An Encounter with Dr. John Garang de Mabior - Part II
The temperatures had dipped into danger zone; the snow piled up with wicked mockery. Simply put, the average speed was 5km/hr. Sadly, the average speed on a ‘happy day’ is 60 km/hr on that road. And by ‘happy day’ I don’t mean warm days nor do I mean days with no snow. Indeed, that’d not be Canada...at all. So what am I bitching about if this is Canada?
Listen, buddy, if that’s what you think!
A good day is a day when temperatures are between -10 and -20 and the snow only 10 cm thick. For folks in the tropics, you’d think I’m a crazy fellow for calling such a condition a ‘good day’ condition. Look, here, the temperatures dip down to over -35 and snow piles up to more than 30 cm. So you now know what I’m talking about. That’s about it.
Now, I’d just driven to the clinic to have a check-up with my doctor. Everything went well and the jolly fellow, the doctor I mean, took only 30 seconds to tell me what was wrong and scribbled some prescriptions.
So I walked out of the clinic, to the car and to those roads again. It was a nice drive until I was almost one kilometer from my place. I’d stopped at the T-Junction. Bad idea! Well, it’s a good idea given the fact that that’s what traffic regulations require. The old man winter and his son snow thought otherwise. After the stop just like any good citizen, I tried to turn right but the tires only spun around.
“You gotta be kidding me!” I said and got out of the car.
With no doubt, I was emotionally torn between feeling sorry for myself and being angry at the weather.
“Stupid weather!” I finally blurted it out.
“I’d focus my energies on how to get the car out if I were you!” a voice said from behind.
It was a familiar voice so I slowly turned.
“You gotta be kidding me!” I said.
Standing behind me were the two old men. Yes, the two Garangs! Of all the days they had to show up on that day. They were dressed up like FBI agents in a Hollywood crime drama. Neat, I mean!
“Need some help?” John Garang asked.
“Duh…isn’t that obvious?”
“Some sense of humor, eh?” Dad said.
“What exactly have I done to you two?”
“We didn’t cause the snow nor did we make your car to get stuck in the snow,” John Garang said.
“Let’s suppose I go to my acquaintances and tell them that my dad and John Garang have been visiting me…”
They all laughed. I felt insulted.
“Was that funny?”
“Kuirthiy, this happens to you all the times even when you tell your friends about something you heard from people who’re alive.”
“I don’t understand!”
“Do all your friends take you seriously all the time?” dad asked.
“First, I don’t have friends and No, they don’t!”
“There you go!”
They all kept quiet and I knew I’d overstepped my position.
“Sorry is the least of our problems!”
I leaned on the car and stared at the two men.
“What exactly is this?”
“You know exactly what ‘this’ is!”
My fingers and feet were starting to freeze really bad so sweet talk was unwelcome.
“Will you two help me get the car out or not?”
They stood still, rather taciturn.
“I said …will you help me get the car out!?” I said raising my voice.
“Why don’t you go to Sudan and avoid this misery?” John Garang asked.
“Oh, he’s afraid of ‘dictator Kiir,’” dad said smiling.
Deeply offended, I frowned, jumped into the car and tried to drive. Stupid me! The tires continued to spin; further burying the car deep in the snow.
Emotionally defeated with no resolves, I angrily jumped out of the car and stared at them.
“You can get angry, abuse the weather and the two of us. That wouldn’t get you out of the snow,” John Garang said.
“And that attitude will continue to cloud your judgement,” dad added.
I walked slowly toward them. To be honest, I was always confused as to whether I was dreaming or their appearance was real. I was caught between saying what I wanted to say believing I was only dreaming and respecting the two men for what they represented for me.
“I respect you two dearly but what you’re doing to me is unfair.”
They smiled, looked at one another then at me.
“You didn’t answer the question: Why don’t you go to Sudan?” John Garang asked.
I shook my head: “You mean South Sudan?”
“What difference does that make, son?” dad said.
“Tell us the difference?”
I knew they were right given the way things were in South Sudan; however, the two men were wrong in principle. Still, they were forcing me into a position I didn’t want to be in.
“I know what you two mean but South Sudan is now an independent country.”
“Which means?” John Garang asked.
“That’s why I sometimes believe this is a dream. Is this Dr. John Garang de Mabior Atem D’Aruai that’s asking me such a question?”
They looked at themselves momentarily then again at me.
“That’s a brilliant emphasis, Kuirthiy, but irrelevant now! Just tell us the difference! You once wrote of Sudan-Juba and Sudan-Khartoum so you don’t believe there’s any sense of independence at all for Junubeen!” dad said.
“Are you two really serious?”
“Are we not serious because we’re dead or did you always think we were not serious when we were alive, alive in your understanding?” dad asked.
I hated the fact that they made me feel guilty anytime I seemed to get an edge over them.
“Look, I think you two should go to South Sudan and talk to the officials there!”
They laughed heartily. Luckily, I was getting used to their mockery so I wasn’t offended this time.
“Why are you lying and why are you assuming things you’ve not even tried to understand?” John Garang asked.
“Lying about what …I’m really confused?”
