Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New country in the near future - South Sudan!

I don't have time to write about this, but this is pretty big news - South Sudan may become country #193 this month. See Economist article. Wikipedia has more info with lots of links to articles, and if you want more you can go to southsudannation.com .

UPDATE: In preparation for voting on the referendum for independence, which starts Sunday January 9, the army of Southern Sudan signed a ceasefire with a renegade general's fighters.  This is a reminder that conflict in Sudan is not only between the central government and southern Sudan, or between the central government (and its proxies) and Darfur, there is also conflict within southern Sudan. Scholars such as Zachariah Mampilly have been writing about these conflicts for years, but they don't get as much attention in the popular press.

Anyway, if South Sudan becomes its own country, this will be huge news, not just for its inhabitants, but also because it is a major exception in the history of independent Africa.  As Pierre Englebert and Rebecca Hummel note, Africa, with its arbitrary borders and social cleavages, seems ripe for secessionist movements, yet these rarely occur and almost never succeed (Eritrea being a notable exception). Englebert has argued that artificial borders are a major cause of Africa's poor governance and performance, and sees the emergence of states with new boundaries, recognized by the international community, as a potential way to encourage better governance on the continent. My guess is that Pierre sees Sunday's vote as a positive development, but I haven't heard him say so directly.  I'll email him now and see what he says.  He might also think that Cote d'Ivoire would be better off splitting in half rather than continuing as a single state.

UPDATE #2: The Economist has some good coverage of the upcoming vote. And here is there coverage of the last time a new African state (Eritrea) was born.  They are with Englebert, that new states can be a good thing for Africa. Also from the Economist, a video history of modern Sudan:

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