Friday, November 18, 2005

Garang Follow-up

It has been over three months since Sudanese First Vice President John Garang died when the helicopter he was traveling in crashed in southern Sudan. Those of you who were reading my blog in early August will remember some of the events that I recorded at that time. The crash was blamed on all sorts of things -- bad weather, pilot error, and, yes, assassination. But, of course, no one took responsibility for the crash and it was announced that an international inquest would be undertaken. To date, there has been no progress in the investigation.

Yesterday, I spent some time talking with a good Sudanese friend. As it often does, our talk ventured towards the political issues facing Sudan. "You know," my friend (I'll call him Tarik) "Garang was becoming popular among the notherners (Muslims) here in Khartoum. In five more years, the Peace Agreement calls for there to be a referendum. If Garang were to have run for President (against the incumbent President Bashir), he would certainly have had all the southern votes and, quite possibly, a large number of northern votes as well. He could have easily become President of a united Sudan."

"Do you really think so?" I asked.

"Definitely," replied Tarik. "But now....?" He shrugged. There was silence for a while. "I know those men (Bashir and his cohorts). Most of them were in my university class."

That one sentence spoke volumes. In a country like Sudan and a city like Khartoum, those school-day friendships have been exxtraordinarily important through the years. Tarik is a man in the know although he is quietly opposed to the current regime.

"You know," he continued, "when a FORMER -- not a sitting -- Vice President of Lebanon was assassinated, there was an enormous international out-cry. There was an inquest and the United States and its allies rose up in anger when the results of that inquest were made public. But, when a sitting Vice President of Sudan dies under very suspicious circumstances, it receives hardly any attention whatsoever." Tarik shrugged again; one of those "what-can-one-do?" kind or shurgs. "Garang was black...."

Neither of us had to say anything at that point. This is Africa and, despite the on-going concern about Darfur and a few well-intentioned conferences and concerts to raise consciousness about African issues, the West has always been slow to confront the issues here. We'll probably never know the truth behind Garang's death. And, even if we do, I wonder if anyone in the West will really care or act.


At 11/23/2005 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not so much a comment on your this post but a thank you for your blog. I have recently applied for a position in Khartoum and was looking for more info and found some intresting tit-bits in your writing. Thanks again. KarelM, Abuja, Nigeria.


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