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After Sudan, should more African borders be redrawn?

Story in today’s NYT

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  1. F Dar wrote:

    lAll African ‘borders’ were drawn by Euro-Powers during their notorious ‘Scramble for Africa'(1885).Somalia e.g.was ‘carved up’ into Djibouti(Fr) Somaliland,Hargeisa(UK)Somaliland,Mogadishu(It.) ,Ogaden/Haud (given to ‘Christian’ Ethiopia & W.Somalia,Garrissa(Br ‘Kenya Colony’).There should be a ‘refrendum’ for Somalis in seeking RE-UNIFICATION of Greater Somalia! Or another long War awaits!

    Posted January 9, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink
  2. Maxamed wrote:

    As a Somali I agree with F Dar but Somalia has a long way to go before that becomes even option. Some day, not anytime soon.

    Not only that, its really no business of an outsiders/westerns to decide if Africa should divide up more countries (considering that they draw the lines in the first place). Africa will decide.

    Posted January 9, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink
  3. Absolutely! The precedent has been set in eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics in the last 20 years. The arbitrarily created geo-political borders of Eurpopean colonialism in Africa needs to be examined and discussed. Whether or not new borders are formed should be determined by Africans.

    Posted January 9, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink
  4. Isabelle wrote:

    If re-drawing the borders would improve on governance then perhaps more citizens will consider it. Would splitting Nigeria or Ivory Coast into two countries decrease violence? Would citizens be better able to hold their elected representatives to account if they were ‘closer’? Would DRC develop faster if it were in smaller countries? Could Kenya as two countries have avoided the political turmoil? Many countries in Africa could be considered too big to manage, but very few countries are homogeneous enough for such splits. Firstly there needs to be a framework of a functional democratic processes in place, and secondly citizens need to trust in that process and through it be able to hold their governments to account. Then can citizens of large African countries decide who should govern them.

    Posted January 9, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink
  5. Mark Rutherford wrote:

    Yes, because ethnically homogeneous countries, like Somalia, Central African Republic, Zimbabwe and Madagascar are such happy places, free of the troubles that beset so much of Africa due to the legacy of European colonialism.

    Posted January 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
  6. Yngvar wrote:

    ‘At the first Pan-African Conference in Accra in 1958, the African leaders explicitly stated: “Artificial barriers and frontiers drawn by imperialists to divide African peoples operate to the detriment of Africans and should therefore be abolished or adjusted; frontiers which cut across ethnic groups or divide peoples of the same stock are unnatural and are not conductive to peace or stability. Leaders of neighbouring countries should cooperate toward a permanent solution of such problems.”

    Despite this declaration, the borders were never adjusted. As a sad result Africa has known neither peace nor stability in the past four decades.’

    The Brussels Journal.

    Posted January 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Permalink
  7. Don Stoll wrote:

    It goes without saying that Africans themselves must decide whether to redraw some of their borders. But observation of the Sudanese experiment—to speak somewhat cold-bloodedly—will at least give Africans a more solid foundation on which to base such decisions.

    Posted January 9, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink
  8. Jeff Barnes wrote:

    It remains to be seen whether this border change will contribute to more or less peace. If it does help bring peace then I suppose it will be worth it. I confess I am not enthusiastic about creating a new, poor, landlocked country with few resources other than oil. It seems inevitable that the aid industry will endow this new country with a large central government and lots of ministries to facilitate negotiations of aid agreements and projects, but which the south sudan people do not want and are certainly not willing to pay taxes for. I’m not sure that redrawing the borders (which tends to create new empires for bad governance, such as Eritrea) is as important as softening the borders through greater economic and legal integration.

    Posted January 9, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Permalink
  9. geckonomist wrote:

    Well, what would be the difference?

    Now the borders were marked by european countries.

    After splitting, the countries (Sudan, Nigeria, Ivory coast, …) would be marked by the respective missionaries & religions that also “colonised” the continent.
    Hardly a guarantee for good governance.

    Posted January 10, 2011 at 6:10 am | Permalink
  10. DPTrombly wrote:

    “Absolutely! The precedent has been set in eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics in the last 20 years. The arbitrarily created geo-political borders of Eurpopean colonialism in Africa needs to be examined and discussed. Whether or not new borders are formed should be determined by Africans.”

    I actually disagree about your assessment of the former Soviet Union – the Balkan conflicts and the peaceful dissolution of Czechloslovakia were really the only major changes in the borders of the former USSR and Warsaw Pact. There are still lingering issues of national borders with say, Hungary and its neighbors, or between Poland and Belarus, but most importantly with Moldova and its separatist movement, between the Ukraine and Russia, Russia and Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, ethnic disputes in the Central Asian CIS states (eg Osh riots in Kyrgyzstan vs ethnic Uzbeks).

    Borders of former Soviet Union and satellites have actually remained remarkably (formally) intact and are still sources of instability, as the Russo-Georgian war proved.

    I’m for Southern Sudan’s self-determination, and if Africans want new borders, they should get them. But the idea that African states will be able to forge their new borders, national identities, and strong states without war in such a situation where borders are no longer sacrosanct.

    While African leaders’ support of status quo borders was a mutually self-serving decision and certainly generated the impetus for lots of instability and the sovereign space for crackdowns and the like, Africa has had relatively little interstate war, and even less with significant territorial changes.

    The building of European states and nations involved a lot of wars and a lot of bloodshed that only really calmed down with Europe’s nations divided between the armed camps of the US and USSR. I would hope the general de-sanctification of African borders would not thrust those states into their own violent process of state-building and nation-determining, but given the risks we’d do wise not to encourage it in Africa, only to respond responsibly when and where it appears from genuine local desires.

    Posted January 10, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink
  11. geckonomist wrote:

    I do not think borders ought to be re-drawn, I hope that they become irrelevant, such that Africans enjoy free movement of labour, capital & goods.

    But, Prof. Easterly, YOU are the economics professor here, perhaps you might want to point out why my thought is mistaken.

    Posted January 11, 2011 at 5:39 am | Permalink
  12. Quicksilversurfer wrote:

    This line of reasoning comes out regularly! And it is very unfortunate… Not only does it offer no realistic prospects to improve the conditions on the Africa continents (did the people who think this way ever look a the incredible complexity of ethnic mixes even in one region of one African country? The experience of the separation of the Raj between India and Pakistan should have tought us something in that regard) but it is also based on a very weak assumption: that there exists some kind of natural, or optimal , boundary design that eliminates the weak state problem. But looking at Europe for example where presumably one finds strong states it is hard to see how the borders have been defined any less arbitrarily than in Africa: those borders were the results of conquests and settlements that left entire groups in countries where they were minorities while the neighbor country had a majority (Sudeten, for example): similar examples are common if less well known. The fact that these states have nevertheless been strong is therefore not a consequence of “correct borders” but of the system of governance that they put in place. And that’s where we should look for solutions in the case of Africa.

    Posted January 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Permalink
  13. James Michael wrote:

    If a certain border between two or more states dissects an ethnic group it only seems obvious to redraw the lines. Conflicting ethnic nationalism can be a strong factor in limiting state development as seen throughout Africa and the Middle East. The decision is not for any non-African powers, if African states wish to reconstruct their borders the entire process should be conducted in a strategy discovered and built by the African state. I am interested in seeing the outcome of Sudan’s redrawn borders years from now.

    Posted January 19, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

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  3. By Links about States « Aid Thoughts on January 10, 2011 at 6:42 am

    […] Aid Watch has questioned whether after Sudan, other states in Africa should redraw their borders and goes on to point out that ‘artificial states’ are prone to worse development outcomes. […]

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