Sudan: UN mourns death of Vice-President Garang

Sudan: UN mourns death of Vice-President Garang

Annan (R) with John Garang during recent Sudan visit
The United Nations today urged the Sudanese people to remain calm and unite in their sorrow following tragic helicopter crash that killed Vice-President John Garang de Mabior, and has called on all parties to finalize a January peace deal between the Government and southern rebels that was his legacy.

"The death of Dr. Garang is a terrible loss for Sudan. As the country recovers from this loss, close collaboration between the signatories to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) will continue to be critical," said Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a statement issued by his spokesman in New York.

Mr. Garang, who for more than two decades headed the southern-based the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), signed a power-sharing peace deal with the Khartoum Government in January, which ended a 21-year civil war and led to his swearing in as Sudan's first Vice-President only three weeks ago.

"During this time of mourning, the Secretary-General has received personal assurances from President Omar Hassan al-Bashir that the Government remains committed to implementing the [CPA]. He is also reassured to hear that the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) leadership is likewise committed to the CPA and the peace process in Sudan," the statement said.

Speaking to reporters on his way into UN Headquarters in New York this morning, Mr. Annan said that all indications as of now seem to indicate that Mr Garang's death was an accident, and that Government and the UN were "working to try and sort things out."

"[The Sudanese people] should remain calm, and I think it is essential that SPLM moves ahead very quickly to appoint a new leader. They have two weeks in which to do that. But I hope they will do it as quickly as possible," Mr. Annan said, adding, "And I suspect once they have elected their leader, who presumably would also be the head of Southern Sudan, that individual would be the new First Vice-President."

In a separate statement issued in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, Jan Pronk, head of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said the country had lost "a great son," whose death, six months after the signing of the peace agreement that brought an end to the civil war, "is a tragedy."

The statement, which expressed sincerest condolences on behalf of the United Nations to the Government and people Sudan and the SPLM, stressed that the tragedy had occurred just three weeks after the establishment of a Government of National Unity in Sudan.

"[Mr. Pronk] appeals to all Sudanese people to honour the Legacy Mr. Garang by continuing on the path to peace…The United Nations will continue assisting the parties in the implementation of the [CPA]," the statement said.