The death in a copter crash of John Garang, Sudan's new Vice-President and former rebel leader, just weeks after his inauguration deals a severe blow to the peace process there. The central government will feel it has nobody to talk to in the South, while a struggle for succession might tear the fractious ex-rebel movement apart. It is stunning that a man who spent two decades in the bush fighting a vicious government should die in an accident just weeks after being installed, and many will ask whether this was indeed an accident.
But what this also highlights is the problem of any organization functioning as a one-man show, be it a rebel movement, a political party, or a business: once he's gone -- and it usually is a him -- there's no mechanism for succession and no auto-pilot option while succession is being figured out. In the case of the late Yasir Arafat, able (and less able) men were waiting in the wings and took over as soon as he had disappeared. It remains to be seen whether Garang's group can come up with similar men; it is to be hoped for the sake of Sudan.