By Isaiah Abraham
January 17, 2012 — The circumstances which led to the untimely death of the South Sudanese leader Dr. John Garang de Mabior in a tragic helicopter crash will never be fully known. Dr. Garang was returning to Sudan after a brief visit to Uganda where he met president Yoweri Museveni when the helicopter disappeared in the mountain ranges of South Sudan on 30th July 2005, while returning to his base at Kamotho (New Site) in Eastern Equatoria Region.The Ugandan President hosted late Garang and four other dignitaries in his rural area of Rwakitura in Mabarara District..
The then Government of the Sudan rushed to form an Investigation Committee to look into exact causes of the crash, and the official finding point to human error on the side of the pilot. That is to say that the helicopter came down due to bad weather. But speculations persist even after the official pronouncement that point to an opposite direction, that there could be someone or groups who were on the sabotage.
Who killed Garang?
For instance there have been speculations that Khartoum was much involved in Garang disappearance because to them the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) could be easily crippled once Garang is out of the picture. People then talked of big shots (NIF politicians) shuttling between Kampala and Khartoum before, during and after the tragedy on the same mission.
Other speculations were that perhaps there could be involvement of some Southern Sudanese politicians in the plot since at a time there was a political scene- rivalry within the SPLA that was squarely suppressed or handled by Rev. Canon Clement Janda . In the SPLA, by the way, we were never taught anything terrorism or anything similar to that school. So it was impossible to give a damp ear to this wild speculation. Our leaders differed, locked themsleves up, but not to an extreme thinking (assassination).
The other speculation still points a finger to the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) elements within the Ugandan Defense Force. Yet there is another group that thought that the work could be that of the CIA of the United States because of the Garang overbearing political stardom. But also there is another group that never spared the current Ugandan President.
But that isn’t a point to go after who actually killed Garang. The issue here however is the relationship between facts surrounding his death. Once things becomes clear the next thing is who did it and why.
There may have been powerful influential forces vying for influence in the oil rich country of Sudan, and that was a living fact, could they be one behind the assassination? I don’t know and no way to pin a blame when there is no substantive evidence proving anything in white and black. Sometime I feel like leaving everything in the hand of the Creator, and just pray for the soul of our great man and founding father of our nation Gen. Dr. John Garang de Mabior, but that does help me either. Despite pieces here and there the truth will never be late!
That is what am seeking for. Once thing go terribly wrong as was the case during the Interim Period under amateurish leader called Kiir, I ran to curse the invisible hands behind the disappearance of the big father and a leader. Garang was more than ready for any challenge; that is a living truth about him. His lost is irreparable!
Just to repeat myself as came above: while there exists speculations tied to the vested interested of certain governments and groups to silence Garang the reality is that no evidence has been reported to the outside world that would substantiate any claim of foul play, but am suspicious only because of the unusual episodes surrounding the matter at hand.
Causes of the crash not convincing
My suspicion stems from the following cases- am not going to prolong any discussion on each case anyway. Now let us get started: there is this fateful helicopter named as MY 72; there are contradictions about its worth or worth not. The chopper was reported to be in a “good health” according to the then Russian Director for Interstate Aviation Committee, Mr. Rudolf Temurazov, the very person that overhauled it. This dispels an earlier circulation that the chopper was blindly flying at night or that it was a junk chopper.
Rudolf sentiment was echoed by non other the Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in Yei South Sudan during one of the mourning occasions. His part of the statement reads thus:
“… the chopper was overhauled executive and has some instruments upgrade before the crash. .. the helicopter was equipped with ability to show the pilot the altitude using both radio altimeter that shows how far are you from the ground as well as a barometer altimeter that shows you how high are you from sea level; a weather radar that shows you bad clouds ahead as well as mountain ranges up to 100 KMS away, Advanced Moving Map System (A MMS) that shows you where you are at any particular time and the terrain features such as mountains; a powerful flood light system to avoid hitting trees and other landing site obstacles; an audio warning in case you are approaching a mountain ahead”.
If you take each piece and then put everything together you will find that there was no question about the helicopter defect or malfunctioning of the engine. The chopper was in good health. The question then is how did the crash occur on this state of the art kind of a machine that ‘sees’ and detect danger before it actually occurred. If this chopper had radar that could ‘show mountain up to 100 kilometers away’, how did this particular accident happen? If the helicopter was in good condition, then there must an external factor because the bad weather thing doesn’t matter much in the report. This is where we are coming and no one knows that factor yet.
The second suspicious is about the loud silence related to the purported meeting between President Museveni and Garang. It appeared that there was a special meeting for the Ugandan President with five important foreigners (3 Europeans, an American and Garang), and no single media was invited, why? How about the identity of the Europeans and the American? Is anyone aware of their profile and the topic of their discussion with the two African leaders (Museveni and Garang).
