South Sudan and its consequences

Martin Pabst


During the „Cold War“ no attempt at secession in Sub-Sahara was successful, but the international community has been forced to deal with splinterings in this area for 20 years. 1991 Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia and is a de-facto-state today, hoping to achieve diplomatic recognition. 1993 Eritrea splintered off from Ethiopia after a referendum observed by the UNO. Now Sudan, the biggest state of Africa, is affected by secession. An internationally acknowledged plebiscite among the South-Sudanese from 9th to 15th January 2011 resulted in an overwhelming majority of not quite 99% in favour of a state of themselves. This paper investigates the general set-up for secessions, outlines the developments of the last decades in Sub-Sahara-Africa, describes present secession efforts, and investigates whether and to what extent the precedent of South Sudan will encourage further secessions. The secession of South Sudan has a new quality, indeed. Whereas Somaliland and Eritrea could refer to colonial forerunners, the principle of inviolability of former colonial borders has now been broken in Africa for the first time. Of course, this process will encourage further secession movements, like in Somaliland, Zanzibar, Casamance and Cabinda. The successful secession of South-Sudan will give fresh impetus to the Darfur-rebels in North-Sudan. They will probably strengthen their armed resistance and raise their demands, possibly even take over a separist agenda. In this connection it is to be remarked that a South-Sudanese state has no historical example, but on the other hand, about 1650-1916 an independent sultanate Darfur existed. Naturally, the Darfuris traditionally have close contacts with Khartoum. In addition, there are strained relations between settled farmers and nomads inside Darfur, as well as between black African and Arabic speaking Muslims. A de-centralization of the political system would help Darfur probably in some better way. With a partition of Sudan the classic linking function between “Black Africa” and North Africa will cease to exist. Thus, the ditch running along the 12th parallel between the north and the south will deepen. As a consequence, the latent tensions between the countries of the Sahel might increase from Mauritania and Niger to Mali and Chad. Here the ethnic-cultural differences will be aggravated by the competition for scarce resources. Yet, the secession of South Sudan will presumably not spark off a domino effect. No matter how the international community will act concerning future secessions: Their number will increase, even in Sub-Sahara Africa. Both in South Sudan and elsewhere time will tell whether new states and borders will be able to achieve more stability and more development.