Tuesday, 11 February 2014

De-constructing Multi-Ethnic States and Creating Real Nation-States: My Personal Take on Redrawing International Borders

After World War I, the victorious Allies decided to do some tinkering with the map of Europe.  They dismantled the Austro-Hungarian Empire and created the new, largely homogenous nation-states of Austria and Hungary.  This was a smart move on the part of the Allies as they erased from the map of Europe a country that was united only by the imperial domination of several different peoples, Austrians, Hungarians, Serbs and so forth.  Unfortunately, Europe's great powers, Britain and France, did not apply the same treatment to their newly-acquired territories in the Middle East, not to mention the colonial territories that they already held throughout the rest of the world.  Britain and France divided the territories of the former Ottoman Empire amongst themselves, creating what would become the artificial states of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Jordan while holding onto their colonies in Africa and Asia.

Today, most of the territory in Africa, the Middle East and Asia are beset by armed conflict, poverty, hunger and hopelessness.  As I stated in my last blog, Multi-Ethnic States: Disasters Waiting to Happen, the best possible outcome for countries made up of many competing groups is very likely the partition of territory amongst those groups.  Hence, part of cleaning up the mess that European colonial powers made of much of the world is de-constructing the artificial borders that they drew and creating nation-states composed of stable majorities of like peoples.  Below, I outline my own vision of what I think should take place in various countries and territories.



A new Tuareg Nation-State

The Tuaregs are a people spread far throughout western Africa.  Their territories include much of southern Algeria, northern Mali, northern Niger and a small part of southwest Libya.  So I would propose that a new Tuareg state be created and comprised of all of these territories in which they are the majority.


Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and has countless different ethnic groups, but it is three particular groups, the Yoruba, the Hausa-Fulani and the Igbo which are largest groups in the country and together make up the majority.  In this case, I would propose a three-way partition of the country: Yorubaland in the southwest, Hausaland in the north, and Biafra in the southeast.  Hausaland may even take what is left of Niger, Nigeria's northern neighbour, after the Tuaregs have taken the north of it as part of their state.  By the way, I did not just create names out of the blue for these three new states.  Yorubaland and Hausaland are the traditional geographic names of the southwest and northern regions respectively.  Biafra is the name that the Igbo people gave their newly formed country as they tried to break away from Nigeria in the 1960s.  But of course, the Nigerians eventually crushed the revolt and Biafra no longer exists - accept in the hopes and dreams of Igbo people who still yearn for independence.

Sudan - A Partition Still in the Making

Sudan's long civil war ended only once the country's government, dominated by Arab northerners, finally allowed the predominantly black, Christian and animist south to break away.  Unfortunately, however, conflict is still raging in both Sudan and South Sudan.  The former must be partitioned even further to allow the Beja people of the country's coast the right to independence.  I would say the same goes in regards to the Fur people of the western Darfur region and the Nubian people who live in the north of the country and across the border with Egypt, however, I am unsure if states that are viable from an economic standpoint could be created for these two groups.  In the new country of South Sudan, the two main ethnic groups, the Dinka and Nuer, are fighting each other, both under the leadership of two men jockeying for control of the whole country.  To the best of my knowledge, a partition of South Sudan between these two warring groups is not possible because they are both scattered in different pockets of the country.  Finally, the border between north Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan is still in dispute and the people living along the border should have the final say on which country they want to be part of.

The Horn of Africa: Somalia and Ethiopia

Somalia has been without an effective government for the whole country since the early 1990s.  Somalis in the northwest of the country have declared their independence in their own state that they call Somaliland.  But although Somaliland has a government that is stable, at least by African standards, the international community refuses to recognize it.  This, I believe, must change.  The international community and the West in particular should give up the illusion of a united Somalia and accept the right of the people of Somaliland to independence.  As for Ethiopia, although it is the only country in Africa whose borders were not drawn up by European colonial powers, it is still a multi-ethnic empire that should be dismantled should the people desire.  The Oromo, Afar, Amharic and Somali peoples that are all seemingly united under the Ethiopian flag, should all have the right to self-determination.

Morocco and South Sahara

Spain should return the remaining enclaves that they have in Morocco back to the Moroccan people.  South Sahara (the former Spanish Sahara) should be granted independence. 

The Middle East:


The Kurds are as far-flung in the Middle East as the Tuareg are in western Africa.  Kurdish territory comprises southeastern Turkey, northeast Syria, northern Iraq and parts of northern Iran.  All this territory should become part of the new nation-state of Kurdistan.  Again, this is not a name I invented, but rather the name given by the Kurds to all the territory in the Middle East in which they are a majority.


Under Ottoman rule, what is now Iraq was divided into three provinces: the northern province of Mosul, the central province of Baghdad and the southern province of Basra.  I would propose that Iraq again be divided three ways so that northern Iraq would become part of Kurdistan, central Iraq would become an independent Sunni Arab state, and southern Iraq would become an independent Shiite Arab state.  Ideally, I would also like to see an independent state of Assyria in northern Iraq for the Iraqi Christians, but I doubt that the Christians in northern Iraq have enough numbers and territory to form their own state.


