The book is Shimanyula’s account of the life of John Garang and an insightful look into the movement that he founded. The writer compares John Garang to the Biblical Moses who received God’s call to lead tribes of Israel.
Garang was born in June 23, 1945 to a poor Christian family at Wanglukei village, Kongor Location in the remote Bor District, the sixth in the family of ten. His father, Mabior Atem was a cattle herder and his mother, Gak, was a hardworking peasant farmer. At age 17, Garang got his first taste of war when he was recruited by Any-Nya One army as a fighter. However, he later dropped out to concentrate on his education, joining Rumbek Secondary School, from where he was expelled for taking part in a strike. He proceeded to the Tanzanian town of Lushoto, sat his Ordinary Level of Examination at Magamba School, passed with flying colors and later gained admission at the University of Dar es Salam. In 1964, he crossed to Kenya in 1964 and lived in Kibera. Between 1965 and 1966, he taught as an untrained teacher in Nyeri, Central Kenya. He won a scholarship to study in United States, earned a bachelor of science in Agriculture from Ginnel College, Iowa, and did a company commander’s course at the prestigious American Military Academy in Virginia.
On December 19, 1976, Garange married Rebecca Nyandeng with whom they had seven children, one of whom died. Garang returned to States to further his education and got a doctorate in Agricultural Economics at Iowa State University.
Back home, he served under then Sudanese President Numeiri. In 1983, after a revolt by the 105th Battalion of the Sudanese Army, Garang was sent to broker peace with the rebels. Instead, he joined the mutineers, became their leader, and eventually formed, organized and championed the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army – a group that fought for the independence of Southern Sudan. Within six months more than 3,000 trained government soldiers and hundreds of high-ranking officers had defected to SPLA. In three years, Garang brought under his control a third of Sudan.
Garang died in a plane crash under mysterious circumstances in Uganda on July 30, 2005 – six years before his dream to create an independent Southern Sudan republic came to pass. After his death, his deputy, Salva Kiir Mayardit took over leadership of the SPLA, eventually leading the movement to cede from Sudan in 2011.
Although Garang’s contribution to the Southern Sudan liberation struggle is not in doubt, questions remain that Shimanyula unfortunately does not confront. What led to his mysterious death? Given Garang’s reconciliatory approach and commitment to a united Sudan, would he have supported the cessation of Southern Sudan, and was this in any way linked to his death? It is, somewhat, a disservice to readers that these questions are not explored by the book.
Johan Garang and the SPLA was published in 2005 by the Africa Wide Network.
Moses Kibe Kihiko holds a Master’s degree in Leadership Studies. He recently published his book “Public Leadership: The Ten Defining Moments How Leaders Acquire & Handle Fame, Power & Glory “with Miraclaire Publishing, Website: www.miraclairebooks.com). Moses is the CEO of Practicum Leadership, a training, consultancy, writing and research firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.