HOPES for peace in the Sudan faltered following the death at the weekend of one of the peace agreement's chief architects, John Garang. Amid fears of foul play, Southern Sudanese residents of Khartoum rioted upon hearing the news that the former rebel leader had died in an air crash. The SUNA state news agency reports the city is under a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Leaders in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan report rioting in Juba and other southern cities controlled by the Khartoum government, with mobs targeting Arab traders.
The Rev John Chol Daau, a priest of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan serving at the Kukuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya, reports the camps are calm but grief-stricken. Named Vice-President of Sudan following the end of the civil war in January, Col Garang led the predominantly African Christian Sudan People's Liberation Army for 20 years in its war with the Muslim Arab government in Khartoum. Christian suspicions that Col Garang was murdered have sparked fears that the tenuous cease-fire in the North/South civil war that has killed over 2 million might collapse. Suspicious air crashes have killed several African leaders. Mozambique President Samora Michel died in a plane crash in 1986 while Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana's death in a 1994 plane crash triggered that country's genocide. Thirteen died in the crash of the Ugandan Army helicopter carrying Col Garang near territory controlled by Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army. In a statement read to Parliament on August 1, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda stated he had appointed a panel to investigate Garang's death, and had approached a certain foreign government to rule out any form of sabotage or terrorism.
Church leaders in Sudan appealed for calm in the wake of the death. A statement from the New Sudan Council of Churches said that 'dark clouds were billowing' over the country. Christian Solidarity Worldwide called for urgent prayers for Sudan and praised Garang as a visionary leader, who steered the south through just over two decades of war and successfully negotiated peace with North Sudan. CSW released an eyewitness account of the troubles from Khartoum: We saw black, black smoke rising from the city centre. Supporters of the late Dr John Garang [are] smashing everything moving on the roads. The city streets are completely empty ... I do not know how long that will continue, as supporters are mobilising from the outskirts to converge on the centre. Unconfirmed reports say Omdurman is the most affected. ... I believe this will not be the end of story. God knows how it will end.
This is a terrible thing -- Dr. Garang is a great man.