Who killed one of the best African brains, Dr. John Garang? As we all assume—at least for now—is it the weather? Or is it a result of a conspiracy hedged by those who have interest in getting rid of him? And, supposedly there are conspirators, who are they? Why did they choose this critical time and not before? Inasmuch as I hate conspiracy theory because of its prostitution by the Arab elite, is there no possibility of at least considering it?
These questions and many others will have to wait for Justice Abel Alier’s commission of inquiry into the crash of the Ugandan presidential helicopter on the evening of Saturday July 30, 2005. Any attempt to give answers to these questions would be a mere speculation that is not absolutely helpful to the course of on-going inquiry and ultimately the implementation of the Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). However, the discussion of the aftermath of Dr. John Garang death is necessary for two main reasons: first, the ugly incidents of “Black Monday and Tuesday” of August 1 and 2, 2005; second, the willfully retarded implementation of the CPA.
The consequences of the dramatic and sudden absence of a person in the stature of Dr. John Garang must have been expected by astute and bona fide political minds, as leading to a shock and uncontrollable greave of monumental nature, particularly among the down trodden masses of the South and the marginalized Sudan. The inhumane treatment of the National Islamic Front (NIF) government of these marginalized masses during the twenty-two-year war, whether in the South, Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile, Darfur or Khartoum, is well known and documented, and the birth of peace at the hands of Dr. John and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/SPLA) offered the only hope for them that they would enjoy the fruits of peace. In the mind of the vast marginalized masses, the presence of Dr. Garang during this critical beginning of the implementation of the CPA pointed the road towards that hope because of their love and trust in the person of Dr. Garang’s political intellect and his dominant charismatic personality. For twenty-two years and since 1983, these masses have never known any other Sudanese politician who had eloquently expressed their aspirations like Dr. John Garang did. As such peace lovers around the world expected from the NIF government a responsible handling of the news of the sudden death of Dr. Garang, by putting in place adequate preparations for any eventualities that might culminate in breach of peace, whether in the South or in Khartoum, where more than two million traumatized southerners, Nuba, Furs live as internally displaced persons (IDPs).
After the SPLM/A reached the site of the crash on Sunday July 31, 2005 and recovered the bodies of the helicopter crash victims, including the body of its fallen leader, Dr. Garang, and against the SPLM/A leadership advice, gathered in Nairobi, Kenya and New Site, Southern Sudan, that the announcement of the news of Dr. Garang’s death should be delayed until after adequate security preparations would have been made. Nonetheless, the NIF, in total disregard of that advice, breached the promise it had made to the SPLM/A leadership, and went straight to the NIF state controlled TV/Radio and announced the news, without any preparation as to what might be the fallout from such dramatic and sad news.
In fact, the manner of announcement of the news of death of Dr. John Garang was meant to produce the results we all witnessed on Monday and Tuesday, August 1 and 2. Without a shadow of doubt, the NIF government has been wishing the death of their only nightmare—Dr. John Garang de Mabior—and therefore ignored the advice of the SPLM/A leadership and went ahead to announce the news in the same evening of Sunday 31, 2005. This irresponsible behavior of the NIF and its refusal to take into account the request of the SPLM/A leadership to delay the announcement until necessary security measures have been put in place, further proved right those who suspected the possible gratification in the ranks of the NIF leadership with the news of the death of Dr. Garang.
When the masses reacted in shock and dismay, the result was the so-called “Black Monday and Tuesday”. SPLM offices and leaders who were in Khartoum were caught off guard; there was no time for these offices and leaders to calm down the shocked masses in the outlying areas of Khartoum and in the IDPs camps. The masses must have assumed that the NIF government must have had a hand in the tragic death of Dr. John Garang, and no other reason could reasonably explained the helicopter crash near New Site. Hence, was the so-called “Black Monday”, during which the marginalized masses allegedly went on a rampage, killing, maiming, burning and looting properties of the northerners of whom the vast majority was innocent and had no hand in the events? In Juba and Malakal, the reaction was reportedly the same. If the leadership of the SPLM was given no enough time as it had requested from the NIF government to delay the announcement of the news, so it could have mounted a publicity campaign to prevent those demonstrations or rioting, and consequently the loss of life and property.
