Today in History, John Garang, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Leader who fought for over 20 years only to serve as the Vice President of Sudan and the leader of the autonomous southern region for 21 days before dying in a helicopter crash near the border of Kenya, Uganda and Sudan on 30th July 2005.

Gurang was a member of the Dinka ethnic group and was orphaned at the age of ten years. At a young age, he joined the fight against the mistreatment of Christians in Sudan but he was encouraged by seniors to join school.

He left Sudan for Tanzania where he studied for some time before joining Grinnell University in the United States. Upon completion of his studies, at Grinnell University, Garang returned to Sudan and joined the Sudanese Army but later left for the Anya Anya rebel group which was fighting for the rights of Christians residing in Sudan.

In 1972, Sudanese President Jafaar Mohamed and the leader of the Anya Anya rebel group signed the Addis Ababa agreement which ceased hostility between the rebel group and the government. Garang was absorbed into the Sudanese army as per the agreement and promoted to a Colonel.

Upon being absorbed into the military and promotion, he was sent to Fort Benning University in Georgia for training. He also obtained an Agricultural Economics degree from IOWA State University in 1981 before jetting back to Sudan and being promoted to be the Deputy Director of Military Research and to head the Infantry Battalion.

In 1980, tension for the second civil war in Sudan was gaining momentum as the Sudanese government increasingly became more Islamist.  Introduction of Sharia Laws, Arabic Language being made the official language and enslavement of the black people by the Northern Arabs also contributed to this tension which later developed into a civil war.

Garang was deployed by the Sudanese government to quell the uprising in the South but ended up changing sides and formed the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and its associate Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

The second civil war in Sudan lasted until early 2000s when talks between the SPLM leader and the Sudanese President Omar al Bashir were initiated. The talks culminated with the signing of the Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreement which proposed Garang to be named as the first Sudan Vice President and as the leader of the autonomous South region.

On 9th July, Garang was sworn in as the first Vice President of Sudan. Unknowingly to him, he was to only serve for 21 days. He planned a private visit to Uganda to meet his longtime friend Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. He rejected attempts by the Sudanese President to provide him with official security and insisted on planning his logistics.

He flew to Uganda where he met the Uganda President, Kaguta Museveni, though details of their meeting remain scanty to date despite the allegations that there were foreign envoys in the said meeting.

On his way back to Sudan, at the border of Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, the plane that he was in crashed killing all those that were on board. Official reports by the Commission of Inquiry alleged that the accident was as a result of bad weather.

Since then, there have been many controversies seeking to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of the brave, energetic and promising leader.

His wife, Mrs. Rebecca Garang at one time in Nairobi alleged that from the day her husband died; she knew that he had been killed but she could not speak then for she was aware of the consequences.

Others believe that Garang was killed due to his opinion of a United Sudan contrary to some big boys’ plan of Sudan being divided into two states while some people believed local politics could have been at play.

The government of Sudan and his successor, however, insisted on the initial report by the Commission of Inquiry which stated that the plane crashed due to bad weather.

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