The third one is about the wreckage of the chopper; whether or why charred when the bodies were identifiable and not much signs of burns were visible. In another word, the chopper either caught fire before it crashes otherwise if it was after the crash, the bodies of the victim could have all charred. This brings another theory that perhaps an explosion happened within the machine without affecting the passengers. Who then had planted the explosive?
The forth suspicion that the crash wasn’t normal is that there was no single photograph of the crash that was published, or released despite immense coverage by credible international media houses. Garang disappearance was covered widely by Atlanta base Cable News Network (CNN), the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), both for radio and the television, Radio France International, the Voice of America, the South African Broadcasting Corporation and all the major wire news services: the Associated Press and United Press International of the United States, Agency France Presse (AFP) of France, Reuters of United Kingdom (Britain) and Xinhua of China yet no reports published or any sketch of the helicopter on its wrecked state during the first few days of the incidence. The question is why?
Fifth, why did the Ugandan government block fresh investigation by an American Insurance Company associated with late Garang. Recall, the company before attempting to compensate requested in vain to find causes of the crash. This company could have hired independent minded team that could have helped allay fears that indeed there were no invisible hands that went for an assassination target. Was the Ugandan government part of the conspiracy to eliminate Garang? I don’t know, time will tell.
Sixth, the black boxes for the helicopter were recovered but content weren’t made public why? The Flight Data Recorder (FDR) popularly known as ‘black box’ preserves the records of what happened in an event of a crash. The box is made of nearly indestructible materials that even if the plane is destroyed the box can be found and retrieved. This is done to help during the investigation because the box contains recording of the status of the plane, measurement of altitude, air pressure as well as mechanical status among others.
In our case then the box was said to have been taken to Russia and there you find inconsistencies about what was recorded. If bodies were found and almost anything else, how could anyone suggest that black boxes of that chopper were destroyed or that they don’t give enough details of what transpired there during the crash. There is something that is unclear and hence a suspicion!
Seven, if the turbulent weather was the cause of the crash, why didn’t Colonel Peter Nyakairu (the captain of the helicopter) press for a distress call to Entebbe Control Center for possible courses of action. This suggests that all the aircraft’s parameters were performing normally until impact. Therefore Entebbe was not telling the truth and something terrible happened someone doesn’t want us to know it.
Eight, we are told that according to Control Aviation Authority (CAA) there, no plane including of course helicopters is allowed from Entebbe to leave after 5 PM for a period more than one hour, how did the authorities float this rule? Perhaps someone prevailed up on the Aviation to twist the rule, but intellect has it that Garang wasn’t an easy man to put his life and that of his men at risk. He couldn’t have guided a serious guerrilla liberation war against powerful Khartoum, if he was a pliable as others would want us to believe him differently in death. He was assured of the reliability of the plane, and was confidence that he will reach. The helicopter factor comes in again and that is why the element theory never leaves our minds.
Ninth, we have had an abnormal crack down of anything associated with opening up of another investigation on matters surrounding Garang death. A case in point is that of Hon. Aleu Ayieny Aleu, a veteran SPLA man who fought selflessly for his country and people was uncharacteristically kicked out of the National Cabinet and was threaten of eviction from the SPLM if he doesn’t stop prodding on Garang death circumstances. This came about after he openly questioned the so-called official position that the plane came down because of human error due to bad weather.
Re-call Mr. Aleu was one of the members of the Investigation Committee sent to the scene of the crash. He accompanied the black box down to Russia and he returned suspicious like this little author. He didn’t access anything or made to know what was actually there in the FDR. Now brethren, by just expressing a doubt on an anomaly does that require a punishment? Was Garang a burden to SPLM leaders and by him gone, everything would just be fine? This brings to mind that perhaps there could be people around here who are trying to protect their skin and if yes then we must be afraid!
Then there is this query (ten): the actual identification number for the chopper was in contradiction. One time the report says the MY 72 chopper that killed Garang was carrying registration number 605 and the other from the presidential rotor burp is 8-1930-0008221-5387; so which is which? Why provided different numbers on the same chopper. It seemed though that the true helicopter in question could be different from what was actually in use for the Ugandan President. Did Entebbe give Capt. Peter helicopter that is detonated? If yes who did it.
Needless to mention why was the statement on the exact feet of the helicopter different; the experts talked of 7000 while the exact flying feet was recorded at 500.4 feet, the true distance between the plane and the earth.
In short I don’t care whether Garang was a villain to you, but for the sake of the truth, and given the stature of that man, someone will have to clear the air about the grey areas mentioned above. Garang can’t just die like that and the entire nation, especially his colleagues keep on burying their heads in the denial. By knowing the truth, the nation will start with a clear conscience that nothing was awry but natural like any other tragedy. To die is inevitable but to go under cloudy grounds is a snarl of reality about death itself .
South National Parliament over to you; you have started these days very well on accountability (read Wondu Auditing Report).
Isaiah Abraham lives in Juba; he’s on Isaiah_abraham@yahoo.co.uk