Why secessionist movements in Catalonia & Kurdistan must not succeed

 02 Oct 2017 - 13:11

The ongoing argument in Africa is that “the lumping together of different tribes into nations states created the raging intra-national conflicts in most African countries”. The argument continues, “the lumping together of different tribes fueled tribal politics, tribes should have been left to self govern after the end of colonization and the national boarder demarcation should have taken into considerations tribal locations”. The argument makes sense, even though it tries to absolve poor African leadership from blame.

The main challenge in Africa is the unfair distribution of resources and favoritism. Tribal politics is another major obstacle towards sociopolitical and economic prosperity in the continent. The development of nations states in Iraq and Spain are not that different to Africa. Although much older than Africa, they were also inconsiderably formulated and driven by a winner takes all political mentality.

Kurds who are spread across Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq are regarded as the largest population group in the world without a country. The history of Catalonia is awash with territorial defeats, humiliation and political impositions making Spain one of Europe’s most political irreconcilable nation. Given all of these realities are they justified in calling for secession?

There is a stunning emergence of secessionist movements around the world, increasingly partitioning for cultural and exclusive existence. Politics of exclusive existence are on the increase, they are flanked by the rise of right wing political parties and anti-migration organisations particularly in Europe. What is the difference between the secessionists and the right wing organisations? The ambitions are the same the difference is in the methods each employs in achieving its objectives.

Having said that many might regard this as a very naïve one-sided view. The inability for countries to equally share services and resources with their minority communities has led to a number of minorities wanting to secede. This is starker in Kurdistan, their historical ambition of creating a state has been motivated by and large by the unfair distribution of resources.

The current political fiasco taking place in Spain and Iraq is an interesting phenomenon which must become a commonplace. The central government of Spain is refusing the Catalonians to conduct a referendum. It has resisted notwithstanding the overwhelming desire by many Catalonians to hold the referendum.

In Iraq similar sentiments against the referendum, albeit after it took place, were expressed. On September 25 the Kurds in Kurdistan voted overwhelmingly to secede from Iraq. The subsequent condemnation by the government of Iraq and its neighbors comes late in the day, the horse has already bolted.

The secession movements will continue as long as there is a lack of leadership, racial and cultural discrimination and unfair distribution of resources within countries.

The world political leadership should shift swiftly towards addressing these deficiencies. The greatest concern is the precedence the experiences in Catalonia and Kurdistan might create and how that could trigger similar actions not only in Europe and the Middle East but also throughout the world. In South Africa for an example, a sizeable militant right wing white Afrikaners remain resolute in developing a fully-fledged independent country called Orania.

The conclusion is that secessionist movements stand to politically polarise the world. Every new country comes with its own political trappings. Most importantly the birth of every new country leads to arms proliferation as the new country prepares to protect itself and its new interests.

Possible exploits of nationalism can also never be discounted in such a discussions. Instead of aspiring to secede whenever there are challenges.

The world leadership should be encouraging coexistence amongst religions, races, tribes and cultures. It should join hands in fighting corruption, unfair distribution of resources and all forms of sociopolitical and economical exploits. Unfortunately the reactions to both referendums in Kurdistan and Spain are not driven by the principle of racial harmony and coexistence. Instead it is politics, egos, territorial threats and economic interests that drive them.

The prevention of the Catalonians in Spain and Kurds in Iraq from pursuing their respective political ambitions is most likely to lead to violent reactions. In order to prevent a protracted violent reactions both governments of Spain and Iraq must establish counter narratives which encourage coexistence.

Furthermore, they should listen to the secessionists’ reasonable demands outside the racists and exclusionists’ rhetoric, they must try and address them. Addressing some concerns of the secessionists might weaken and eventually destroy their ambitions.

Finally, notwithstanding the US’s political imperfections, her political model, racial and cultural composition epitomises the ideal. It depicts the power of racial coexistence and what people from different parts of the world could achieve if they leave and work together. It is precisely that which defines the American success.

The writer is a researcher at Al Jazeera Center for Studies.