At least 24 people are reported to have been killed in rioting in Khartoum following the death of the Sudanese Vice President John Garang. He was killed in a helicopter crash while returning from a visit to Uganda.
There is no indication it was anything other than an accident but that did not prevent some of Garang’s supporters expressing their grief through violence. Garang had turned from rebel leader to peacemaker – negotiating a truce with his northern Sudanese opponents and ultimately earning a place in government. The rebel movement he led for 20 years and the government have both vowed to maintain the peace agreement he helped create. The Ugandan government helicopter came down in a remote mountainous border area, with conflicting reports as to which side it fell on. It is said to have run into bad weather. The accord Garang signed in January ended two decades of civil of war between the mainly Christian south and predominently Muslim north of the country. For some, the 60-year-old was a powerful personality who was determined to give his people a voice. For others, his genial demeanour and academic credentials masked opportunism and ruthless treatment of potential rivals. The fact that both sides remain committed to the peace deal is encouraging forthe international community. But there is no doubt Garang’s death presents the new power-sharing government with a major test.