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Shifting Grounds for African Secessionism?: Aspiration, Grievance, Performance, Disenchantment

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While international law stands on the side of the territorial integrity of African states, maintaining their colonially inherited boundaries and entertaining the right of self-determination in contexts of decolonization only, we show in this conclusion that its implementation has been inconsistent, before being overturned with the independence of South Sudan. Yet, despite this reversal, relatively little has changed for African secessionists, largely because of the high humanitarian threshold South Sudan has set for recognition. We note, however, an increased legitimacy of secessionist discourse in the wake of South Sudan’s independence, reinforcing a trend begun after the Cold War. We also note a renewed emphasis on sub-national referenda. Finally, we identify an increased coincidence between secessionism and Islamism that challenges our understanding of the state in Africa.

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In the early 2010s, Zanzibar and coastal Kenya witnessed the rise of assertive secessionist grassroots movements articulating perceived injustices committed by ‘upcountry’/mainland ruling elites. While on the islands, the Jumuiya ya Uamsho na Mihadhara ya Kiislam (Organisation for Islamic Awareness and Propagation) championed the breaking up of the Tanzanian Union, in Kenya, the Mombasa Republican Council actively campaigned for the creation of an independent coastal state. Locating these groups within two distinct histories of contentious politics, the article asserts that even though in both cases the temporary salience of secessionism revolved around controversial processes of (post-)colonial state formation, the overall dynamics of sub-nationalist mobilisation that have unfolded in Zanzibar and coastal Kenya since the early 1990s differ fundamentally. Specifically, the article demonstrates how and why it is only in Zanzibar that sub-nationalism has emerged as a viable political project. Furthermore, it shows that while in the archipelago, sub-nationalism and political Islam have become deeply interwoven, in coastal Kenya, they have emerged as separate strands of contention. Exploring and accounting for these differences, the article challenges the notion of two convergent paths of regional separatism grounding in the history of the Sultanate of Zanzibar.
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ABSTRACT & RÉSUMÉ & ZUSAMMENFASSUNG: Whereas Senegal has long been sold as a showcase of democracy in Africa, including peaceful political alternance, things apparently changed fundamentally with the Senegalese presidentials of 2019 that brought new configurations. One of the major issues was political transhumance that has been elevated to the rank of religion in defiance of morality. It threatened political stability and peace. In response, social networks of predominantly young activists, created in 2011 in the aftermath of the Arab Spring focused on grass-roots advocacy with the electorate on good governance and democracy. They proposed a break with a political system that they consider as neo-colonialist. Moreover, Senegal’s justice is frequently accused to be biased, and the servility of the Constitutional Council which is in the first place an electoral court has often been denounced. After having presented the conditions of the presidential election of 2019, analyzed the postures of the elements in presence and their evolution, we will present the new paradigm represented by this new connected and globalized generation by reactivating without fixations the theories of Frantz Fanon and Sankara ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The published French version (without graphs & tables) is available online, open access, at the Canadian Journal of African Studies: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00083968.2019.1634465 ------------ An English version (including graphs and tables), is available as Working Paper: Kohnert, Dirk & Laurence Marfaing (2019): 'Senegal: Presidential elections 2019 - The shining example of democratic transition immersed in muddy power-politics', online on ResearchGate, MPRA WP, No. 92739; SSRN WPS: 3350710 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- RÉSUMÉ: Alors que le Sénégal est considéré comme la vitrine de la démocratie en Afrique, également de par les alternances politiques pacifiques, les présidentielles de 2019 semblent donner des arguments pour en modifier la perception. La transhumance politique a été élevée au rang de religion au