Thursday, October 12, 2006

Remembering Dr John Garang de Mabior

“In the cabin of the giant Boeing 747, the lights were dimmed as the “fasten your seat belts” and “No smoking” signs lights came on. Then the metallic voice of the captain came floating over the intercom: “ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seat belts. We are now starting our descent to the John Garang International Airport in Juba . . .”

How charming. But not yet. What better way to remember a hero of the Sudan by naming an international airport after him. It will join a hosts of other airports named after heroes such as: the Jomo Kenyatta International in Nairobi, the Murtula Mohammed International in Lagos, the J F Kennedy International in New York and the Charles De Gaulle in Paris. It is the best manner to keep his memories alive from one generation to the next. We will not only make sure his legacy lives on, but also that he is remembered every day. His vision will be kept alive from dying or disappearing with the setting sun.

This is not a strange phenomenon. In many parts of the world, Africa included, there have been struggles for justice and equality. The marginalized and the oppressed masses in the world have led resistances, both peaceful and violent to change the status quo. In most instances, these liberators never lived to reap the fruits of their efforts. They fell in the struggle, so that others can have the best that the world and their countries can offer.

There are other ways we can keep his legacy alive. A John Garang Memorial Center can be built in Juba where he was buried. I suggest a huge park be built in his memory where visitors can see the tomb. It can also double as a memorial for all those who died in the struggle for freedom and justice, by putting up the names of all the fallen heroes in templates around the park. The center can also be made an Institute for Peace and Development Studies.

Wait. There is another way too. Let us rename the big Africa Road in the heart of Khartoum the John Garang Highway. John Garang loved Khartoum. It is his rallying cry for a new Sudan that won him hearts in Northern Sudan. It is the capital that he had fought for 21 years to make as inclusive of all the peoples of the Sudan as possible.

So next time you fly into Juba, don’t think you are landing in another country. It is the John Garang International Airport. Heroes never die.