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Tension High as Sudan Buries Vice President Garang

Tensions were high in Sudan Saturday as hundreds of thousands of people, under tight security from both government and rebel troops, filled the streets of Juba in the country's south to mourn the death of John Garang, the former rebel leader and vice president whose sudden death last week sparked riots in the capital.

Heads of states from Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa, as well as dozens of foreign diplomats, came to bury John Garang's body, in a coffin draped with the red, green and black of the rebel flag.

Also at the funeral, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Mr. Garang's one-time enemy, accompanied by 300 elite presidential guards.

Thousands of Sudanese troops fanned out across Juba, one of the few government strongholds in southern Sudan. Heavily armed rebel soldiers patrolled the outskirts of the town.

Sudan's day of mourning has been tempered with fear. In the riots that erupted after Mr. Garang's death in a helicopter crash last week, more than 130 people were killed and hundreds more were injured, according to the Sudanese Red Crescent.

At least 13 people were killed in Juba as southern Sudanese who suspected foul play in Mr. Garang's death went on a two-day rampage, attacking anyone who looked Arab.

Not far from where the funeral was held are the charred remains of Juba's mostly Arab-owned market, destroyed and looted by rioters.

Emily Wax is the Washington Post's East African Bureau Chief. She speaks by satellite phone from Juba, where she is covering Mr. Garang's funeral. The mood, she says, is tense.

"There are sharpshooters on top of All Saints Church where the funeral is being held," said Ms. Wax. "And they've lined the streets and airport with AK-47s, and some have set up in a field holding rocket launchers. Sudanese rebels in vehicles are driving around town telling people to stay calm and respect this day of mourning."

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni cast a shadow over the funeral when he told mourners in the southern Sudanese town of Yei that he was not ruling out foul play in Mr. Garang's death.

President Museveni's comments sharply contrasted with those of Mr. Garang's successor, Salva Kiir Mayardit, and his widow, Rebecca de Mabior, who both said that bad weather was to blame.

A Sudanese newspaper says a recovery team near the crash site found the helicopter's flight recorder, but its contents are still being examined.

President Museveni has called in international aviation experts to investigate the cause of the crash of his Russian-made helicopter in which Mr. Garang and 13 others were killed as they traveled back from Uganda last Saturday.

Juba resident Janice Majong, like many here, are trying to come to terms with the death of their leader. She says John Garang led them from the chaos of war, but died just as they were beginning to taste the fruits of stability.

"He has been a leader that has led us for a long time," she said. "We hope that, if God has willed it and this is the end of our war, then he must have to go."

Less than a week before his death, Mr. Garang dissolved the leadership in his Sudan People's Liberation Army, SPLA, rebel movement and appointed administrators to the new Sudanese unity government outlined in the January peace deal.

His death and the violence following it have raised concern that the peace process, which outlined a power-sharing arrangement between the north and the south with southerners to decide on whether to secede in six years, may be unraveling.

To allay those fears, Sudanese government officials have said that the swearing in of Salva Kiir as the country's new senior vice president is likely to take place Monday.