-- On one side of the casket carrying the body of John Garang, the southern Sudanese guerrilla leader turned statesman, were some of his favorite soldiers from his rebel movement. On the other side were government soldiers, his onetime enemies.
On Saturday, the men united at Garang's funeral, mourning a man who had spent the last years of his life trying to bring them together after decades of war.
"As sure as day follows night, the torch he has kindled shall not be extinguished. Not under my command," said Salva Kiir Mayardit, Garang's successor as head of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.
Garang, 60, died last Sunday in a helicopter crash, three weeks after he was sworn in as Sudan's vice president. Garang had played a pivotal role in ending decades of civil war between rebels based in the south and the government in the north, a conflict that left 2 million people dead and millions more displaced.
News of his death triggered speculation that the peace deal would come apart and sparked several days of violence that left more than 130 people dead. In the capital, Khartoum, where the Arab-led government is based, rioters and looters smashed cars and shops. Hundreds of Arab northerners fled Juba, an important city in the predominantly African south, after many Arab-owned shops and businesses were destroyed in riots.
Many Sudanese expected more violence Saturday, with old enemies standing shoulder to shoulder at the funeral in Juba and emotions running high. Heavily armed government security forces lined the route of the funeral procession, and rebel forces guarded the mourners. Government sharpshooters watched from atop the church.
But it was a day of peace.
Garang's casket was taken to several southern cities Saturday to allow mourners to say farewell. In Juba, tens of thousands of people, many waving green leaves in a traditional sign of mourning, lined the route to a cathedral and to the burial site. Some carried photos of Garang and held up wooden crosses.
The funeral offered a glimpse into the "new Sudan," as Garang had called a unified country that he envisioned. The guest list included old enemies and new allies, ordinary citizens and government officials, all brought together under the hard-won peace deal that Garang brokered six months before his death. Sudanese leaders and his family and friends spoke tenderly about his legacy and emphasized their hopes for peace.
"I am very proud of this man here," said Garang's wife, Rebecca, pointing to her husband's coffin. "Dr. John wanted you to be united. If we were not united, we would not have reached here. . . . If there are any small differences, please let us put these behind and let us look ahead."
That theme was repeated throughout the day.
"We will be strong and together," Sudanese President Omar Hassan Bashir, clasping Kiir's hand, said at the funeral. "We say to our brother Salva Kiir that we will remain hand in hand to apply the peace agreement to the letter."
Daniel Awet, a commander in Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Movement, said: "There's nothing simple on this Earth. We have to make sure the peace deal is our bible today."
A choir sweetly sang words written for the funeral: "Oh my people. Oh my country. Who will save my people?"
One choir member, Sabina Placido, 32, wept as she explained that Garang had been the only leader her generation had known. "Our noisy leader is now silent in a box," she cried. "I can't bear the thought of going back to war."
Garang, a brilliant man with a powerful personality, was seen as the main drive behind the peace talks. He spoke English, Arabic and Dinka, the language of his tribe, and had forged friendships with leaders around the world.
Kiir, a charismatic figure who commands most of the rebel forces, had often sparred with Garang. Concerns about Kiir's leadership abilities were out in the open in Juba on Saturday.
"Our Moses is gone. Our Churchill is gone. Our Mzee Jomo Kenyatta is gone," said Michael Lugar, an Episcopal bishop. "It is you now Salva."
Kiir nodded, then stood motionless, staring down at the grave of the man whose mission he will try to fulfill.
When the last cement was spread over the coffin, hundreds of mourners rushed the grave as a heavy rain began to pour from the sky.