Secession is the withdrawal of a group from a larger entity, especially a political entity, but also from any organization, union or military alliance. Some of the most famous and significant secessions have been: the former Soviet republics leaving the Soviet Union, and Algeria leaving France. Threats of secession can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals. It is, therefore, a process, which commences once a group proclaims the act of secession (e.g. declaration of independence). A secession attempt might be violent or peaceful, but the goal is the creation of a new state or entity independent from the group or territory it seceded from.
There is a great deal of theorizing about secession so that it is difficult to identify a consensus regarding its definition. There is also a claim that this subject has been neglected by political philosophers and that by the 1980s--when it finally generated interest--the discourse concentrated on the moral justifications of the unilateral right to secession. It was only in the early 1990s when American philosopher Allen Buchanan offered the first systematic account of the subject and contributed to the normative classification of the literature on secession. In his 1991 book Secession: The Morality of Political Divorce From Fort Sumter to Lithuania and Quebec, Buchanan outlined limited rights to secession under certain circumstances, mostly related to oppression by people of other ethnic or racial groups, and especially those previously conquered by other people.
According to the 2007 book Secession and Security by George Mason political scientist Ahsan Butt, states respond violently to secessionist movements if the potential state would pose a greater threat than a violent secessionist movement would. States perceive future war as likely with a potentially new state if the ethnic group driving the secessionist struggle has deep identity division with the central state, and if the regional neighborhood is violent and unstable.
Some theories of secession emphasize a general right of secession for any reason ("Choice Theory") while others emphasize that secession should be considered only to rectify grave injustices ("Just Cause Theory"). Some theories do both. A list of justifications may be presented supporting the right to secede, as described by Allen Buchanan, Robert McGee, Anthony Birch,Jane Jacobs, Frances Kendall and Leon Louw,Leopold Kohr,Kirkpatrick Sale, and various authors in David Gordon's "Secession, State and Liberty", includes:
Aleksander Pavkovic, associate professor at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Macquarie University in Australia and the author of several books on secession describes five justifications for a general right of secession within liberal political theory:
Allen Buchanan, who supports secession under limited circumstances, lists arguments that might be used against secession:
According to University of California, Santa Barbara, political scientist Bridget L. Coggins, there are four potential explanations in the academic literature for the drastic increase in state birth during the 20th century:
Other scholars have linked secession to resource discoveries and extraction. David B. Carter, H. E. Goemans and Ryan Griffiths find that border changes among states tend to conform to borders for previous administrative units.
Several scholars have argued that changes in the international system have made it easier to survive and prosper as a small state. Tanisha Fazal and Ryan Griffiths link increased numbers of secessions to an international system that is more favorable for new states. For example, new states can obtain assistance from international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and United Nation. Alberto Alesina and Enrico Spolaore argue that greater levels of free trade and peace have reduced the benefits of being part of a larger state, thus motivating nations within larger states to seek secession.
Woodrow Wilson's proclamations on self-determination in 1918 created a surge in secessionist demands.
Most sovereign states do not recognize the right to self-determination through secession in their constitutions. Many expressly forbid it. However, there are several existing models of self-determination through greater autonomy and through secession.
In liberal constitutional democracies the principle of majority rule has dictated whether a minority can secede. In the United States Abraham Lincoln acknowledged that secession might be possible through amending the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court in Texas v. White held secession could occur "through revolution, or through consent of the States." The British Parliament in 1933 held that Western Australia only could secede from Australia upon vote of a majority of the country as a whole; the previous two-thirds majority vote for secession via referendum in Western Australia was insufficient.
The Chinese Communist Party followed the Soviet Union in including the right of secession in its 1931 constitution in order to entice ethnic nationalities and Tibet into joining. However, the Party eliminated the right to secession in later years, and had anti-secession clause written into the Constitution before and after the founding the People's Republic of China. The 1947 Constitution of the Union of Burma contained an express state right to secede from the union under a number of procedural conditions. It was eliminated in the 1974 constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma (officially the "Union of Myanmar"). Burma still allows "local autonomy under central leadership".
As of 1996 the constitutions of Austria, Ethiopia, France, and Saint Kitts and Nevis have express or implied rights to secession. Switzerland allows for the secession from current and the creation of new cantons. In the case of proposed Quebec separation from Canada the Supreme Court of Canada in 1998 ruled that only both a clear majority of the province and a constitutional amendment confirmed by all participants in the Canadian federation could allow secession.
