Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Remembering Dr. John Garang de Mabior

ACDA President Peter Magai Bul writes:

Dr. Garang's Final Words to Over Twelve Thousand Sudanese Lost Boys & Girls in America
Members of Nyuak Community (of which the Ayual Community belongs) in Sudan and all over the world will be commemorating and reflecting on Dr. John Garang’s life today. Dr. John Garang, who was the first Vice President of the Republic of Sudan, first president of South Sudan, and Chairman and Commander in Chief of the SPLA/M, perished in a helicopter crash on the 30th of July in 2005. Garang, who was born in 1945 in Wangulei, found in Twic East County of Jongulei state in Southern Sudan, was special to the Sudanese Lost Boys & and Girls and so were we to him. Although he used to regularly visit us in Ethiopia during the 80s and 90s, Garang’s final visit with us was in Phoenix, AZ in 2004 at the 1st National Conference & Reunion. More than 12,000 Sudanese Lost Boys and Girls and American friends attended this event. Dr. John Garang spoke in a tone I never heard in his past speeches—as if he knew that his life and work of liberating oppressed Sudanese were coming to an end. He congratulated and honored our successes and accomplishments and he informed, advised, educated, encouraged, and warned Sudanese Lost Boys and Girls about the unfinished jobs that he believed his US Ambassadors (Lost Boys and Girls) are capable of pursuing. Sudan’s Ambassador to Japan, Setepano Wondu, has shared Dr. John Garang’s full speech here: "Viva John Garang"

Mayor Phil Gordon's Message to the Same Twelve Thousand Sudanese Lost Boys and Girls
At the 1st National Conference & Reunion, Phil Gordon, Mayor for the City of Phoenix, generosity welcomed thousands of the Sudanese Lost Boys and Girls, including Sudanese officials led by late Dr. John Garang. Mayor Gordon shared this message with us for years ago:

“….Even before you have completed the task of organizing yourselves nationally, you have the eyes of the world upon you at this very gathering. I am confident in your ability to come together in a spirit of unity towards a greater good – bringing the world’s awareness to the plight of the desperate people in South Sudan. I have great faith that you will conduct your business as responsible leaders, rising above factional and political differences. As you speak, Phoenix will hear and learn about the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, the children of Sudan’s war-torn countryside. Millions of your people, including children, have lost their lives. Millions of your people have no voice, except through you. Millions of your people have no future, except through you. The despair and tragedy spans every tribe, every religion, every language, and every culture found in your vast land. But they still hold out hope for a day where they will again know the security and comfort of their family’s love, the prosperity of a country no longer at war, and peace in their homeland. Such cherished dreams will require all of the love, work, faith, trust and compassion we can assemble as allies and friends across the world. If you master this spirit of unity at your first national conference over these next three days, you will truly be maturing into the leaders deeply needed by your country. Each one of you has my respect and admiration for enduring a life that no child should ever face, for recognizing that the road ahead is still long, filled with both hardship and unexpected joy, self-discipline and the barest glimpse of cherished dreams”

When We Lost Him

Video: "Dr. John Garang Memory Day"

A few days after my return from the 1st National Sudanese Lost Boys and Girls Conference & Reunion in Phoenix, AZ, many of the Chicago’s Lost Boys and their American friends began discussing Dr. John Garang’s safely and future of Sudan should he sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). On a Thursday night at a gathering at St. Paul's By-The-Lake Episcopal Church Sylvester Bona and Karen called me to their table to answer some of the questions that were most concerning. Why would Dr. John Garang sign the CPA if Southern Sudan’s oil and other resource would be shared 50-50 between the North and South? Would it be safe for Dr. John Garang to go to Khartoum to sign the agreement? I simply told them it would be okay for the South to have a share of 50% instead of the 0% they have been getting since the discovery of oil in Sudan, perhaps to even, once again, prepare their army for a third war if the CPA is later violated again. As for Garang’s safety, I told them Dr. John Garang doesn’t favor his life more than the lives of 2.5 millions Sudanese who died during the 22 years of sacrifice. Garang knew Sudanese heroes would continue sacrificing, should something take his life.

These same issues came up often and we discussed them at length. About 11 months later, many of us were speechless as we learned about Garang’s death. It was at 9pm on the day of Garang's death that one of the Sudanese Lost Boys, Peter Barach Kuany from Omaha, Nebraska, called me at work and asked, “Magai, have you heard anything from Sudan today?”

I replied, “No.”

“I am not sure, but something bad happened,” Peter said.

I asked Peter to hang up the phone and told him that I will go and check the internet before I call him back. I began to wonder whether Garang has been assassinated. I rushed to the internet and Garang’s death everywhere in the news. Many Lost Boys across the US and those in Africa began calling me, but I was speechless. Many of the Lost Boys, including my roommates, didn't show up at the work the following days. No one was talking or eating. My Kenyan friend, Simon Ogeto, who writes for the Mashariki News, called me and asked if I had any thoughts for the Sudanese Community and their American friends. I told him that I wasn’t ready for a phone interview and preferred to send him a brief email note, which he published and shared with everyone: "Sudan's Vice President Garang dies in copter crash; peace deal at risk."

Fulfilling Dr. John Garang's Dream and Vision

Dr. John Garang has taught us much and we have so much to remember about him and his leadership. With the educational opportunities we are providing to children in Sudanese villages, I believe that Sudan, in Garang’s own words, will never be the same again. Sudan Ambassador to Japan, Setepano Wondu has much more on Dr. John Garang’s dreams, vision, and work as you can read in her series of articles at Sudan Tribune: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4


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