Sudan has been
successfully split into two independent countries. Here's why more
African nations should divide, secede, splinter, or otherwise scramble
the old colonial borders.
Officials look at the newly unveiled map of Sudan after separation / Reuters
On Saturday, South Sudan was finally born. Rather than a moment of existential peril, or an invitation to sub-regional instability, the birth of this new African nation offers a moment of celebration for the persistence of African commitment to self-determination and dignity. This is a moment to consider an alternative reading of African affairs, one that has for some 50 years co-existed alongside the conventional narrative. That long-accepted narrative says that political violence in Africa is always a tragedy and that outsiders invariably must try to reduce this violence no matter the cost in the realization of legitimate political aspirations of Africans. It also says that Africans and their ancestors have for centuries only known feudal dominance, colonial exploitation at European hands, and then finally abuse and abandonment on the part of their own elites. These Africans inherited the borders and machinery of a colonial African states, but South Sudan proves that they do not have to inherit this outdated, post-colonial narrative.
The birth of South Sudan is a momentous invitation not to despair over the travails that the people of this new landlocked and impoverished nation surely will experience, but to celebrate another step toward closing what Pierre Englebert, a professor of African politics at Claremont College, has called "Africa's secessionist deficit." And the deficit in question refers to living standards and development generally. Englebert found, in one of the most exciting recent academic projects in academic African studies, that the unwillingness to cut African nations down in size (in other words, to let new nations form) has "contributed to its underdevelopment."