“And maybe your writings are also confused!” dad interjected.
I was more surprised than offended. The insult was direct, and for the first time, I sensed my father’s voice.
“Now you’re starting to insult me…really bad, dad!”
“Why would you assume we only come to you?” John Garang asked.
“That’s a little narcissistic, don’t you think?” dad said.
I was getting really cold and now upset. Not only was I being mocked by two dead old men, I was almost getting frost bites. It’s Canada, in December, in the name of the mother of the Jewish carpenter.
“I swear to god I love you too but you have to leave me alone. Maybe we’ll continue this talk once I’m dead.”
They laughed, looked at themselves in the usual annoying manner and started to walk toward the apartments.
“So that’s it! You’re gonna leave me here...in the cold!”
They stopped walking and ceremoniously looked back.
“Kuirthiy…you’re very dishonest with us,” dad said.
“Are you dishonest because we are dead or is this you in essence?” John Garang asked.
I stared at the ground, looked at them and sighed.
“Look, South Sudan is a mess.”
“We know that!” dad said.
“Then what do you want?”
I laughed with hidden bitterness.
“Look, Dr. John, Kiir was with you until you passed away. Maybe South Sudan should start blaming you instead of the man who seems to have no clue what he’s doing! Why did you sideline him and why didn’t you train him like your own brother?”
I was getting really angry and hungry…and cold!
“It’s easy to talk and hard to do!”
I smiled, very much resigned.
“So you think Kiir is doing all he can?” I sarcastically asked.
“We didn’t say that!” dad said.
“Look, no one in the SPLM can maintain the future of SPLM the way you did. The officials are either corrupt or scared of Kiir.”
“I’m flattered, Kuirthiy, but you know people were also scared of me. The likes of Paulino Matip would not have joined SPLA if I was still alive, alive in your understanding. But why are they scared of Kiir?” John Garang said..
“First, I was talking about SPLM administration not your personality and human rights issues. For the latter, a lot can be said. And as to why they fear Kiir, I don’t know.”
“I didn’t know you could insult me that way. Well, you criticize a lot so you can’t say ‘I don’t know’.”
“I only rationalize the situation in the way I see it.”
“But do you know that your rationalization has an impact?”
“You know that the American Embassy in South Sudan and other world powers use some of your articles as part of media monitoring of South Sudan politics and policies?” dad asked.
“I know that!”
“And you think that isn’t an issue,” John Garang said.
“Is this about me or South Sudan?”
There’s a brief silence as we all stood there reflectively.
“Young people like you are the future of South Sudan,” dad said.
“Of course you’re my dad…you can say that.”
“Now that’s funny! How about me?” John Garang asked.
“I can’t even answer that! Look, if you want to save South Sudan, talk to SPLM officials. It’s been over eight years since the CPA was signed and what do we have to show for it? Giant SUVs and morbid polygamy by ministers? And by morbid polygamy I mean marriage to girls who’re barely legal!”
“It’s not funny. Kiir is just there! He has nothing to offer…except wielding his unconstitutional powers and doling out his decrees with shameless demagoguery. SPLM is rotten! Riek Machar is making noise when he can’t even present a valuable alternative in terms of solution-focused approach. Yes, all the things he says are true but he doesn’t tell us exactly how these problems should be solved. Pagan is a corrupt fellow, who’s only basking in the glory of your past; pretending he’s Garang reincarnated”
“So you’re part of those who divide SPLM into factions like the ‘Garang Boys’, ‘Yei group’ etc? And why do you criticize everyone?”
“I only use available expressions. But hey, do you want me to praise men who’re doing nothing?”
“Don’t you think Riek Machar is trying his best?”
“Yeah, he’s trying his best in terms of re-emphasising the problems. However, in terms of corruption and presentation of credible solution-focused strategies, he remains wanting.”
“So who do you prefer?” dad asked.
“I’m only an analyst! Besides, I haven’t seen their political platforms to prefer anyone and recommend him/her to voters.”
“What do you exactly want in South Sudan?” dad asked.
“It’s simple. Avoid acting exactly like Khartoum!”
“So there’s no difference after all!”
“Do you think things would have changed for better if I was still there?” John Garang asked.
“And my question to you would be: ‘would you still want to be president…after 30 years?? I’d be very disappointed in you’!”
John Garang laughed: “Smart way to answer it!”
“Just imagine this: the political party charged with taking care of the affairs of the nation can’t even solve its own internal problems. Officials contradict one another on a daily basis. The parliament just shouts ‘Oyee’ to whatever the president says and the presidential decisions (dictatorially called decrees) are never explained to the very people the president leads, actually rules! We’re doomed, Dr. John.”
They didn’t respond so I looked helplessly at the car.
“Just visit SPLM…”
“Can we help you sir?”
Startled, I turned only to find two white men staring at me. I looked around and there was no sign of either my dad or John Garang.
The two white men realized I looked lost, confused.
“Are you okay, sir?” one of them asked.
“Yeah, yeah…thank you!”
I got into the car and drove home.
“What exactly do they want from me I don’t rule South Sudan for god’s sake?”