3 August 2005 With rioting in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum continuing for a third day after the sudden death of first Vice-President and ex-southern rebel leader John Garang, the top United Nations envoy in Sudan called on all the people of country – from political leaders to parents and their children – to “come to their senses” and help restore calm.
Speaking to the press for the first time since the tragic helicopter crash that killed Mr. Garang over the weekend, Jan Pronk, head of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said that in these tense, early days, many people “are angry and frustrated…but there is no need for rioting and the riots should stop.”
In a statement issued by his spokesman in New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan reiterated appeals for calm and calls on all Sudanese to refrain from actions which may lead to tension during this time of mourning.
For more than two decades, Mr. Garang headed the southern-based Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). He signed a power-sharing peace deal with the Khartoum Government in January, which ended Africa’s longest civil war and led to his swearing in as Sudan's first Vice-President only three weeks ago. News of his sudden death sparked riots and looting in the streets of Khartoum and the city is now under night-time curfew.
Mr. Pronk said that the UN has offered its assistance in the expected investigation into the helicopter crash, but reiterated that there is no reason to suggest or believe that the crash was anything but a tragic accident. “No reason whatsoever to believe it was sabotage or a shooting [down],” he said. He added that what had happened on 9 July with decision to form a Government of National Unity was not a one-day occurrence; rather, it was the beginning of a new era and that era had not faded away with the death of one leader.
Asked by reporters if he had been informed by the Government of Sudan of any intention to delay the formation of the Government of National Unity, Mr. Pronk said there is no reason to assume a structural delay in the formation of the new Government and that he understood that all relevant parties want to keep to the 9 August inauguration date.
Asked if the incidents of the last few days would hamper the Mission’s deployment plans, Mr. Pronk said the Government’s curfew applied to UN staff as well as others, and the Mission’s activities would be limited because of it. UNMIS national staff have been asked to remain home until Saturday and only international staff who are deemed essential are reporting for duty, he said.