By Deng Bior Deng*
(Gurtong edited and posted)-They refer to him as, “African Icon of visionary leadership” (Dr. Luka Biong, “The Garang I knew”- Sudan tribune, 07-20-2012). But, to me, this may be an exaggeration when we recall President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Patrice Lumumba of Congo (DRC), Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kamusu Banda of Malawi, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, William Deng Nhial, and all the African leaders who fought for African identity, dignity and freedom before South Sudan became independent.
However, yes, from the Sudan point of view, Yasser Arman, (quoted by Dr. Luka in the same article) may be right in describing Garang as a gift to humanity; yet, this humanity needed to have been qualified as of the Sudanese so that it may not be confused with humanity Worldwide where we also need to remember people like Martin Luther King and John F Kennedy who liberated African Americans from the yoke of slavery with their blood.
Sometimes overstatement of facts may underrate facts and therefore, having stated all above, I hope, I will not be seen as being jealous than being humble for the sake of affirming the nobility of our late leader. Truly, John Garang was socially a humane, humorous character in ordinary life; and politically, a South Sudanese with charismatic, witty and cunning personality and, finally, a nationalist who asserted himself very well and by all means in Sudan politics; we missed him.
Martyrs, your blood cemented our national foundation:
We all have memories of our struggle in the 18th and 19th Centuries; as well as the struggle of our forefathers and leaders from whom we inherited our determination for national liberation. We need to recognize all our heroes in this history. In remembering Dr Garang’s vision of new Sudan, other heroes during our struggle had different outlook as to the definition and how to achieve our goal. It may therefore be realistic to state the thoughts of others during the struggle. Such other thoughts, for the sake of writing our true history to our children and the children of our children, are necessary to be recorded because this is the right way we shall have cherished the role played by our late leader, John Garang.
So, as we remember John Garang, we shall pause to recall our great heroes and forefathers: Kon Anok of Aliab Dinka, Prophet Aguek Ngundeng of Jonglei Lou Nuer, Machiek Chol of Jonglei Bor South Dinka , Ajang Duot Bior of Jonglei Twic East Dinka, Aggrey Jaden, Joseph Oduhu, William Deng, Father Saturino, Akuot Atem, Gai Tut ETC. These are but few among many of our first liberation fighters who shed their blood for the Independence of South Sudan.
Under the SPLM, then, as a movement and now as a ruling party, we must remember Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, William Nyuon Bany, Arok Thon Arok, Francis Ngor Maciec; all without which John Garang would have become the leader we rightly adore today. In fact I had thought their feature would have been built behind John Garang as he points at our national flag in our freedom square; and their remains would have been laid to rest around the mausoleum of John Garang as a matter of being “trust and truth worthy” to our liberation.
Moreover, as we sing our National Anthem in dedication to God, we are also thankful to God, than to ourselves, for having John Garang been survived by our leaders in the name of President Salva Kiir Mayardit, Vice President Riek Machar and Dr Lam Akol; all without which the self-determination of the South Sudan would have been achieved. (The Nassir declaration- by Dr Lam, and the minutes of Rumbek meeting which reconciled John Garang with President Salva are references).
The mystery of New Sudan Vision versus South Sudan Independence:
The vision for the unity of the Sudan had been in the books of many South Sudanese since 1947, far before and after the so called independence of the then Sudan. The difference might have been in the language and the way it was articulated; but the idea had remained the same as it was on record of our former leaders in the names of, Bullen Alier, Buth Diu, Deng Teeng, William Deng, Joseph Garang; and lately, John Garang. Here I read John Garang as a student of all those South Sudanese who called for Sudan unity before him.
Having said that, I call this new Sudan vision a mystery because I see there was nothing so especial to relegate and attribute it to John Garang alone in disregard of all others whose call for it was part of the same history.
It is also a mystery to always say that, without this New Sudan vision, as expounded by John Garang, South Sudan would not have been independent, thereby disregarding more than fifty years of our peoples struggle which John Garang, through pressure, recognized at last during the CPA negotiations. In fact it was this New Sudan vision that was about to compromise South Sudan independence had it not been because of our people’s political fight during Nivasha, before and after. Misrepresentation and down play of our people’s will in history is a political fraud which amounts to political hooliganism.
To go a little further, it is also a mystery to always claim that our alliance with parts and traditional political parties of North Sudan was a political strategy and ploy for liberating South Sudan, than their right of self- liberation from marginalization; had this been the case, then, it goes without saying that we were betraying them! Here we consciously or otherwise accuse our late leader of bad faith and dishonesty which could be seen to be a distasteful attribute of a good leader despite the fact that he won the right of popular consultation for people of Southern Kordufan and Southern Blue Nile.
Late Dr John Garang and Joseph Garang were highly educated South Sudanese Nationalists who shared their common ideology in Sudanese politics. They must be praised for the way they intellectually articulated the South Sudan problem as having been a Sudanese problem. What has to be reiterated is that, although their vision of new socialist Sudan was remarkably imposing, it didn’t and wouldn’t work; that is why the separation of the South was the right option for South Sudanese; noting that the separation of the South was and is the right way the two Sudan can peacefully develop and co-exist.
Not yet free, South Sudan:
As they remember their late leader, John Garang, South Sudanese must be asking themselves, are we really free? Notwithstanding all the shortcomings in our country, this is enough a valid question when they hear everyday people being mysteriously pulled out from their houses at night, taken to nowhere under darkness, only to be found tomorrow half-dead if not dead. Insecurity in our Country makes citizens feel they are under occupation; a recipe for eventual civil war if this situation is not corrected. Without change in the way we are governing ourselves, the legacy of John Garang is abused.
*Deng Bior Deng is a South Sudanese. He lives in Juba and is currently on visit in the US. He can be reached at, (email@example.com)