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Friday, January 7, 2011

Dear Mrs Garang,

In July of 2005 the rebel leader John Garang was killed in an airplane crash on return from a secret rendezvous with the president of Uganda. Garang, the leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), had recently brokered peace with the Northern Sudanese government in Khartoum ending a civil war between North and South that had lasted over 10 years.

Upon hearing the news of this African leaders death I was compelled to write a poem for his recently bereaved wife. I am re-printing it here due to recent developments in Sudan; notably an upcoming election for Southern independence from Northern Khartoum. In the press coverage of this event, I have not heard John Garang's name mentioned; not even once. For Mrs. Garang, now a minister in the government of Southern Sudan, I have not forgotten John Garang or his role in moving your people out of subjugation and into self-rule.

Imagining Mrs. Garang

Another Saturday night,
she waits for him to come home.
After all the years of war and rebellion,
all the years when she doubted
that he
would walk through that door.

Tonight she waits secure in the knowledge of peace.
A peace he has long fought for,
a peace that she has helped him attain
through 21 years, six children and 1,000 nights of worry.

But tonight it is different.
No need to worry;
peace has come.

How cruel is life,
that death should come to him now.
How unexpected,
when peace is on the tongues of the Nation
friend and foe alike.

A late night call,
a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach,
a numbness overtakes her heart.
The helicopter crashed;
Sudan erupts.

Amidst her grief she addresses the Nation
calling for the peace that her husband
had worked so hard to acquire.
She refuses to see it slip from his grasp in death
when he had only just found it in life.

Some may consider her stone-hearted.
How is it possible that she has the fortitude
to stand in public, to survive, to be a force for good?
Why isn't she devastated, left speechless, a shell filling with grief?


For decades she has been expecting not to expect him.
The only shock is that it should happen now.

"I am very proud of this man," she says pointing to his flag draped coffin.
And he should be proud of her, this Rebecca, this woman who seeks to keep the peace despite her losses.

written Aug. o8/2005

Many of us go through life not thinking about how we have come to be in the place we are. How the eddies and currents of history have brought us to this shore. It seems almost impossible to me that a few short years after his death John Garang does not even merit mention in his people's history as portrayed by the world press. Is it Africa and the way in which the rest of the world perceives it that such history is not worth reviewing? Or perhaps it is the fast-paced way in which we grab our information- just skimming the headlines, not interested in the back story.

When a new Nation is about to be born, you can be sure it has been delivered in the blood of many. A new country is something the world should take note of; analyzing it's conception, gestation and birth. I ask you to witness this miracle and occasionally pop in to check on the pulse of this newborn.

Peace Agreement and Funeral

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