The two issues Mabior Garang kept returning to were corruption – "South Sudan is hemorrhaging money," he said – and his belief that the country is being led by a weak ruler who fears the consequences of sidelining a brutal inner elite bent on power and wealth at all costs.
At one point in the interview, Garang said he thought that Kiir, whom he’s known since he was a child, when he called him “Uncle Salva,” was struggling between the angel and the demon on his shoulders.
“Like they show in the cartoons," he said. Then Garang paused, and his voice dropped: "I think he fears for his life. I think he has lost the way."
U.S. officials have seen Kiir as a unifying if flawed figure who lacks the natural leadership of John Garang. But Kiir appeared able to navigate South Sudan through its final path to independence, keeping internal divisions at bay.
Although the relationship between Kiir and President Barack Obama has faltered over South Sudan’s military activity along the border, Kiir is still seen as responsive to Western concerns. His order to the military in April to stop its offensive north into Sudan is one such example.
But the South Sudanese leader’s power has been increasingly questioned lately, with reports of discontent within the powerful army.
Garang said he opposed a military coup, and that he hoped instead for the government to reform until the next elections, expected in 2015. But he left open the possibility of a civil uprising against the leadership.
"I think change can come through pressure on the government," he said. "If the army takes power, it should be a people’s coup, more so than a coup d’etat coming from the general headquarters."
During the interview, Garang displayed a keen awareness of history and his role within it. He was careful to explain that his opinions about the country’s leadership weren’t new, but that speaking out earlier would have put him on the "wrong side of history" and opened up his family to charges of jealousy.
But since his father’s death seven years ago, “You start to get a crisis of conscience."
The young Garang also expressed hope that his decision to break the political norms of South Sudan – which, as within many liberation movements, strongly discourages public dissension – will encourage his fellow countrymen to begin demanding a more accountable government.
As for himself, Garang said he was open to seeking political office someday. For now, he sees himself as just an activist.
He seemed unsure of the path ahead. During the interview, he made it clear that he saw the problems in South Sudan’s leadership as endemic, and at times he sounded despondent about the fate of the nation that was his father’s biggest legacy.
"Salva Kiir as a person is not the problem,” he said. “So changing Salva Kiir the person will not do anything. You might even bring a guy who is worse.”