An encounter with Dr. John Garang de Mabior – Part I
For all martyrs
The place was dark and quiet as the stormed had downed street lights. Not a sound could be heard outside. I’d just come out of my car and was heading towards the door. However, something seemed to have changed as the apartment towards which I was walking looked different. It was my apartment, of course. Behind me, my car looked the same. Left, right and behind, nothing seemed strange!
“I’m too tired perhaps,” I said to myself.
Confident of my resolves, I slowly wobbled towards the door. Nothing changed, strangely. Unlike the usual red, rectangular door of the apartment, this door was red and squared.
“This is stupid!” I said lamely.
Agitated by the situation, I furiously rubbed my eyes in an attempt to shake of the fatigue-engendered visions. Nothing changed.
“Why am I being stupid? This is a wrong apartment!” I said with a sorrowful smile, looking down with a mild temperament. As I looked up, the red, squared door was gone. Staring at me was the usual rectangular greenness.
“It must have been a long ass day,” I said with a smile and dashed towards the door.
As I turned the door knob to enter the living door, the lights suddenly went on.
“Mm…I sure didn’t open the lights!” I said not knowing exactly what to think.
With agitation welling up inside me, I manned up and slowly walked to the living room. Then I heard glasses clinking, footsteps shuffling and I knew I had company. Robbers! Since the intruder was in the kitchen, I knew I was fucked up. The knives and anything I could possibly use to defend myself was already in the intruder’s hand. I’m so dead! Luckily, I was at the door. However, I didn’t want the intruder to assume I was a coward.
“Who’s this in my apartment? Show yourself before I call 911!”
The introducer started laughing. I felt irritated but still fearful.
“I’m not bluffing!” I said with my mind at the door.
“Someone who is bluffing usually suggests it before the other person does,” the intruder said. I was startled. The voice was unmistakably clear. But the man, whom South Sudanese know every very well, was dead.
“This is certainly a dream!”
“You know, Kuirthiy, dreams can be what we want them to be. You’ve been raised to think that a dream happens when you’re sleep. But a dream can be anything,” another voice said.
To say I was freaked out would be a rude understatement. I was scared out of my freaking brain. However, I couldn’t do anything. Whether I was dreaming or not, the voices of the two men were enough to send me to the grave. They are all dead! I stood there, scared, confused and breathless.
Then they majestically walked into the living room; both carrying two cans of Iced Tea. I tried to talk but I only wheezed. Then everything darkened. I’d fainted. I then woke up only to see the two men strangely staring at me.
“Dad? John Garang?”
The two men just nodded and smiled. I didn’t know what to do or say.
“Why do you look surprise?” Dr. John asked.
I felt irritated. I wanted to say that that was a stupid question but with the two men staring at me, I knew that that word had to be stifled.
“So?” dad asked with a frown on his face. He still had his characteristic long hair combed backward. John Garang’s bold face reflected the light in the living room onto my face.
“This is a dream, right?” I asked still staring confusedly at them.
“How’s the situation in Juba?” John Garang asked, ignoring my question.
Having seen that my fear was receding, they moved back slowly and sat down. John Garang said on the computer chair and dad sad on the couch.
“Okay. What’s happening in Juba is not my problem now. My problem is that I’m talking to dead people!” I said raising my voice.
“Stop insulting us!” John Garang said.
I didn’t know how to respond to that statement. How’d you respond to such a question?
“I don’t know what’s happening in Juba! You died and left us a man you didn’t train in strategic planning and thinking so what do you think would happen?” I was convinced I was dreaming so I felt justified in saying anything.
“I didn’t know my son was funny. You used to be very quiet though thoughtful” dad said and I felt a wave of nostalgia spiralling through my body.
“Garang, let’s not send him into emotional recollection. Let’s see what he thinks about South Sudan,” John Garang said, looked at dad then at me.
“I guess you’re right,” dad said looking at me.
“I know SPLM met in New Site after my passing and unanimously selected Kiir.”
I just nodded.
“Do you think they were honest to themselves?” dad asked.
“You old men know politicians are never honest.”
“Dad laughed and said: “John, that’s for you.”
“Is this really true?”
“That we are dead or that we are alive?”
They just stared at me.
“That’s not your problem now. You write some good political articles so you’ll have to answer us,” John Garang said.
I knew I had to answer their questions if this dream was to end.
“Okay. I thought what they did after your death was worthy of praise.”
“Good observation,” dad remarked.
“They’ve now abandoned what you guys fought for.”
“Are you sure?” John Garang asked.
“You know what is happening in Juba now. What does that say to you?”
“I’m the one asking you. It could mean they only don’t know how to go about doing this issues…not that they abandoned the vision of SPLM.”
“You are a dead man. Why are you cautious? Besides, Kiir is not here!”
He laughed, looked at dad and said. “Whether or not we are dead is a function of your belief. But look, you seem to blame me about the problems in Juba now.”
“We can’t I? You left us a clueless man and a sea of ambitious men who want to be you but can’t.”
“But how do you know I didn’t teach Kiir?”
“Remember Rumbek 2004! Read his speeches! A man who calls a contract just signed an achievement wasn’t certainly trained by John Garang!”
“Is that supposed to make me happy?”
“What makes you happy isn’t relevant now is it? What’s relevant is how schools, hospitals and roads can be built. But hey…you are talking to me? Why can’t you talk to your buddy?”
“He’s not my buddy. He’s your president!”
“I agree, but what kind of a president?”
“You gotta give the man some credits. Don’t you think what’s done with the cabinet is worthy of praise.”
I smiled as dad started to shake his head.
“That smile isn’t promising,” dad said.
“Indeed it’s not! The cabinet is more than 50 percent Jieng people!”
“You seem to know what should be done, Kuir Garang. What do you suggest Kiir should do?”
“Be a leader…”
“Take the initiatives of establishing and strengthening institutions.”
“How do you establish institutions when your colleagues sabotage your every attempt?”
“It’s called being a leader. He should deal with his colleagues.”
“I thought he’s done that with the new cabinet!”
“What’s your deal? Why are you defending president Kiir?”
He smiled and looked at dad.
“I’m not defending President Kiir. I just want to know if you’re honest in your writings and thoughts.”
“And what would be the relevance of that to the current problems the country is facing?”
“Do you write out of leisure or do you hope to effect change?”
I knew what he was driving at. He’d actually assumed my way of thinking so I was cornered. I looked at him and asked: “What do you think could have happened had you not died.”
He didn’t answer. I realized he avoided any questions that touched something about his death. They both looked at me and simultaneously got up. With a smile on his face, dad patted me on the back and said: “Think about all the things we’ve said. We’ll continue this conversion.”
He slowly and thoughtfully walked to the door. John Garang looked at me and said: “This is just the beginning of our many conversations to come. Your father is here to witness his son’s answers.”
They both walked out of the apartment as I slowly walked to the door, confused and lost for words. Having walked passed my car, they looked back and waved.
“Where are you going?” I managed to ask.
They continued to walk into the dark.
To be continue….