Africa’s Secessionism: A Breakdance of Aspiration, Grievance, Performance, and Disenchantment

Mareike Schomerus, Pierre Englebert, L. de Vries

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This chapter offers four interpretations of Africa’s secessionism: aspiration, grievance, performance, and disenchantment. Secessionism remains a fundamental theme of African politics, despite being largely removed from the realm of the thinkable. Yet, South Sudan’s independence against all odds shows that African secessionism is also contradictory. Its aspirational simplicity obscures a complex political phenomenon that often couples a territorial demand with invocations of the right to self-determination. Claims are based on grievances, marginalization, narratives, and economic interests. The consequences of such claims vary; the two cases of successful post-colonial secession highlight that secessionism does not guarantee improvements. And secessionist claims rarely challenge the notion that the sovereign territorial state is the answer to Africans’ problems rather than one of its roots.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSecessionism in African Politics
Subtitle of host publicationAspiration, Grievance, Performance, Disenchantment
EditorsLotje de Vries, Pierre Englebert, Mareike Schomerus
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9783319902067
ISBN (Print)9783319902050
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePalgrave Series in African Borderlands Studies

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