Self-Determination Again And Again

Self-Determination Again And Again

From the Nuba, Sudan to the Kurds, Iraq and Catalonia, Spain the call for self-determination is getting momentum. It is becoming a phenomenon when cases like that of Scotland, United Kingdom and Quebec, Canada are added up despite the great devolution of powers these regions enjoy and exercise.


Moreover, and in yet another signal of the growing frustration with the current world political set up, Italy too is experiencing two unbinding referendums in Lombardy and Veneto that call on Rome to cede more powers to the two regions.


Though all these moves have been enshrined in the UN charter that recognizes the right of self-determination, but clearly nobody had in mind that exercising such right is a way leading for more state fragmentation that in itself will be a source of instability. And that is the paradoxical situation where more and more groups and regions are calling for self-determination to fulfil some sort of national aspiration that endorses the sense of being different, but at the same time if such calls are to be fulfilled regardless they may end up as a destabilizing factor that may not even satisfy the aspirations of the people in whose name the call for self-determination was raised in the first place.


It is hard to group all calls for self-determination in one category. Unlike what is happening in developing countries where distinct ethnic, cultural, geographical groups can call for self-determination to overcome injustice and marginalization, those in developed countries like Catalonia’s Spain, or Quebec’s Canada, self-determination call is seen more as fulfilling nationalistic aspiration more than remedying injustice. And as such outcome should be different.


What happened in Sudan is a case in point. Following long years of civil strife South Sudanese opted for self-determination that ended in separation as a way to fight injustice, but the record of the youngest country on earth is becoming a living example of the flaws of this argument as the new state in effect becomes a cut and paste copy of the mother country engaging into its own civil war.


Like the Kurds in Iraq, the Nuba of Sudan will face a real challenge to convince regional bodies like the African Union (AU) to agree to the idea of self-determination. It has been said former Ethiopian leader Meles Zinnawi expressed regret to some Sudanese officials that the IGAD pushed the principle of self-determination through its famous principles to solve the Sudan civil war. His advice to Sudan was to settle all outstanding issues before separation.


The Nuba in Sudan and the Kurds of Iraq can call for more autonomy and to have greater say in the national affairs, but short of complete separation that stands almost no chance to succeed in a hostile domestic and regional environment.


However, the way both Catalan and Kurdish crises are going to be solved will have its impact, somehow, on the resurging call for self-determination by the new SPLM-N leadership of Abdel Aziz Al-Hilu.


But the growing issue of self-determination even in places that don’t suffer from injustice and marginalization needs a fresh look. It is after all one of the by- products of globalization.   


In a way the post Second World War political systems and institutions including the national state seem to have outlived their time and usefulness and something new has to be crafted suiting more the environment created by the communications revolution, which is affecting all walks of life.


But as happened with the industrial revolution before its existing systems and institutions are not coping well with the new developments resulting from the communication revolution, but at the same time new systems and institutions reflecting the soul and aspirations of the current revolution did not materialize yet. And this is creating a gulf that fuels instability all over.

Back to Sudan clearly nothing is expected to happen during the coming two months. Al-Hilu who raised the issue of self-determination has to craft a major maneuver to sell this concept to Sudanese opposition groups and get the approval of the AU to table it before the government, or engage into a military activity to press with the issue and force on mediators to listen. Both are an effort that needs Herculean abilities, but equally the government is cornered and is required to come up with an acceptable solution addressing the Nuba concerns and not get the opportunity window slip from the hand.   




Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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