...

Thank you Emmanuel for your thoughts on this important subject. The people of Sudan and especially the people that John Garang fought so long and hard to set free from the oppression of murderous despots ruling from Khartoum are reminded every day of the signifigant loss in leadership to the country as a result of his untimely death.

Let us hope that a new generation of leadership emerges that can guide the people of the Sudan to freedom from oppression, offer equal opportunities for prosperity for all Sudanese, and most important of all guide the nation to a future without violence and war amongst yourselves.

Anonymous said...

Does V.P. John Garang have any family? if yes I wish them my soul felt condolences