John Garang, a member of the poor ethnic Dinka tribe, was a political leader, who initially served in the first ‘Sudanese Civil War’. While serving in the Sudanese army, he managed to complete his education, obtaining a PhD in agricultural economics from the 'Iowa State University'. The political leader continued to serve in the army, even after the 'Civil War' had ended. After serving eleven years in the regiment, he conspired against the government and formed a political organization named 'Sudan People's Liberation Army' ('SPLA'), comprising of more than 3000 soldiers. The organization revolted against the Islamic government with the aim of ousting the President Omar al-Bashir. This movement lasted for more than twenty years and came to be known as the 'Second Sudanese Civil War'. The civil war came to a close when the 'Comprehensive Peace Agreement' was signed between the 'SPLA' and President al-Bashir. Within a few months, Garang was declared the Vice-President of the nation of Sudan, and the sole leader of South Sudan. However, the newly appointed Vice-President held his office for less than a month, before a helicopter crash caused his untimely death. Despite being criticised by many, this politician is famous for having envisioned a united nation, named ‘New Sudan’, that would be ruled by representatives of all tribes of the country
Childhood & Early Life
John Garang was born on June 23, 1945, to poor ethnic Dinka parents, in Sudan's Wangulei village. His parents died when he was just ten years old, and was educated at elementary schools in Wau and Rumbek, by a close relative.
At the age of seventeen, in 1962 he had to take part in the first 'Sudanese Civil War', also called the 'Anyanya Rebellion'. With motivation from his leaders, the young man managed to complete his secondary education from Tanzania, while the war still ravaged in his homeland.
Continuing his education on a scholarship, in 1969, he graduated in Economics from 'Grinnell College', in Iowa, USA. A brilliant student, John won a scholarship to the 'University of California', Berkeley.
However, he came back to Tanzania and joined the 'University of Dar es Salaam' to pursue a ‘Thomas J. Watson Fellowship’ in East African Agricultural Economics. At the university, he joined the 'University Students' African Revolutionary Front'.
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After completing his studies in Tanzania, he came back to Sudan, and from 1972-83, he served in the nation's army. This happened after the 'Addis Ababa Agreement' was signed and the civil war came to a halt.
In the course of his servitude he was promoted to the post of a colonel after pursuing the 'Infantry Officers Advanced Course' from Georgia, USA. John also took a break for four years to complete his master’s degree and PhD in agricultural economics, from the 'Iowa State University'.
During this time he became an instructor at a military academy in the district of Wadi Sayedna. He was also employed by the 'Army Head Quarters' in Sudan's capital city Khartoum, for their research department.
The same year, he travelled to Bor, South Sudan, apparently with the aim of consoling soldiers belonging to 'Battalion 105', who refused to be transferred to North Sudan. However, Garang's actual plan was to join these soldiers and abandon the army in order to join the insurgents who were rebelling against the government.
During the attack on Bor, the soldiers left the army, and joined the mutineers in Ethiopia under the leadership of John. Within the next two months the leader had formed the ‘Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement’ (‘SPLA/M’), comprising of more than 3000 agitators.
The 'SPLA/M' revolted against the Islamic government and its military rule, inspiring soldiers from other regiments to protest. From here began the 'Second Sudanese Civil War', which dragged on for more than twenty years. Even though the rebels were non-Muslims, religion wasn't the primary inspiration behind the revolt.
The political leader campaigned for the creation of a region named 'New Sudan', which would be a region marked by unity. He aimed at dethroning President Omar al-Bashir, and establishing a government ruled by representatives of all minority groups. In 1985, the first step towards this goal was taken when 'SPLA/M' attacked Kordofan, a province in central Sudan.
The political organisation took over some southern areas, naming it New Sudan, and was supported by the people of Uganda, Libya, and Ethiopia. However, its struggle for freedom was often characterised by racial discord.
In January 2005, President Omar al-Bashir signed the 'Comprehensive Peace Agreement' ('CPA') with the leader of 'SPLA'. Six months later, Garang was appointed as the first Vice-President of Sudan, and subsequently the President of Southern Sudan.
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Even though the political leader's vision was to see a united nation, he was accused by many of being intolerant of anyone who tried to voice their opinions. Also, many consider that the ideology followed by the 'SPLA' was an unstructured blend of different philosophies, including Christianity and Marxism.
The first Vice-President of Sudan is famous for having formed the ‘Sudan People's Liberation Army’, an association of soldiers who fought for more than twenty years in the second ‘Sudanese Civil War’ of independence. The leader envisioned a united Sudan where people of all religion will be involved in the administration and co-habit peacefully.
Personal Life & Legacy
Garang was married to Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, who is currently serving as the Advisor for the President of The Republic of South Sudan.
On July 30, 2005, John Garang was returning on a Ugandan Mi-172 helicopter, from a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, when the aircraft crashed, killing the Sudanese politician.
The helicopter had been missing for more than a day, and Museveni showed concern over the matter. News reports were flashed that the political leader had landed safely. However, later it was found to be a false report, and his demise was announced to the public.
Though most people claim that the plane crashed owing to bad weather, it is also rumoured that it could be a result of foul play. The politician's body was brought back to New Cush, in South Sudan for his followers to pay homage.
On August 3, the funeral service was held in Juba, where the leader's wife Rebecca promised to carry on his mission.
The famous politician's grave lies in Juba, the capital city of Sudan, where a statue in his honour was also erected in 2011.
President George W. Bush, always advocated this South Sudanese leader, and referred to him as a "partner in peace"