Then, why did the NIF government hurry the announcement of the death of Dr Garang, when it knew the probable result would be what we all witnessed on the morning of Monday August 1, 2005? As was reported by the international news media, the NIF behaved in the way it did to trigger the “Black Tuesday”, when northerners rallied to exact revenge on southerners and the act of revenge was even more devastating and disproportionate to the so-called “Black Monday”. The NIF government desired and obtained what it had always wanted to do, to continue to kill and maimed the few southerners in Khartoum. On that Tuesday northerners were called to jihad from the mosques minarets, reminiscent of the old days of genocide and mass killing in the South by the Sudan Armed Forces, the Popular Defense Forces and the deadly Massiriya Murahalin militias.
If the NIF government did not desire and intend the results of “Black Monday and Tuesday”, why did it not heed the advice of the SPLM leadership in Nairobi, Kenya, and New Site, Southern Sudan, and delay the announcement of the death of the leader? This confirms our gut feeling that the NIF government saw an opportunity to jump the gun—the destruction of the CPA. It was adequately forewarned by other events that took place in Khartoum in similar circumstances before the untimely death of the only leader in fifty years that the Sudanese saw in him a glimpse of hope. The NIF government had the reception given to Garang by millions of Sudanese masses on the evening of July 8, 2005, a reception not even the late Pontiff, Pope John-Paul II, ever dreamt during his life. That reception was the subject of almost all the world newswires. The Sudanese masses gave that historic reception to Garang because they had come to believe in Garang as the only leader Sudan had ever produced to the world, and these masses expected and hoped for future deliverance from the scorches of the inept successive Khartoum governments in the past half a century, including the killer NIF government.
The NIF government had the benefit of the events of Khartoum airport rioting by southerners, when the arrival of the plane carrying the veteran southern politician, uncle Clement Mboro, the October Minister of Interior, was delayed without any explanation on December 6, 1964. During those riots, there was loss of life and property in Khartoum that could have been prevented, if the Sir al-Khatim government had explained the late arrival of the plane. The same thing happened in June 1968, when the news of the killing of William Deng by the Sudanese Army between Rumbek and Tonj, spread like a wild fire among southerners in Khartoum. Why then did not the NIF government expect southern reaction to the news of the death of their leader, John Garang, particularly when they had already assumed the possible involvement of the NIF because of its previous attempts on the life of their leader? A government without any hidden agenda would have immediately deployed security forces, especially in the outlying areas of Khartoum, where there is a dense southern population. Instead, there were no security forces to be seen in the streets of Khartoum for the two days of rioting.
During those dark two days, the pro-NIF Arabic media further compounded the events by its inflammatory writings, especially that of al-rayyam, a newspaper owned, issued and edited by Mr. Ali Ismail al-Atabani, an offspring of a settler family. Opinion writers like Dr al-Shoush, Dr. Khalid al-Mubark and Dr. Abdullah Ali Ibrahim were out right racist in their nuances. In fact, the anti-Garang/SPLM/A writings of al-rayyam, the pro-NIF media and these intellectuals had been a phenomenon, even before the death of Garang. The NIF government did not make any attempt to heal the rift, despite its verbal commitment to the CPA.
The other consequence the NIF government desired to bring about was a split in the SPLM/A. It imagined that the absence of Dr John Garang would lead to a power struggle and ultimately a split in the movement. The mentally retarded Ali al-Atabani was audacious enough to even suggest to the SPLM the militia warlord and the illiterate Paulino Matip as a possible replacement of Dr. John Garang, as if the South lacked leaders. The dominant and charismatic role of Dr. Garang in the movement made the northern elite, and particularly the NIF cabal, to believe that without him the movement would never survive a day. In any case, SPLM/A proved them wrong. Kiir Mayardit took up the mantel without a hedge. The transition from Garang’s leadership to Kiir Mayardit was so smooth that the pro-NIF Khartoum media, had to start a new campaign directed against Kiir Mayardit as being the leader of the separatists in the ranks of the SPLM/A. Despite the fact that Mayardit has been denying the separatist tendencies attributed to his person by the Khartoum media, the campaign continued unabated until today. One would have wished Mayardit to ignore this bashing of the separatists in the south, and concentrate on the implementation of the CPA and hold the NIF to account for its irresponsible actions during the crisis.
