Dr. John Garang: The African Pharaoh

Published on 2nd August 2005

Born in 1945, Dr. Garang holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics from Iowa State University.  He taught in Hiriga secondary school in Nyeri and Lectured in Dar es Salam. He was the founder member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).   As a commander in chief of the Sudan people’s Liberation Army, he led a rebellion against the Northern Islamists government to oppose the attempts by Khartoum to build a monolithic Arab Islamic state with the exclusion of other Sudan diversity. He was central to the Southerners’ fight for Autonomy where Sudan lost many lives, resources and opportunities. On January 9, 2005 he signed a comprehensive peace Agreement (CPA) a document that defines Sudan’s future political relaxation of the rules. On the occasion of the peace accord said, “This peace agreement will change the Sudan for ever.  Sudan cannot and will never be the same again as this peace agreement will engulf the country in democratic and fundamental transformations instead of wars as it has always been.”

On July 9th 2005 he took an oath that promised freedom for Sudanese people and brought an end to the state of emergency that has been in place since 1989. He was named New Sudan First Vice president. The position he held was the 1st for a Southern Sudan and Christian to hold in a largely Islamist government since independence.  He concluded the agreement leading to formation of a unitary government awaiting a referendum in the next six years to decide whether or not the South should become an independent state.

Dr. Garang was involved in a military helicopter crash on Saturday night July 30, 2005, on his way from Uganda. Dr. John Garang passed on aged 60, he is survived by the widow Rebecca Nyandeng and six children. In our respect to his efforts to facilitate Peace in Sudan; we reproduce below part of the speech he delivered during the signing of the Sudan Peace Deal (January 9, 2005).

Move forward with the momentum of 5,000 years.

My presentation, our presentation in the SPLM is that we, the Sudanese, are indeed a historical people and that the new Sudan has an anchor in history. If we cannot find an anchor in history, then we either create one or dissolve the union peacefully. Sometimes it is necessary to go back in order to gain momentum in order to go forward. President Museveni called it something in his language. That is why you see sheep, you see rams moving backward first when they fight. They gain momentum before they lock horns. Recently, in southeast Asia, it was noticed that the tragedy of the earthquake and the tsunamis. First, the sea receded back, and then came forward with devastating force.

We very much need to do this exercise in the Sudan. To go back thousands of years so as to rediscover ourselves. Gain momentum and then move forward with the momentum of 5,000 years to propel ourselves and snatch ourselves into history once again. And we have a very long history indeed. Peoples and kingdoms have lived, thrived and disappeared in the geographical area that constitutes the present modern Sudan.

Many people will be surprised that in the Bible, in the Old Testament, the Sudan was part of the Garden of Eden, where it is stated in Genesis Chapter 2, Verse 8 to 14, that the Garden of Eden was watered by four rivers. One of them is the White Nile, it is Pessian in the Bible. The one is the Gihon and there is a Gihon Hotel in Addis Ababa. It is the Blue Nile. And to the east by the Tigris and Euphrates. So the Garden of Eden was not a small vegetable garden. It was a vast piece of territory. My own village happens to be just east of the Nile. So I fall in the Garden of Eden. It will surprise many of you that the Prophet Moses was probably married to a Sudanese named Siphorah, as narrated in the book of Numbers.

From the Biblical days, we move to the ancient Sudanese kingdoms of Awach, of Ritat, of Anu, of Maida, that are believed to be connected with the present day Dinka, Shiluk, Nuer, other Nilotic tribes and the peoples of central and western Sudan. And at the corridors of history we move to the Kingdom of Merowe [Arabic Marawi] that bequeathed an iron civilization to the rest of Africa. Merhawi got transformed into the Christian kingdoms of Nubia. Then followed the spread of Islam and Arab migrations into the Sudan and subsequent collapse of the last Nubian Christian kingdoms of Makuria, Alawa and Soba in 1504, followed by the rise on the etches of the Islamic Kingdom Sinnar, which was founded by the Fuinsh and Shiluk people.

The rest of Sudanese history is familiar to all of us from the Islamic kingdoms of Sinar to the Teko Egyptian occupation, to the first Islamic Mahadisi state, to Anglo-Egyptian condominium to independence in 1956 and the Anyanya movement to 1955 to 1972 to the SPLM/SPLA in 1983, to the second Islamic state in the Sudan of Ingas, with which we negotiated from 1989 and to the comprehensive which we signed today. This is the history of the Sudan and this is how we got here. It has been a long journey of more than 5,000 years to reach Naivasha and Nyayo Stadium today. It is important to know and appreciate where we came from in order to better be able to chart the way forward with the momentum of historical force. That was Sudan in history.

It is important for Africa to learn from history, and exploit modern connectivity to build a better continent for trade.





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