On Saturday South Sudan became the world’s newest nation, seceding from the other Sudan, hoisting a new flag, singing a new anthem, celebrating in a new capital.
The South Sudanese people had voted 99% in favour of becoming independent. That kind approval only comes with vast and over-zealous electoral fraud, or with an overwhelming, perhaps even desperate desire for freedom. Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, currently wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, attended the inauguration of the new nation, and even managed to find something nice to say. If you want to know where that 99% approval came from, look at the way al-Bashir has treated the south in his 22 years in power.
South Sudan joins a short list of other nations to have gained independence in the 2000s. Kosovo and Montenegro have both split from Serbia, and this year East Timor celebrated 9 years of independence.
The golden days of secession, however, undoubtedly were the 1990s, when the USSR started to fragment, Yugoslavia broke up, and Czechoslovakia decided to split the sheets. Sure Germany decided to give it another shot when the wall came down, but that was the one happy family in a world splintering into smaller and smaller nations.
South Sudan has now become the 193rd member of the UN. There are a few other lone wolf nations out there, bringing the total number of countries in the world to about 196 (depending on who you talk to). Although secession isn’t as in vogue as it used to be, you can’t help but wonder who will be next. And who will have the distinction of being number 200 in the UN?
There are a number of possible candidates for the honour…
Stand outside the State Capital building in Austin, Texas for more than five minutes and a local will proudly inform you that Texas is the only state legally allowed to secede from the union at any time. Two more locals will point to the Texas flag and inform you that it’s the only state flag allowed to fly at the same height as the US national flag. Given how strong local pride is, and given that there is a whole dynasty of Bushes ready to rule again, it might not be long before the lone star state becomes just that… again.
If anyone deserves their own state, it’s probably the Kurds. Kurdistan straddles the borders of Turkey, Syria, Armenia, Iraq and Iran; having survived statelessness throughout all the shit that the twentieth century has thrown at this region, the Kurds have definitely proved their readiness. Add to the mix the reputation the Kurds have for hospitality and for doing a good job of looking after their turf – Iraqi Kurdistan has a reputation for being the safest part of Iraq these days – and you have the makings of a great state.
Any time ten or more people get together over drinks in Spain, the topic of secession gets brought up and some new independence movement is formed. Of all these though, the Catalan movement is perhaps the loudest. While an independent Catalonia would come with a formidable economy, an immense tourism industry, vibrant culture and some pretty good footballers, one of the big question marks over Catalan independence is whether anything would get done, or whether everyone would just sit around preening their mullets, drinking wine, sleeping with visiting exchange students and making poop jokes.
The Balkans have been (perhaps unsurprisingly) balkanising over the last twenty years, and they may not have finished yet. While Bosnia and Herzegovina are getting on very well, roughly half the country is made up of the estranged Republika Srpska. This largely Serbian republic-within-a-republic has its own president, courts, and flag. It also has a lot of bad blood with the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The biggest problem facing the Republika might be that if it secedes, it will lose its own capital, Sarajevo, which is not technically within its territories.
Anyone who has ever spent time in the south island of New Zealand knows that there is something strange going on down there. Unlike the thermal north island, the south is a slower, phlegmatic place. It feels a lot like Beatrix Potter’s England. The secession of the south island, aka New Munster would be a secession in time as well as geography. Other Tea Party movements get all the attention, but this would be a real tea party: with the good china, crumpets, scones and doilies.
It would be nice to be able to include Taiwan or Tibet in the list of independence-possibilities, but who would we be kidding? No one messes with China these days. Even the Google empire took a long time to declare independence.