mépris de la moralité, ce qui pourrait menacer la stabilité politique. Les réseaux sociaux dominés par de jeunes militants engagés dans la foulée des Printemps arabes de 2011, développent une stratégie locale avec un plaidoyer auprès de l'électorat centré locale la bonne gouvernance et la démocratie. Antisystèmes, ils proposent une rupture avec un système politique qu’ils qualifient de néocolonial, avec une justice accusée de partialité et avec un Conseil constitutionnel dévoué au gouvernement. Après avoir présenté les conditions de l’élection présidentielle de 2019, analysé les postures des éléments en présence et leur évolution, nous présenterons le nouveau paradigme que représente cette nouvelle génération connectée et globalisée à prendre en compte en réactivant sans complexes les théories de Frantz Fanon et de Sankara. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- La version française publiée (sans graphiques ni tableaux) est disponible en accès libre en ligne à la Revue canadienne d’études africaines: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00083968.2019.1634465 ----------- Une version anglaise, comprenant des graphiques et des tableaux, est disponible sous la forme d'un document de travail - Kohnert, D. & L. Marfaing (2019): 'Senegal: Presidential elections 2019 - The shining example of democratic transition immersed in muddy power-politics', en ligne sur ResearchGate, MPRA WP, n ° 92739; SSRN WPS, n ° 3350710 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ZUSAMMENFASSUNG: Während der Senegal auch in Afrika als Musterbeispiel eines friedlichen politischen Machtwechsels im Rahmen einer Demokratie gilt, scheinen die Präsidentschaftswahlen von 2019 Argumente für eine Änderung dieser Wahrnehmung zu liefern. Die ‚politische Transhumanz‘ wurde mittlerweile in den Rang einer Religion jenseits jeglicher moralischer Bedenken erhoben. Dies könnte die politische Stabilität des Landes gefährden. Soziale Netzwerke, die von jungen Aktivisten dominiert werden, die sich nach dem Arabischen Frühling 2011 engagiert haben, entwickeln eine lokale Strategie, gestützt durch die Wähler vor Ort, zur Stärkung von Good Governance und Demokratie. Antisystemisch, schlagen sie einen Bruch mit einem politischen System vor, das sie als neokolonial beschreiben, inklusive dem herrschenden Rechtssystem, das sie der Befangenheit beschuldigen mit einem Verfassungsrat der der Regierung hörig sei. Nachdem wir die Rahmenbedingungen der Präsidentschaftswahlen von 2019 dargestellt und die politischen Variablen und deren Geschichte analysiert haben, stellen wir das neue Paradigma dieser neuen vernetzten und globalisierten Protest-Generation vor, unter Berücksichtigung der immer noch weithin Gehör unter den jungen Aktivisten findenden Theorien von Frantz Fanon und Thomas Sankara. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Die veröffentlichte französische Version (ohne Grafiken und Tabellen) ist online im Canadian Journal of African Studies unter folgender Adresse zugänglich: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00083968.2019.1634465 ---------- Eine englische Version mit Grafiken und Tabellen ist als Arbeitspapier online: Kohnert, Dirk & Laurence Marfaing (2019): "Senegal: Presidential elections 2019 - The shining example of democratic transition immersed in muddy power-politics', auf ResearchGate, MPRA WP, Nr. 92739; SSRN WPS: 3350710
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ABSTRACT & RÉSUMÉ & ZUSAMMENFASSUNG: Whereas Senegal has long been sold as a showcase of democracy in Africa, including peaceful political alternance, things apparently changed fundamentally with the Senegalese presidentials of 2019 that brought new configurations. One of the major issues was political transhumance that has been elevated to the rank of religion in defiance of morality. It threatened political stability and peace. In response, social networks of predominantly young activists, created in 2011 in the aftermath of the Arab Spring focused on grass-roots advocacy with the electorate on good governance and democracy. They proposed a break with a political system that they consider as neo-colonialist. Moreover, Senegal’s justice is frequently accused to be biased, and the servility of the Constitutional Council which is in the first place an electoral court has often been denounced. