Sudan seeks peace post-Garang, riots kill 36
By Katie Nguyen
NEW SITE, Sudan (Reuters) – Grieving southern Sudanese paid
respects to ex-rebel boss John Garang on Tuesday as diplomatic
moves began to ensure the peace deal he struck would hold
despite riots over his death that killed 36 people.
Two senior U.S. envoys were on their way to Sudan to
encourage a smooth transition in Garang’s former rebel Sudan
People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) to new leader Salva Kiir. A
delegation from Khartoum also went south to pay respects.
Garang — who just three weeks ago became Sudan’s
vice-president as part of a January peace accord hailed as a
rare success for the continent — died when a Ugandan
helicopter he was traveling in went down in bad weather at the
There has been no suggestion of foul play.
Fellow ex-fighters, supporters and relatives gathered in
New Site, a small settlement in the remote bush of southern
Sudan, where Garang’s body was laid in a wooden casket with a
Scented charcoal burned in the modest room where the casket
rested. Outside, men in green combat fatigues sat under thorn
trees, some holding rifles.
The SPLM announced five days of mourning starting on
Tuesday and said they would transport the corpse to Juba, also
in the south, for a funeral. The body would not go to Khartoum
for viewing because of the riots, the SPLM said.
Seeking to confound predictions from some of a messy
succession fight, the SPLM moved swiftly on Monday evening to
choose a senior Garang ally, Kiir, to succeed him.
The SPLM expects Kiir to take Garang’s post as first vice
president in the new power-sharing government set up in the
January accord that ended two decades of north-south conflict,
Africa’s longest-running civil war.
Some southerners, who have long complained of
discrimination by the Islamic authorities based in the north,
fear their position may be weakened without Garang.
His death prompted some of them to rampage through the
streets of Khartoum on Monday in some of the worst riots in the
capital in years. Police said at least 36 people were killed.
After a 6 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew overnight, Sudanese armored
vehicles deployed at strategic points around the capital, which
was dotted with burned-out shops and smashed vehicles.
“GARANG’S VISION STILL ALIVE”
The United Nations, the United States and a host of other
international figures and bodies called Garang’s death a great
loss and urged respect for the peace process he began.
The United States dispatched two top diplomats — Assistant
Secretary of State for African Affairs Connie Newman and the
U.S. special envoy to Sudan Roger Winter — to the country.
“The United States is determined to maintain our commitment
to the peace process in Sudan,” President Bush said.
Analysts say Kiir may bring a more collegial style to
southern politics which Garang had long dominated.
“John Garang was a special person, very charismatic and
visionary. He was different from Salva Kiir who is calm,
composed and calculative, so each one has his own traits,” said
Kenya’s Lieutenant-General Lazarus Sumbeiywo Kenyan, who was
the chief mediator in the Sudan peace talks.
“We hope he will be able to fit into the shoes of Dr John
Garang, certainly he is a leader in his own right. He is more
of a politician than a soldier.”
Members of the SPLM and the government in Khartoum –
bitter enemies during the conflict — promised to maintain the
peace agreement Garang helped bring about.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir sent a delegation from
Khartoum, led by Federal Affairs Minister Nafie Ali Nafie, to
New Site on Tuesday morning.
“We want to affirm here that we will work together with the
leadership of the SPLM so that we can implement all the steps,”
Nafie said, standing next to Kiir.
Some southerners, however, fear Garang’s absence could
weaken their hand in governing Africa’s largest country,
divided between an Arabised Muslim north and the south, which
is a mix of African ethnicities with Christians, animists and
The peace deal included giving southerners the right to
vote on secession after a six-year interim period and also
shared out Sudan’s oil wealth between north and south roughly
Garang’s death stunned the region, where Sudan’s neighbors
helped negotiate an end to the civil war. Neighbors Kenya and
Uganda declared three days of mourning.
The conflict in south Sudan began in 1983 when the Islamist
Khartoum government tried to impose sharia Islamic law. Two
million people were killed, mainly by hunger and disease.
Garang’s wife Rebecca added her voice to the pleas for
“This was his day and I accept that God has come to collect
him,” she told Reuters in New Site. “It is just my husband who
has died. His vision is still alive.”
(Additional reporting by Khaled Abdel-Aziz in Khartoum and
Wangui Kanina in Nairobi)