John Garang Mabior, is regarded as the founding father of South Sudan the latest country in the world to gain independence after a long civilian battle. Garang became the first Vice President of South Sudan, an achievement that no southerner has ever achieved before. But let’s take it back a bit and frankly understand what events transpired that set precedence of the civil war, of South Sudan seceding from Sudan, and what role did John Garang Mabior play?
Sudan gained its independence in 1956 after being colonized by the British and the Egyptians for a very long time. Sudan was the biggest country in Africa with more than 2.1 million squares of land. Despite having attained independence, Sudan was sharply divided as war escalated between the Northerners and the Southerners that lasted up to 2005 from 1983. Consequent to the ongoing war that led to massive destruction of property and hundreds of thousands Sudanese left dead, the biggest country would later on be divided into two as Sudan formed their own government, whereas South Sudan also formed their own administration. The big question here is what exactly steered Sudan to be divided into two?
Religion was one of the factors that led to the division of Sudan. The Egyptians who colonized Sudan camped in the Northern parts and they would influence the population over there to embrace the Muslim religion. The British who were also colonialists through Kenya they marched into South Sudan and taught the southerners to practice Christianity. Sudan benefited more from the colonialists simply because of its strategic position and the presence of the longest river in the world, river Nile and so irrigation and cotton production was largely practiced in the North, whereas South Sudan was neglected. The Southerners were perceived to be more of employees and were even governed by the Northerners. Residents in the South were never of the opinion of being led by Northerners and from that agitation, war broke out. The Southerners would later form an army called ANYANYA “venom snake” which comprised of a section of Sudanese army and university students.
The discovery of oil in 1978 in the Southern parts of Sudan further escalated the ongoing war which was a bit slowed down after a peace agreement. When President Jaafer Nimeiry came to power, he wanted to take control over the oil lands and also forced the southerners to embrace the Islam religion. Out of animosity the Southerners would now create Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) in 1983 and it was led by one man by the name John Garang De Mabior. Garang was not only a general guarded with weapons, but also an intellectual for he had received a number of scholarship to study in Tanzania and also the United States. Garang was born in 1945 and hailed from the Dinka community. He led the SPLM movement which later changed to Sudan Peoples Liberation army (SPLA) in several battles that caught the attention of the Northerners. Meanwhile in the North, President Jaafer Nimeiry was overthrown and was forced to run to Egypt for fear of his life. It is at this time that Omar Hassan AL Bashir came in as the new President. Bashir’s regime banned other political parties, enforced Sharia Law and also introduced new currency.
After several years of fighting, on the 9th of January the SPLA led by John Garang and the government signed a peace deal in Nairobi Kenya. By the terms of the agreement, Garang became the vice president of South Sudan thus becoming the second most powerful man in Sudan after Omar Al Bashir. Garang’s dream of having the southerners get more opportunities as the Arab Northerners finally came to effect even though a section of the SPLA movement wanted South Sudan to be independent and a state on its own. Tragedy would later on befall the Southerners after John Garang died from a helicopter crush in 2005 when he was coming back from Uganda after meeting Yoweri Museveni. But all was not lost as Garang’s deputy Salva Kiir Mayardit came to power and spearheaded Garang’s dream and vision.
In 2011, South Sudan went into a referendum to decide on whether it should remain part of Sudan or become a state on its own. Majority voted for independence. On 9th of July 2011, Sudan parted ways with South Sudan making it the newest country in the world as Salva Kiir became the President as Omar Al Bashir continued ruling Sudan. All was not yet sweet in the new country as President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar had some differences that intensified war in the newly formed country that up to date peace negotiations are still on going.