Sunday, January 30, 2011

Is it Possible to Maintain a Democratic, Pluralistic, Multi-Ethnic, Multi-Religious State In Africa?--South Sudan Votes for Independence

In the 21st Century, the global community has been of two quite distinctive minds when it comes to the issue of the construction of multi-ethnic, multi-religious, pluralistic democratic states.  

Larger and more powerful states have been at the forefront of an international movement for the development and implementation of the necessary ideological bases for the construction and maintenance of such states.  Indeed, the coherence of their own territorial and political integrity depends on the privileging of the notion that it is not merely possible but better to construct such states.  This ideal is now increasingly memorialized in global standards of conduct, including respect for minorities, language and indigenous rights, religious freedom and the like.  The idea is that group characteristics that might once have defined a  group as distinct enough to suggest political autonomy ought not to matter in the construction of states.  There are two distinct reasons that may explain this push.  The first is the protection of the territorial and political integrity of multi-ethnic states--everything from the old  states of Europe, to the United States, China, India, Brazil,  and Russia.  The ideology of pluralism and the construction of political unity from ideological bases other than language, ethnicity, religion, race and the like serves the state.  The second, related, reason, is that the construction of global systems of interaction, principally (for the moment) economic globalization, requires free movements of capital, services and goods, that is most efficiently implemented in a world community in which race, ethnicity, religion, language and the like are not impediments.  

On the other hand, smaller and less powerful states have been more likely to be torn and politically destabilized, by ethnic, religious, racial, linguistic, and cultural distinctions among its theoretically unitary polity.  For every China there is a Yugoslavia.  These states are weakened by the strength of older ideologies, ideologies that caused no end of violence in Europe in the 19th century,  that understood the foundation of political union in racial, religious, ethnic, linguistic or other similar organizing characteristics.  Political union merely reflected the "natural" union inherent in the characteristics that unified a community along distinctive lines.  That these lines were mutable or immutable made no difference to this ideology, it merely suggested the hierarchy of organization, by which political union was a consequential recognition of higher order unions. While larger states and the movement of the international move toward the adoption of a system in which the protection of territorial integrity combines  with national obligations to protect minority communities, large territorially unified minority communities, especially those in smaller states continue to participate in the equally important international norms for self-determination and separation. 
University of Leicester, Appearance before the International Court of Justice in key case by University of Leicester Professor, News and Events ("Professor Malcolm Shaw QC, the Sir Robert Jennings Professor of International Law at the University of Leicester. . . who is Counsel for Serbia, declared before the Court that many states around the world were watching the proceedings with apprehension. Should the Court, he noted, accept the declaration of independence as lawful under international law, it could encourage secessionist movements around the world and lead to an increase in instability in the international community.")

The tensions and contradictions of these two positions remains an element of international law, the latest uncomfortable manifestation of which was apparent in the recent advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, Accordance With International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence With Respect to Kosovo, 22 July 2010..
The Court first notes that during the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were numerous instances of declarations of independence, often strenuously opposed by the State from which independence was being declared. Sometimes a declaration resulted in the creation of a new State, at others it did not. In no case, however, does the practice of States as a whole suggest that the act of promulgating the declaration was regarded as contrary to international law. On the contrary, State practice during this period points clearly to the conclusion that international law contained no prohibition of declarations of independence. During the second half of the twentieth century, the international law of self-determination developed in such a way as to create a right to independence for the peoples of non-self-governing territories and peoples subject to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation. A great many new States have come into existence as a result of the exercise of this right. There were, however, also instances of declarations of independence outside this context. The practice of States in these latter cases does not point to the emergence in international law of a new rule prohibiting the making of a declaration of independence in such cases.
The Court then recalls that the principle of territorial integrity is “an important part of the international legal order and is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, in particular in Article 2, paragraph 4, which provides that:
‘All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.’”
. . . .The Court considers that it is not necessary, in the present case, to resolve the question whether, outside the context of non-self-governing territories and peoples subject to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation, the international law of self-determination confers upon part of the population of an existing State a right to separate from that State, or whether international law provides for a right of “remedial secession” and, if so, in what circumstances. 
. . . . For the reasons already given, the Court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declarations of independence. Accordingly, it concludes that the declaration of independence of 17 February 2008 did not violate general international law. (From International Court of Justice, Accordance with international law of the unilateral declaration of independence in respect of Kosovo, Summary of the Advisory Opinion, Summary 2010/2, 22 July 2010, at 7-8.)
The usual solution to these sorts of tensions in smaller states,and sometimes in larger ones, is some form or other of ethnic federalism.  The idea is that national aspirations can be acknowledged but subordinated to a superior political unit of which these semi-states, autonomous regions, and the like, will be subordinate.  

Ethnic federalism  remains popular in the West but is less popular in places where it would tend to be most usefully applied.  See, e.g., Selassie, Alemante G., "Ethnic Federalism: Its Promise and Pitfalls for Africa," 28 Yale Journal of International Law 51 (2003);  Ethnic Federalism: The Ethiopian Experience in Comparative Perspective (David Turton, ed.,  2007).  The effectiveness of this limited structural effort to meet and to contain the drive toward political independence grounded in ethnic, religious,linguistic and similar characteristics has also had its critics in the development of the Indian variant.  See, e.g., S.D. Muni, "Ethnic COnflict, Federalism, And Democracy in India," in Ethnicity and Power in the Contemporary World (Kumar

These tensions have to some extent driven events in Sudan. See, Written Testimony of Susan D. Page, NDI Regional Director  For Southern and East Africa as Prepared for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing  “Toward a Comprehensive Strategy for Sudan,” July 30, 2009.

