January 11, 2011

From the Council of Berlin to the Birth of South Sudan

The whole world has been quite interested in Sudan this week, and rightfully so.  How often do we have the opportunity to potentially witness the birth of a new nation?  One thing I've noticed though when discussing the subject with my friends from neighboring countries is the idea that a unified Sudan is somehow ideologically better, although not necessarily reasonable.  I can't help but feel puzzled by this concept.

Perhaps I would feel the same if Sudan was composed of homogenous groups with shared language, culture, and ideology, but the truth is, that the composition of this modern state is more or less the whim of European colonialism.  In 1884-85, the European powers convened at the Council of Berlin to carve up Africa into separate territories, based upon the geographic locations and trade interests of European colonies.  Since African countries began to establish independence in the 1960s, these shapes have more or less remained the same.  Yet the arbitrary borders have done a great deal of damage to these countries, separating families, causing conflict over limited resources, and undermining regional stability.  


I know that the separation of north and south Sudan does not necessarily establish equality or peace. However, I do believe that it is a significant step toward equality and peace, as it presents the opportunity for the construction of African states founded on the citizens of those states, and not some distant power.