JUBA, Sudan, Aug 5, 2005 (AP) — The son of the late southern Sudanese leader John Garang struggled to look to the future, as workers hurried to finish his father’s tomb of granite and mud brick in time for Saturday’s state funeral.
"It’s difficult to find the words," Chol Garang said Friday of his father’s death only three weeks after he was sworn in as vice president, part of a unity government established under a peace deal ending 22 years of war between the Arab Muslim-dominated government and rebels in the African Christian and animist south.
"This was his life’s work for 22 years, so to actually be sworn in and then to die," the son paused with emotion. "He died a free man. He died in his own country."
John Garang’s July 30 death in a helicopter crash in southern Sudan sparked fighting across the country between southerners, suspicious the government had a hand in his death, and northerners. More than 130 people were killed in riots in Khartoum, the capital, and Juba and Malakal in the south, according to the Sudanese Red Crescent.
The Sudanese government and Garang’s rebel movement say the helicopter crash was an accident, but an investigation is planned.
In Khartoum, which saw the worst of the violence, Gov. Abdel Halim al-Mutafi said security had been restored Friday and said the rioting was not spontaneous but orchestrated, including by youth leaders of Garang Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.
"The SPLM did not organize anything," said Philip Jaba, an SPLM member who worked in Garang’s office. "The riots were random. We don’t have anything to gain from it. If anything we are the ones who tried to calm it."
The Khartoum governor, though, praised Garang’s widow and top SPLM leaders for immediately appealing for calm after the news of Garang’s death spread.
"We have good partners in the peace process who are doing a good job of calming their people," al-Mutafi said. "We’re working hand in hand and we should not let a few criminals and young people destroy what we have worked for."
He worried, though, that Khartoum residents, who include northerners and southerners, would have a hard time trusting each other again.
He said the government was distributing US$1 million worth of food to the camps for displaced southerners on the edge of Khartoum because many frightened residents were not coming into the capital for work.
Al-Mutafi later met with a delegation of southern political and religious leaders, who echoed his calls for calm and unity. The group then visited the family of a man who had been beaten to death in the rioting.
Al-Mutafi said officials, including the president, also had met with Muslim leaders in the past week to urge them to appeal for calm.
The fighting underlined the fragility of the peace deal struck in January. John Garang’s leadership had been seen as essential to making the agreement work.
The accord provided for sharing of power and wealth with southerners. In six years, southerners are to have a chance to vote on secession. John Garang had argued for greater autonomy for the south, not independence, though other southern leaders wanted more. Without John Garang, northerners who reject independence for the south may find it difficult to persuade southerners to stay.
Juba was calm Friday. Women cooked red beans, okra and sorghum porridge in large aluminum pots to feed the thousands expected at the funeral.
Mourners from surrounding villages were already gathering Friday. The grounds of Juba’s All Saints Cathedral, where Saturday’s proceedings will begin with a multidenominational service, were expected to be filled Friday night in keeping with the tradition of spending the night with the dead before burial. A choir rehearsed in the cathedral Friday.
After his death, John Garang’s body was first taken to New Site, a remote camp of his Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. Thursday, the body began a journey by plane from town to town in southern Sudan, allowing people to pay last respects. The body was to arrive in Juba later Friday.
Chol Garang, a fine arts student at Britain’s Kent University and one of six Garang children, broke ground Thursday for his father’s grave on a hilltop next to the Provincial Legislative Assembly, predecessor of the legislature for the autonomous southern zone over which Garang was to have been president. Traditional chiefs first blessed the site by sacrificing a white bull, then reading out the names of ancestors.
Carpenters and welders were working around the clock trying to finish the tomb, a one-story structure with a star-shaped chamber over the grave representing the "guiding star" in the SPLM flag. The entrance hall symbolizes all of Sudan and the exit hall the new Sudan John Garang promised would come with peace, said the project’s chief engineer, Alikaya Aligo Samson.
The site was chosen because it "is the highest point in Juba ... so that the vision for the new Sudan can start in the south," Samson said.
John Garang’s family brought the bed he slept in while a rebel leader to be buried with him, said cathedral provost Frasier Yugu.
Chol Garang was in neighboring Kenya when he heard the news of his father’s death, and flew immediately to New Site. Chol Garang said he had been despairing until he joined his mother, Rebecca de Mabior, a leader in his Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, at New Site.
"She was very strong and gave me confidence," Chol Garang said.
"It is still a shock. It seems like a bad dream and that when I wake up I will see him. But all I find are people weeping."