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- original French version (without graphs & tables) available open access at : https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00083968.2019.1634465 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ RÉSUMÉ:: Alors que le Sénégal a longtemps été vendu comme une vitrine de la démocratie en Afrique, y compris l'alternance politique pacifique, les choses ont apparemment changé fondamentalement avec les présidentielles sénégalaises de 2019 qui ont apporté de nouvelles configurations. Un des problèmes majeurs était la transhumance politique qui a été élevée au rang de religion au mépris de la moralité. Cela menaçait la stabilité politique et la paix. En réponse, les réseaux sociaux de jeunes militants à prédominance jeune, créés en 2011 à la suite du Printemps arabe, se sont concentrés sur le plaidoyer local auprès de l'électorat pour la bonne gouvernance et la démocratie. Ils ont proposé une rupture avec un système politique qu’ils considèrent comme néo-colonialiste. De plus, la justice sénégalaise est souvent accusée de partialité et de la servilité, notamment le Conseil constitutionnel, qui est avant tout un tribunal électoral, a souvent été dénoncée. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ZUSAMMENFASSUNG: Während Senegal lange Zeit als Vorzeigeprojekt der Demokratie in Afrika verkauft wurde, einschließlich eines friedlichen politischen Machtwechsels, hat sich dieses Bild mit den senegalesischen Präsidentschaftswahlen 2019, die zu neuen Konfigurationen führten, offenbar grundlegend geändert. Eines der Hauptthemen war die politische Transhumanz, die zu einem quasi religiösen Wert, bar moralischer Bedenken, hochstilisiert wurde. Dies bedrohte die politische Stabilität und den Frieden im Lande. Als Reaktion darauf konzentrierten sich soziale Netzwerke vorwiegend junger Aktivisten, die sich 2011 im Zuge des Arabischen Frühlings herausbildeten, auf die Verfechtung guter Regierungsführung und Demokratisierung. Sie befürworteten einen Bruch mit dem vorherrschenden politischen System, das sie als neokolonialistisch ansahen. Davon unabhängig, wurde der senegalesischen Justiz häufig Voreingenommenheit vorgeworfen. Insbesondere der Verfassungsrat, das oberste Wahlgericht, galt weithin als der politische Führung hörig.
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Jeffrey Herbst is Assistant Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University. I am grateful to Henry Bienen, Aaron Friedberg, Elizabeth Hart, Dave Rawson, the International Relations Discussion Group at Princeton University, and two anonymous readers for helpful comments. 1. Samuel P. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), p. 123; and Charles Tilly, "Reflections on the History of European State-Making," in Charles Tilly, ed., The Formation of National States in Western Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), p. 42. An important recent addition to this literature is Brian M. Downing, "Constitutionalism, Warfare and Political Change in Early Modern Europe," Theory and Society, Vol. 17, No. 1 (January 1988), pp. 7-56. The general literature on warfare's effect on society is voluminous. An early work which concentrates on some of the themes examined here is Hans Delbrück, History of the Art of War within the Framework of Political History, Vol. III, trans. Walter J. Renfroe, Jr. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1982). 2. For instance, in Morris Janowitz's classic study of the military in the developing world, the political, social, and economic functions of the military are studied extensively but the potential effects of war, or of peace, are not analyzed. Morris Janowitz, The Military in the Political Development of New Nations: An Essay in Comparative Analysis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), p. 12. 3. The literature is reviewed by Henry Bienen, "Armed Forces and National Modernization: Continuing the Debate," Comparative Politics, Vol. 16, No. 1 (October 1983), pp. 1-16. 4. Gabriel Ardent, "Financial Policy and Economic Infrastructure of Modern States and Nations," in Tilly, The Formation of National States, p. 89. 5. A useful corrective to the conventional view is provided by John A. Hall, "War and the Rise of the West," in Colin Creighton and Martin Shaw, eds., The Sociology of War and Peace (London: Macmillan, 1987). 6. Richard Bean, "War and the Birth of the Nation State," Journal of Economic History, Vol. 33, No. 1 (March 1973), p. 220. 7. Michael Mann, "State and Society, 1130-1815: An Analysis of English State Finances," in Mann, States, War and Capitalism: Studies in Political Sociology (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988), p. 109. 8. Michael Mann, The Sources of Social Power (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 486. 9. Michael Duffy, "The Military Revolution and the State, 1500-1800," in Michael Duffy, ed., The Military Revolution and the State, 1500-1800, Exeter Studies in History No. 1 (Exeter, U.K.: University of Exeter, 1980), p. 5. 