Federalism and its future in our region

African cultures generally frown on divorce, warring couples are meant to stay together through thick and thin, not the case with Sudan, where most expect an amicable divorce between north and south.

African cultures generally frown on divorce, warring couples are meant to stay together through thick and thin, not the case with Sudan, where most expect an amicable divorce between north and south.

It has raised the question of whether the genie of fragmentation of African states is out of the bottle. There are two opposing forces of fragmentation and agglomeration, of nationalities trying to break away only to join another wider group.

Hence Southern Sudan will break away only to join the East African Federation. I wonder whether states are on the way to extinction.

The states that were created during colonialism were often unnatural alliances of warring tribes that found themselves in the same geographic catchment area. After years of internal squabbles, we are now joining larger regional blocs.

In Europe, federalism was a good compromise for regions that wanted independence such as Catalunya, the Basque region, Flanders, and Bavaria have enjoyed all the trappings of state while being part of a wider nation. The biggest problem facing African political development is having systems that equitably distribute resources.

The crisis in Ivory Coast is exacerbated by the fears among ordinary Southerners that Northerners will change the distribution of resources, so Gbagbo can exploit the standoff.

Kenya went through a similar crisis at the last election, a federal solution was proposed but this caused fears that Kenya would split. Buganda federalists demand change partly because they feel that resources are not equally or fairly distributed.

If federalism is practiced with the right safeguards then it might solve one of the biggest diseases affecting African politics – the “you eat, then after it’s our turn to eat” syndrome.

If all regions and sub-regions in a particular nation could know what amount of the budget they will be allocated, then our elections would be about principles and not about a bigger share of the pie.

In the general scheme of things, nations are banding together, look at EAC, Ecowas, and SADC, federations work well when the constituent parts come together voluntarily like they did in USA.

When nations fragment into federal states, it often doesn’t quench the thirst for nationhood unless the resources are equitably shared. If Khartoum had for example shared the oil revenue more fairly, probably the South could not have thought of secession.

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