From South Sudan referendum: 99% vote for independence, BBC NewsOnline, Jan. 30, 2011
Some 99% of South Sudanese voted to secede from the north, according to the first complete results of the region's independence referendum.
A total of 99.57 percent of those polled voted for independence, according to the referendum commission.
Early counting had put the outcome of the ballot beyond doubt, indicating Southern Sudan had secured a mandate to become the world's newest nation.
The poll was agreed as part of a 2005 peace deal to end two decades of war.
Final results from the 9-15 January vote, which Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said he will accept, are expected early next month.
If the result is confirmed, the new country is set to formally declare its independence on 9 July.
. . . .
North and south Sudan have suffered decades of conflict driven by religious and ethnic divides.
Southern Sudan is one of the least developed areas in the world and many of its people have have long complained of mistreatment at the hands of the Khartoum government. (From South Sudan referendum: 99% vote for independence, BBC NewsOnline, Jan. 30, 2011).

From the perspective of large states and the international order, Sudan should have been made to work.  But Sudan appeared to follow the pattern of smaller states--like Yugoslavia, rather than larger states, like India and even Nigeria. Jan Tullberg and Birgitta S. Tullberg, "Separation or Unity:  A Model for Solving Ethnic Conflicts," Politics and the Life Sciences 16(2):237-248; Cf. Michael Mann, The Dark Side of Democracy:  Explaining Ethnic Cleansing (Cambridge University Press, 2004). It was unable to contain the conflation of nationalism with the characteristics of the ethnic, religious, racial and linguistic communities that privileged difference, and invested that difference with political significance.   As in Yugoslavia, the conduct of the majority population both sharpened political divisions based on ethnic, religious and linguistic lines, but also made pluralism impossible by the sustained level and extent of violence grounded in those differences.    In the case of Kosovo, independence was a tolerable alternative, even for the larger states, because Kosovo would go from a dependency of a multi-ethnic Serbian state, to a dependency of a multi-ethnic European Union,within which its national aspirations would be affirmed in form and constrained in fact.  2008/213/EC: Council Decision of 18 February 2008 on the principles, priorities and conditions contained in the European Partnership with Serbia including Kosovo as defined by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 10 June 1999 and repealing Decision 2006/56/EC.  Even so, several of the larger European voiced either opposition or concern, especially those that feared that its own ethnically organized sub national communities would seek to emulate Kosovo.  See EU splits on Kosovo recognition, BBC News Online, Feb. 18, 2008.

But such a solution was not possible in Sudan, where there was no supra state substitute for the ethnically based political division contemplated. The Sudanese break up puts in stark relief the contradictions in the global normative structure that will tolerate the break up of states to avoid ethnic, religious linguistic and similar violence, but which also privileges within the edifice of international law the territorial integrity of states, even of states in which minorities  are treated like foreigners within the body politic.   Perhaps the Turks expressed the tensions inherent in the South Sudan independence vote best when they explained:
 “We are pursuing two principles in regards to our relations with Sudan. First, we want the continuity of Sudan’s territorial integrity and unity. Our desire is in this direction,” a Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday.
“Secondly, we want the referendum result to serve peace and stability in the country regardless of the outcome,” the official said, while noting that it is too early to comment on the independence vote since the results have not been finalized.
Turkey would pursue good relations with Southern Sudan if it splits off from the north, another Turkish diplomat who wished to remain anonymous told the Daily News. Ankara says the oil extracted in the south and carried through the north via pipelines should not become a source of friction between the two sides, but rather a shared resource that links them. Seventy percent of Sudan’s oil is in the south. (From Turkey Backs Sudan Unity, Vows Support for Plebiscite, Turkish Weekly, Jan. 12, 2011)
The lack of alternative makes Sudan more dangerous for the territorial integrity of small states.  Certainly, Turkey, with its Kurdish independence problem, like Spain, views secession with alarm, even one mediated by large pluralist states and the international.  It also makes South Sudan more likely to require some connection with a more well organized state to survive.

Maggi Fick, South Sudan welcomes outside help as it begins building a nation, Christian science Monitor, Jan. 28, 2011.

"Juba is indeed already booming with new “friends.” Investors touch down daily at the international airport that is badly in need of a remodel. The new business they bring, however, seems unlikely to make a difference in the lives of the majority of the southern population – rural subsistence farmers who lack access to safe drinking water, primary education, and basic health care. In the capital, Chinese and Eritrean owned hotels keep springing up to serve the newly arrived consultants and diplomats who don’t yet have office space or long-term accommodation." Maggi Fick, South Sudan welcomes outside help as it begins building a nation, Christian science Monitor, Jan. 28, 2011.

Juba from the air

But the independence of South Sudan is not the end of the story,  Still within the warm embrace of what remains of Sudan is Darfur.  "South Sudan shares a border with the remote north Sudanese territory of Darfur, the scene of a separate seven-year conflict between government forces and rebels. Ibrahim Gambari, the head of Darfur's joint U.N./African Union UNAMID peacekeeping force, told reporters there was concern about a "spill-over effect" from north-south tensions." Andrew Heavens, North-south tensions threaten Sudan's Darfur - U.N., The Star Online, Nov. 15, 2010.

No comments: