Splitting Sudan: Dangerous Contagion, or About Time?

Last week, I wrote about “Splitting Sudan” into two states and possibly another autonomous region. If it goes ahead, this would be the first such partition since Eritrea and Ethiopia were (re)partitioned in 1991 after years of bloody war, and one of very few state partitions that have ever happened in Africa after independence swept the continent in the 1950s and 1960s. Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi has warned that this vote on independence for south Sudan that could partition of the country would be a “contagious disease” that could spread to other African states.

Is Sudan’s situation a dangerous precedent… or is it about time the countries of Africa got used to partition? Africa is a unique in having such stable borders over the last centuries. Meanwhile, the borders of Europe shifted countless times during the 20th century, most recently with the split of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia along ethnic lines; the Soviet Union fractured into a dozen states; and other parts of the world have seen new states emerge, such as East Timor in Southeast Asia. There has also been much talk about the possibility of independent nations emerging from nations such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and India.

Africa, meanwhile, has seen almost no change in borders since the wave of independence that hit the continent half a century ago, with the exceptions being the creation of West Sahara. Yet Africa is a continent that is ripe for splintering — or as Younghusband has pointed out, there are lots of “Wannabe States” out there. And to reference the graphic from that old post, check out the independence movements active on the continent:

What do we have?
* Nigeria is, like Sudan, a nation witnessing war between the north and south, and could fracture into any number of states. This could ripple across West Africa — as Kaplan said in The Coming Anarchy, “the entire stretch of coast from Abidjan eastward to Lagos—is one burgeoning megalopolis that by any rational economic and geographical standard should constitute a single sovereignty, rather than the five (the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria) into which it is currently divided.”
* Somalia was created through the merger of two states, Somaliland along the northern coast and Somalia in the south. The country could well be divided into two or three states, dismembering the anarchic south from the functional north.
* Much of central Sub-Saharan Africa is loosely governed. Democratic Republic of the Congo is effectively three or four states, with Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania have more control over much of the country than the central DRC government.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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7 Responses to Splitting Sudan: Dangerous Contagion, or About Time?

  1. Scott says:

    I think there is more states possible on this map. The history of Africa is such a way that so many could break up into smaller pieces.

  2. But as partitioning of European-drawn borders becomes commonplace, the reverse is, in fact, occurring in the eastern-central area of Africa. The current East African Community, which is composed of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, quite possibly will federate into a single state in a few years.


  3. kurt9 says:

    The borders in Africa are left over colonial administrative districts. These borders were created by European colonialists with the intention of breaking up tribal areas such as to make them ungovernable by anyone other than the colonial powers. It was “divide and conquer” in its purest form. Ralph Peters has talked about this extensively in his books and numerous articles. Redrawing the borders in Africa is a necessary part of the de-colonial phase that Africa must pass through sooner or later.

  4. kurt9 says:

    “The current East African Community, which is composed of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, quite possibly will federate into a single state in a few years. ”

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

  5. Curzon says:

    Ditto to Kurt9 — it will never happen.

  6. Tim says:

    Judging from the map, most of the African nations remaining unaffected (except the ones on the recently stable South-West coast) seem to be the Arabic ones. Quite ironic.