Iran was once called Persia, but despite the name change, the Persians still dominate the country even though they are not an overall majority within it.  Northern Iran is dominated by Kurds and Azerbaijanis, so I would recommend that the part of it that is mostly populated by Kurds go to Kurdistan and the other part dominated by Azerbaijanis be allowed to unite with their kinsmen across the border in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.  In southwestern Iran, Khuzestan is a province that is predominantly Arab and should be given the option of independence or a union with their fellow Shiite Arabs in what is now southern Iraq.  Another possible candidate for independence is the mostly Arab province of Hormuzgan along Iran's southern coast.  Lastly, the Baluchi of the southeastern province of Baluchistan must be given independence and the chance to unify with their fellow Baluchis across the border in Pakistan; not as part of Pakistan, but as part of a nation-state of Baluchistan that is free of both Iranian and Pakistani domination.


The current civil war in Syria is about more than just a fragmented opposition fighting a ruthless dictator in Bashar Al-Assad.  Assad's power base is the Alawite Muslim population that dominate the Syrian coastal region of Latakia.  The rest of Syria is divided amongst Kurds in the extreme northeast, Druze in the south and Sunni Arabs in the rest of the country.  It is along these lines that Syria should be broken up - an independent Druze state in the south of the country, an independent Alawite Muslim state in Latakia and an independent Sunni Arab state in the rest of Syria's territory, except for the Kurdish territory of the northeast which would be part of Kurdistan.  I left out Syria's sizable Christian community, but only because they do not form a majority in any significant part of Syria's territory that would allow them to create a state of their own. 

I believe that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still achievable and is much better than the alternative bi-national, one-state solution proposed by radicals on both sides.  The Palestinians will obviously get to keep the entire Gaza Strip as part of their new state and receive most of the West Bank as well.  I believe that any deal over the new borders in what is now the West Bank should include the biggest Jewish communities in the disputed territory.  In exchange, the Palestinians should be given the so-called Arab Triangle adjacent to the northwestern part of the green line where Arabs are the dominant population.  It's basically just a matter of swapping territory so that Jews live in the Jewish state and Arabs live in the Arab state.  Such a land swap has already been proposed and discussed.

Saudi Arabia and Yemen

Ultimately, I believe that the people of South Yemen should be given the right to decide whether to remain united with the north or be independent as they once were.  In Saudi Arabia, the Shiites along the northeastern coast of the country also deserve the right to self-determination.



If justice is served, the peoples of Tibet, East Turkestan (now the northwest Chinese province of Xinjiang) and Manchuria will all regain their independence.  Inner Mongolia must have the right to break away from Chinese rule and reunite with their kinsmen in the republic of Mongolia. 

Sri Lanka

The Tamils of the north and eastern parts of Sri Lanka should be given their independence in a new state of Tamil Eelam.


The south of Thailand was once an independent Islamic sultanate and should be allowed the opportunity to regain its independence.


West Papua, the Indonesian-controlled part of the island of New Guinea, should be given its independence or the chance to unite with their fellow Papuan kinsmen in Papua New Guinea.


The southern, mainly Muslim island of Mindanao should be given the right to independence from the Philippines, which is overwhelmingly Catholic.


Western Europe

Regions like Catalonia, the Basque Country, Brittany, Corsica and Alsace should be given the right to self-determination and the chance to be become full member states of the European Union.  Gibraltar is occupied Spanish territory and should be returned to Spain.


Serbs are still the majority in the northeastern part of the country and should have the right to reunite themselves and their territory with Serbia.


As long as the Ukrainian speaking west and the Russian-speaking east remain united, there will never be a peaceful solution to the problems in this country, so it would be best that the Russian speakers of the east be allowed to choose independence or a union with Russia.  The Ukrainians of the west would then be free to pursue European integration.


In my humble opinion, Russia is not justified in holding any territory east of the Ural Mountains.  It is conquered territory and the peoples of these lands should have the right to self-determination, as should the peoples of the Caucuses.  The northern region of Karelia should be returned to Finland.    

North America:

Canada and the United States:

All aboriginal nations in both Canada and the U.S. should have the right to self-determination, whether that includes limited self-government or outright independence.  I applaud Canada for twice allowing Quebecers to vote on independence.  This is a model that should be followed throughout the world.


The mainly Mayan south should have the right to secede from the rest of Mexico and create an independent Mayan state.  Poverty is rife all over Mexico, but more so in the Mayan-dominated south than in the north.  The latter controls the economy and is dominated mainly by whites and people of mixed ancestry. 


What I have outlined above is obviously limited by what I know about the different peoples of the world, as well as my knowledge of autonomy and independence movements.  I am simply making suggestions, so if you, the reader, have any problem with what I've recommended, or you believe that I don't have all my facts straight, I hope you will tell me.  It is ultimately up to the peoples concerned to decide their fate - or at least it should be up to them.  My overall point is that a world made up of nation-states composed mostly of like peoples would probably be a much more peaceful and prosperous world than the one we live in today, full of artificial countries where competing groups jostle for power and leave carnage in their wake.  It is these internal quarrels that comprise most of today's armed conflicts, so instead of trying to keep countries together that were never meant to be in the first place, perhaps we should try asking the peoples of those countries whether they would like to continue living together or would prefer to live apart.  I believe that people need to learn to live separately in peace before they can learn to live together in peace.


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