The 2003 draft of the European Union Constitution allowed for the voluntary withdrawal of member states from the union, although the State which wanted to leave could not be involved in the vote deciding whether or not they can leave the Union. There was much discussion about such self-determination by minorities before the final document underwent the unsuccessful ratification process in 2005.
As a result of the successful constitutional referendum held in 2003, every municipality in the Principality of Liechtenstein has the right to secede from the Principality by a vote of a majority of the citizens residing in this municipality.
Movements that work towards political secession may describe themselves as being autonomy, separatist, independence, self-determination, partition, devolution, decentralization, sovereignty, self-governance or decolonization movements instead of, or in addition to, being secession movements.
During the 19th century, the single British colony in eastern mainland Australia, New South Wales (NSW) was progressively divided up by the British government as new settlements were formed and spread. Victoria (Vic) in 1851 and Queensland (Qld) in 1859.
However, settlers agitated to divide the colonies throughout the later part of the century; particularly in central Queensland (centred in Rockhampton) in the 1860s and 1890s, and in North Queensland (with Bowen as a potential colonial capital) in the 1870s. Other secession (or territorial separation) movements arose and these advocated the secession of New England in northern central New South Wales, Deniliquin in the Riverina district also in NSW, and Mount Gambier in the eastern part of South Australia.
Secession movements have surfaced several times in Western Australia (WA), where a 1933 referendum for secession from the Federation of Australia passed with a two-thirds majority. The referendum had to be ratified by the British Parliament, which declined to act, on the grounds that it would contravene the Australian Constitution.
After being liberated by the Red Army and the U.S. Army, Austria seceded from Nazi Germany on April 27, 1945. This took place after seven years of Austria's being part of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich due to the Anschluss annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in March 1938, and could not have taken place without the Third Reich being defeated by the Allies.
On August 25, 1830, during the reign of William I, the nationalistic opera La muette de Portici was performed in Brussels. Soon after, the Belgian Revolt occurred, which resulted in the Belgian secession from the Netherlands.
In 1825, soon after the Empire of Brazil managed to defeat the Cortes-Gerais and Portugal in an Independence War, the platinean nationalists in Cisplatina declared independence and joined the United Provinces, which led to a stagnated war between both, as they were both weakened, without manpower and fragile politically. The peace treaty accepted Uruguay's independence, reasserted the rule of both nations over their land and some important points like free navigation in the Silver River.
Three rather disorganized secessionist rebellions happened in Grão-Pará, Bahia and Maranhão, where the people were unhappy with the Empire (these provinces were Portuguese bastions in the Independence War). The Malê Revolt, in Bahia, was an Islamic slave revolt. These three rebellions were bloodily crushed by the Empire of Brazil.
The Pernambuco was one of the most nativist of all Brazilian regions, which in five revolts (1645-1654, 1710, 1817, 1824, 1848), the province ousted the Dutch West India Company, tried to secede from the Portuguese Empire and from the Brazilian Empire. In the attempts the rebels were crushed, the leaders shot and its territory divided, nevertheless they kept revolting until its territory was a little fraction of what it was before.
In the Ragamuffin War, the Province of Rio Grande do Sul was undergoing a (at that time common) liberal vs conservative "cold" war. After the Emperor favoured the conservatives, the liberals took the Capital and declared an independent Republic, fighting their way to the Province of Santa Catarina, declaring the Juliana Republic. Eventually they were slowly forced back, and made a reunification peace with the Empire. The war was not a secessionist war, even if it could become if the Empire were defeated, after the Empire agreed to aid its economy by taxing Argentina's products (like dry meat), the rebels reunited with the Empire and even filled its ranks, as the rebels were very good fighters.
