BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Power of Creative Reasoning: The Ideas and Vision of John Garang’


The Power of Creative Reasoning: The Ideas and Vision of John Garang.

By Lual A. Deng. Publisher: iUniverse, Inc., Bloomington, IN, 2013. ISBN: 978-1475960280. Illustrated. 240 pp. Paperback, $13.64. Personal Quality Rating: 5 out of 5 (1 = average; 5= outstanding).


This book is an indispensable source of insight into the power of ideas, apprizing one’s historical heritage and how Dr. John Garang—after so many Southern Sudanese luminaries before him failed—managed to identify and channel the ubiquitous malaise in the old Sudan. The book is instrumental in providing an overview into the new Sudans and distinctive attributes the author calls Garangism.  In light of current democratization challenges in two new Sudans, the author argues that Garang’s way of thinking and ideas can help the two nations to succeed in overcoming their teething problems. In particular, the book calls upon the young, who make up seventy two percent of South Sudan, to aim higher to create “a new South Sudanese identity that is inclusive of all its nationalities” (p. 2). The author explains that Dr. John’s approach solves national complex problems through tracing our heritage to historical times, ancient or biblical, and by entreating universal values such as freedom, liberty and human dignity. The book’s first chapter affirms that South Sudan belongs to all, and that the young generation for which the book is written are well placed to make it a vibrant nation; chapter two considers ten powerful ideas of John Garang; chapter three walks the reader through the concept of the New Sudan Vision; and chapter four concludes the book with brief shining moments of Dr. John as the Sudan’s First Vice President (FVP).

Author’s Background

Dr. Lual A. Deng is a distinguished development economist with training at Wisconsin- Madison, and extensive work experience with the World Bank and African Development Bank through the 1990s. In his long record of public service, Dr. Lual was a close economic advisor of John Garang, a state minister of finance, and the minister of petroleum for Sudan’s government from 2005 through 2011. Not only is Dr. Lual now a member of Parliament in South Sudan, he is also a towering giant involved in policy issues of the day and managing director of the Ebony Center for Strategic Studies in South Sudan.

Book Analysis

A notable characteristic of The Power of Creative Reasoning is that the author does not mince his words. The book calls a spade a spade. In the introductory chapter, he states “I set out to write this book with the main purpose of providing critical tools of analysis to the young generation of Sudanese (in the now two New Sudans) in their search for self-identity on the one hand and in understanding their historical heritage/legacy(commonwealth) on the other” (p. 2). The book’s forte lies in assembling plenty of tools for analysis, including the following ones:

First, a Venn diagram showcases the five Models in the Conceptual Framework of a New Sudan Project (Chart 3.1, p. 88). A quick glance tells the reader that Model 3 (Sudan as Islamic-Arab State) and Model 4 (hypothetical Sudan as Indigenous Secular African State) are unsustainable. Model 2 is a transitory phase (Sudanese Commonality: two-systems-one-country Model), while Models 1 (Transformed Democratic New Sudan) and 5 (Total Independence Model) of a New Sudan Project are the most stable equilibria. But because the CPA principals failed in making unity attractive, Model 5 became the fallback position, resulting into creation of two New Sudans.

Second, the author’s use of graphical aids proves a powerful tool of analysis. Figure 2.1, for instance, presents a dissection of the public sector spending by level of government (2005-2011), underscoring that for every $100 received; only $26 goes to states and $74 remains in Juba (p. 51). Therefore, “taking towns to rural areas” remains an empty rhetoric under GoSS.

Third, the book uses a policy matrix to drive home the meaning of Garangism, which is defined “as the pursuit of Sudanese commonality with conviction, courage and consistency” (p.2). Table 4.1 presents Dr. John’s Policy Matrix of Targeted Actions in 180 Days (p. 182). In his capacity as the President of GoSS and FVP of Sudan, Garang hoped to deliver water and power stations in each of the ten southern Sudanese states, modernize the SPLA, establish a hundred community resource centers (CRCs) in each state, and rehabilitate fifteen hundred kilometers of priority roads, among other tasks. After reading the book, one comes away with the conclusion that Garang had a vision for transforming south Sudan.

The fourth effective tool of analysis is the narratives and clear-cut examples that emphasize multi-tasking in liberation struggle. While the war was going on, Garang made educating the young a priority (example are the Lost Boys; FACE Foundation, p. 27), established governance structures in the SPLA-administered areas (Civil Authority of New Sudan), built an alliance with the NDA and tapped the power of Seven Front (p. 122). He hoped to turn tools of liberation into governance structures in peacetime. Along the way, the reader gets new information not revealed in other books before: Garang was not only occupied with the communist bloc, he was also strategically thinking and waiting for right time to embrace the West. One illustrative example, which speaks to the Diaspora role, is the recruitment of Commander Awet. The author “informs” the SPLA leadership about Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Awet Akot and Major Al-Tahir Bior Abdalla Ajak who were in the USA for one-year military training. They join the movement after training because “Dr. John felt the two officers risked the Reagan administration arresting and handing them over to the Sudan government if they were to leave suddenly before completing their courses” (p. 124).

Fifth, the reader gets to appreciate the values of Garangism—conviction, courage, creativity, and consistency—in action through this book, and how the 27-year old Garang conceived of the idea of the New Sudan in the 1972 letter written to Joseph Lagu. He never relented before and after his studies. When opportunity struck, Garang took up the responsibility and led his people until his unexpected departure. Meeting John Garang in 1974 and remaining in touch with him throughout their professional lives, Dr. Lual was an exceptionally close advisor of Dr. John. The reader will be spellbound with his account of behind-the-scene-advising and efforts put into governance structure (p.140) and the role of women in the liberation struggle (Table 3.3, p.146).

Sixth, the book does not shy away from highlighting our shortcomings or those of Dr. John’s leadership. His repackaging of message following the failed coup of 1991, the convention of 1994 and acceptance of peace through negotiated settlement indicates that Garang was a savvy politician who read signs and recalibrated when circumstances dictated.

Though the book admirably defends its thesis, many readers, in my view, will still conclude that Garang’s agenda (disarming the Janjaweed, triple objectives of sustained peace, economic growth, & poverty eradication, and constructing one thousand CRCs in South Sudan, among others) was too ambitious to deliver in 180 days. African post-independence nations are replete with many broken promises. How would Garang have prioritized in the face of governing realities? If Garang were alive, would those brief shining moments as FVP have convinced him and the entire nation that Sudan would have been better united than fragmented?

Another issue that leaves a reader with more questions is the assertion that Garang was assassinated, without elaborating or telling “Mabior’s generation” how to find out the culprits (p. 107).  Chances of identifying culprits behind his “mysterious death” diminish with time.

 Finally, euphoria and expectations were high during independence in South Sudan on 9 July 2011. But with the governing challenges in South Sudan today, the world opinion is unequivocal: South Sudan is becoming a failed state on arrival. The question that comes to reader’s mind is: Did the disciples of Garangism, many of whom filled the current leadership, not internalize the teachings of John Garang, from taking towns to people to fiscal responsibility?


The author witnessed Moses (Dr. John Garang) govern, and as a Member of South Sudan Legislative Assembly, he is currently watching Joshua (President Salva Kiir) govern up close. He provides a very thoughtful account of the New Sudan Project, elucidating complex issues and rich in Sudanese heritage. Therefore, this book will be of particular utility to everyone, including the disciples of John Garang who seem to have forgotten his teachings, those yearning for the power of ideas in shaping our shared destiny, and those wanting to see good governance prevail in South Sudan.

 James Alic Garang is a graduate student in economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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