New Wave Nationalism

PARIS – Could the world be on the verge of a new period of re-ordering itself, similar to the one experienced nearly 20 years ago?

In the 1990’s, the fall of the Soviet empire and the brutal implosion of Yugoslavia led to a spectacular increase in the number of independent states. To follow the Olympic Games or the World Cup, the world had to learn to recognize new flags and new national anthems.

Now a new wave of identity fragmentation, spanning Africa and perhaps Europe, may be approaching. In January, a referendum on independence is scheduled to be held in South Sudan. If it does actually take place, there is little doubt that it will lead to the creation of a new state within the African continent, a first since the breakup of Ethiopia in 1993. Somalia, Côte d’Ivoire, and even Nigeria may also give birth to new states.

For decades, Africa’s boundaries have been denounced as the artificial and arbitrary work of ignorant and cynical colonial officers, which has contributed to a long train of tribal rivalries, if not ethnic cleansings. But no one, especially not the pan-African organizations, wishes to redefine borders. The more fragile and unstable the balance, the more imperative it is to maintain the status quo.