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Learning English - Words in the News
01 August, 2005 - Published 15:01 GMT
Death of John Garang
John Garang
The late vice president of Sudan, John Garang

The death of John Garang, the Vice President of Sudan, and leader of the southern rebellion for more than twenty years, has plunged the country into turmoil. There is rioting in the capital, Khartoum and trouble elsewhere in the Sudan. This report from Martin Plaut.

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John Garang was a towering figure in Sudanese politics ever since he went to put down an incipient southern army mutiny in 1983. But instead of suppressing the rebellion, he joined the mutineers. And just as Yasser Arafat came to symbolise Palestinian aspirations, Mr Garang came to represent the southern yearning for freedom from northern domination.

That doesn’t mean that he was universally loved. John Garang ran the Sudan People's Liberation Movement that he founded with an iron hand. He frequently used brutal methods to keep control. And he kept all key decisions in his own hands, which may have served the movement well during the long years of war, but were little suited to the new politics of peace.

His deputy and apparent successor, Salva Kiir, commanded the movement's military wing. He has now called a meeting of the leadership to consider their next move. Commentators say Mr Kiir is a quiet man who could be more of a unifier across the South than Mr Garang. But that is in the future. For the moment, across the vast regions of southern Sudan devastated by long years of fighting, people are in mourning.

Martin Plaut, BBC

Listen to the words

a towering figure
a very important person

to put down
to stop

suppressing the rebellion
stopping the violent organised action by a group of people

just starting, starting to happen

a very strong desire (something you really want to happen)

an iron hand
this phrase is used to suggest that someone controls a group of people in a harsh and unfair way

in his own hands
in his control

apparent successor
the person most likely to get his job

a unifier
a person who can bring two or more groups of people together to work with each other

for the moment
right now (and for a short amount of time into the future)

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