When the NIF efforts to split the SPLM miserably failed, the pro-NIF media and opinion writers directed their venom towards the northern membership of the movement. Questions were asked as to the future of northerners like Yassir Arman, Dr. Mansour Khalid, Dr. al-Wathig Kameir etc. in the SPLM, as if these responsible nationalist intellectuals were in the SPLM/A because of Dr. John Garang. There is no doubt that these peace-loving intellectuals and sons of Sudan—who have dedicated their lives to the cause of united Sudan on new basis—are in the SPLM for three reasons: first, they have transcended the racial lines in which al-Shoush, Khalid al-Mubark, Abdullah Ali Ibrahim etc. have willingly locked themselves into; second these northern members of the SPLM have gone beyond the northern rhetorics of the racial divide that has split the Sudan into Arabs and non-Arabs for over fifty years; and third, they have been convinced by the SPLM/Dr. John’s eloquent diagnosis of the problem of Sudan, and his endeavors to unite the Sudan under a new political dispensation—the New Sudan. These nationalist northerners have more rights in the SPLM than most of us, southerners, who are not even members of the SPLM and who talk big.
Since the conclusion of the CPA in Nairobi, Kenya, January 9, 2005, the NIF has been dragging its feet in the implementation of the CPA. Not only that, the Pre-Interim period provided under the CPA elapsed without a single achievement, except the drafting of the interim constitution and the swearing in of the presidency on July 9, 2005. All this time, the NIF government has been behaving in a manner that the provisions of the CPA were meant for legal niceties, not obligations requiring implementation on the ground. If Dr. Garang were to return to Khartoum before his fatal trip to Uganda, he would have by now put the NIF cabal under intense pressure towards the implementation of the CPA. Nevertheless, the NIF would be committing a terrible mistake if it miscalculates the resolve of Kiir Mayardit in pursuing the same path charted by our fallen Hero, Dr Garang de Mabior. Serious commitments made by the parties under the CPA remained unimplemented until today. For instance, the creation and deployment of the Joint /Integrated Units (JIUs) should have been completed by this time. Further, the redeployment of the remaining Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and its auxiliary, the PDF, to the north of 1/1/1956 North/South border is far behind the agreed schedule.
Again, the CPA implementation should have brought about a peaceful transformation of the theocratic totalitarian rule of the NIF into a vibrant multiparty democracy, where the respect of the rule of law, fundamental rights, human rights, the independence of the judiciary and the respect of different opinions should have been realized by this time. The Interim Constitution provides for all these rights, but the NIF government still behaves in a manner as if the CPA and the constitution do not exist. Detainees before the promulgation of the constitution have not been released; arbitrary arrest continues unabated; and the notorious state security apparatuses run by Nafie Ali Nafie and Salah Gosh remain in place. If death did not give time to our fallen Hero, Dr. Garang, it is about time for Kiir Mayardit to see that the constitution is respected in the north as well as it is being observed in the South. I do not believe that Garang or Kiir Mayardit has prisoners of conscience in Rumbek or Juba as al-Bashir or Ali Osman Taha has them in the North.
I do not believe for a minute that the NIF wants change; such a change has to be forced on it. And there is no other political entity that holds a potent weapon (CPA) against the NIF, except the SPLM/A. The new leadership of the SPLM/A should work for the implementation of the rights provided under the interim constitution and the CPA, because they are owed to the Sudanese people, irrrespective whether they are southerners or northerners. The SPLM has the world opinion and the Sudanese people behind it. The untimely death of Dr. John Garang has reinforced the NIF’s belief in retaining power and its old ways. The SPLM should make it clear to al-Bashir/Taha clique that it cannot be business as usual, and the SPLM is not ready to be absorbed in the NIF power structures. This will test the NIF intentions whether it wants the unity of the Sudan, or the separation of the North, as its separatist membership, led by al-Bashir’s uncle, al-Tayib Mustafa
Although the current on-going dispute over the Ministry of Energy is a proof that the NIF cabal does not want to share power with the Sudanese people, nor does it want honestly to implement the CPA, as well. The insistence of the NIF not to give up the portfolio of energy is the desire to cover up its corrupt Islamic system and its desire to continue siphoning off the petroleum income into private accounts of its leadership. SPLM/A should not be seen as looking for a share in power only, but it is in there to bring the desired change. SPLM should work hard to include Mawlana al-Mirghani in the government, even the forging of future alliance with him for the next elections. There is no doubt, that al-Turabi/al-Sadig/ al/Bashir parties will form an alliance for the next elections. Equally, there is no doubt that SPLM/DUP/ the rest of the Sudan alliance can defeat the theocratic alliance of Umma/NC/PNC