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John Garang Biography



Lundi 01 Août 2005

John Garang de Mabior (June 23, 1945 - July 30, 2005) was the vice president of Sudan and former leader of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army. A member of the Dinka ethnic group, he was born into a poor family in Wagkulei village, near Bor in the upper Nile region of Sudan.

Garang studied economics at Grinnell College where he received a B.A.. He was known there for his bookishness. Following graduation, Garang studied East African agricultural economics as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow. He later took the commander's course at Fort Benning, Georgia and received a master's degree in agricultural economics and a Ph.D. in economics at Iowa State University, after writing a thesis on the agricultural development of Southern Sudan.

During the 1970s, Garang joined the Sudanese military, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Sudan People's Armed Forces (SPAF). In 1983, he was sent to crush a mutiny in Bor by 500 southern government soldiers who were resisting being rotated to posts in the north. Instead, he started a rebel movement, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which was opposed to military rule and Islamic dominance of the country, and encouraged other army garrisons to mutiny, due to the Islamic law imposed on the country by the government. This mutiny marked the beginning of the Second Sudanese Civil War, which resulted in one and half million deaths over twenty years of conflict. Garang, though he was Christian and most of southern Sudan is non-Muslim (mostly animist), did not focus on the religious aspects of the war.

The SPLA gained the backing of Libya, Uganda and Ethiopia. He and his army controlled a large part of the southern regions of the country, named New Sudan. He claimed his troops' courage comes from "the conviction that we are fighting a just cause. That is something North Sudan and its people don't have." Some suggested materialistic motivations to his rebellion, noting that much of Sudan's oil wealth lies in the south of the country.

Garang refused to participate in the 1985 interim government or 1986 elections, remaining a rebel leader. However, the SPLA and government signed a peace agreement in January 2005. On 9 July 2005, he was sworn in as vice-president, the second most powerful person in the country, following a ceremony in which he and President Omar al-Bashir signed a power-sharing constitution. He also became the administrative head of a southern Sudan with limited autonomy for the six years before a scheduled referendum of possible secession. No Christian or southerner has ever held such a high government post. Commenting after the ceremony, Garang stated, "I congratulate the Sudanese people, this is not my peace or the peace of al-Bashir, it is the peace of the Sudanese people." The deal to end the war in the south is separate from the Darfur conflict in western Sudan.

Garang was reported dead by the United Nations on August 1, 2005, after his helicopter crashed whilst returning from neighbouring Uganda. Sudanese state television initially reported that Garang's craft had landed safely, but Abdel Basset Sabdarat, the country's Information Minister, went on TV hours later to deny the report. Soon afterwards, a statement released by the office of Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir confirmed that a Ugandan presidential plane, instead of a helicopter, crashed into "a mountain range in southern Sudan because of poor visibility and this resulted in the death of Dr. John Garang DeMabior, six of his colleagues and seven other crew members."


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