from Africa in Transition

South Sudan Independence July 9

July 7, 2011

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South Sudan

Women hold crosses as they march during a rehearsal of the Independence Day ceremony in Juba July 7, 2011. (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters)

On Saturday, south Sudan will celebrate its independence. Given the occasion, I have two pieces on the topic.

In a CFR expert brief, I make the point that south Sudan’s succession is the first significant change in any African country’s national boundaries inherited from colonialism. (The only other case is Eritrea, which won its independence from Ethiopia in 1991. But Eritrea had been separate from Ethiopia when both were incorporated into Mussolini’s east African empire, while south Sudan was part of the colonial Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.) The Organization of African Unity and its successor, the African Union, have opposed changing colonial boundaries of African states. I do not think that south Sudan will lead to a wholesale call for a re-evaluation of Africa’s national boundaries, in part because governing elites do not want to open what could be a pandora’s box. But, south Sudan may encourage a conversation about Africa’s often illogical national boundaries, and may encourage the separatist Republic of Somaliland to seek international recognition.

On the Royal African Society’s  blog, I make the point that despite the historic nature of south Sudan’s independence, it really opens a new chapter in a conflict that is likely to continue into the future, particularly given the violence in Abyei and South Kordofan.

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