10. "Lumpy" goods are products which are not useful if only part is purchased. Margaret Levi, Of Rule and Revenue (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 56-57. 11. Mann, Sources of Social Power, pp. 483-490. 12. Joseph P. Smaldone, Warfare in the Sokoto Caliphate: Historical and Sociological Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), p. 139. The same point is made by Richard L. Roberts in his Warriors, Merchants, and Slaves: The State and the Economy in the Middle Niger Valley, 1700-1914 (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1987), p. 20. 13. Joel S. Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and State Capabilities in the Third World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), p. 274. 14. Anthony Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence, vol. II of A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p. 235. 15. Michael Howard, War and the Nation State (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), p. 9. Emphasis in the original. 16. See, for instance, Joseph LaPalombara, "Penetration: A Crisis of Governmental Capacity," in Leonard Binder, et al., Crises and Sequences in Political Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971), p. 222. 17. In 1977 Somalia, as part of its irredentist project to create "Greater Somalia," invaded Ethiopia in the hope of annexing the Ogaden; the Ethiopians, with significant help from the Soviet Union and Cuba, defeated Somalia in 1978. David D. Laitin and Said S. Samatar, Somalia: Nation in Search of a State (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1987), pp. 140-143. In 1973 Libyan forces invaded Chad by moving forces into the disputed Aozou strip. The Libyan military presence...
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In international law and relations, ownership of territory is significant because sovereignty over land defines what constitutes a state. The benefits of having territory, though, are only as great as a state's borders are clear. In many cases, these borders are subject to competing international claims. Such claims can be generally divided into nine categories: treaties, geography, economy, culture, effective control, history, uti possidetis, elitism, and ideology. States have relied on all nine categories to justify legal claims to territory before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). This article examines the interplay and hierarchy among these nine justifications in the outcomes of land boundary cases adjudicated by the ICJ to determine whether one particular justification is dispositive - or, at the minimum, highly determinative. This analysis of the case law indicates that no single justification operates as the decision rule in the court's boundary dispute jurisprudence, and that the court manifests a hierarchical preference for treaty law, uti possidetis, and effective control, respectively.
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Over the last 40 years, Africa has experienced relatively fewer secessionist conflicts than most other regions of the world, even though it is otherwise plagued with political violence and its countries tend to display a higher prevalence of many of the factors usually associated with separatism. After empirically establishing Africa’s secessionist deficit, this article reviews the few existing explanations for it before articulating a theory which singles out the benefits to African regional elites (and those who depend on them) of weak sovereign states. In Africa as elsewhere, the article argues, regional leaders can be expected to capitalize on local grievances and promote secessions if the potential rewards of a separatist state, in the absence of international recognition, outweigh the potential rewards associated with control or partial control of institutions of the sovereign national state. What distinguishes African elites is the relatively greater material returns to sovereignty that they face. Given the continent’s poverty, the undiversified nature and commodity dependence of its economies, and the relative lack of accountability of state power, Africa offers a significant material premium to internationally recognized sovereignty, tilting the odds for elites in favour of staying within the state, even if they do not immediately benefit from power at the centre. The article then tests the argument against actual African cases of secession, showing that they are usually a function of variations in the relative rewards of sovereignty. In conclusion, it argues that Africa’s weak sovereignty equilibrium has contributed to its failure to develop.
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