In modern times, the South Region of Brazil has been the centre of a secessionist movement led by an organization called The South is My Country since the 1990s. Reasons cited for South Region Brazil's secession are taxation due to it being one of the wealthiest regions in the country and political disputes with the northernmost states of Brazil as well as the recent scandal revolving around the Workers Party found to be making shady deals with state-owned oil company Petrobras and the impeachment of then-President Dilma Rousseff additionally there is also an ethnic divide as the South Region is predominately European populated primarily by Germans, Italians, Portuguese and other European countries in contrast to the rest of Brazil which is a multicultural melting pot "Racial Democracy". The South Region in 2016 voted in an unofficial referendum called "Plebisul" in which 616,917 (or half a million) voters overwhelming supported secession and the creation of an independent South Region by 95%. Another Brazilian secession movement is based in the state of Sao Paulo which seeks to create to make the state an independent country from the rest of Brazil.
In October 2017, Ambazonia declared its independence from Cameroon. Less than a month beforehand, tensions had escalated into open warfare between separatists and the Cameroonian military. Ambazonia-Cameroun conflict is deeply rooted in the October 1, 1961 incomplete decolonization of the former British Southern Cameroons (UNGA Resolution 1608). On January 1, 1960, Cameroon under French administration (Cameroun) was granted independence from France and admitted into the United Nations. The more advanced democratic and self ruling people of former British Southern Cameroons were instead limited to two choices. Through a UN plebiscite, they were directed to gain independence by either joining the independent Federation of Nigeria or the independent Republic of Cameroun as a federation of two equal states. They decided on independence by joining Cameroun, but they did so without a formal UN Treaty of Union on record at the UN. In 1972, Cameroun used her majority population to abolish the federation and implement a system which resulted in the occupation of Southern Cameroon territory by French speaking Cameroon administrators. To make matters worse in 1984, Cameroun returned to her name at independence "Republic of Cameroun" which did not include the territory of the former British Southern Cameroons or Ambazonia. For more than 50 years, the English speaking people of the Former British Southern Cameroons made multiple attempts both nationally and internationally to get the Cameroon government to address these issue and possibly return to the previously agreed federation at independence. When all these attempts failed in 2016 and Cameroon engaged in a military crackdown including cutting the internet in the English speaking regions, the people of Southern Cameroons declared on October 1, 2017, the restoration of their UN state of Southern Cameroons, which they called the "Federal Republic of Ambazonia".
Throughout Canada's history, there has been tension between English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians. Under the Constitutional Act of 1791, the Quebec colony (including parts of what are today Quebec, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador) was divided in two: Lower Canada (which retained French law and institutions and is now part of the provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador) and Upper Canada (a new colony intended to accommodate the many new English-speaking settlers, including the United Empire Loyalists, and now part of Ontario). The intent was to provide each group with its own colony. In 1841, the two Canadas were merged into the Province of Canada. The union proved contentious, however, resulting in a legislative deadlock between English and French legislators. The difficulties of the union led (amongst other factors) in 1867 to Confederation, the adoption of a federal system that united the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (later joined by other British colonies in North America). The federal framework did not eliminate all tensions, however, leading to the Quebec sovereignty movement in the latter half of the 20th century.
Other occasional secessionist movements have included anti-Confederation movements in 19th century Atlantic Canada (see Anti-Confederation Party), the North-West Rebellion of 1885, and various small separatism movements in Alberta particularly (see Alberta separatism) and Western Canada generally (see, for example, Western Canada Concept).
After the 1823 collapse of the First Mexican Empire, the former Captaincy-General of Guatemala was organized into a new Federal Republic of Central America. In 1838 Nicaragua seceded. The Federal Republic was formally dissolved in 1840, all but one of the states having seceded amidst general disorder.
In 1974, Greek irredentists launched a coup d'état in Cyprus, in an attempt to annex the island with Greece. Almost immediately, the Turkish Army invaded northern Cyprus to protect the interests of the ethnic Turkish minority, who in the following year formed the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus and in 1983 declared independence as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey.
The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (also known as East Timor) has been described as having "seceded" from Indonesia. After Portuguese sovereignty was terminated in 1975, East Timor was occupied by Indonesia. However the United Nations and the International Court of Justice refused to recognize this incorporation. Therefore, the resulting civil war and eventual 2002 East Timorese vote for complete separation are better described as an independence movement.
Following the May 1991 victory of EPLF forces against the communist Derg regime during the Eritrean War of Independence, Eritrea (formerly known as "Medri Bahri") gained de facto independence from Ethiopia. Following the United Nations observed 1993 Eritrean independence referendum, Eritrea gained de jure independence.
Before the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December 2009 no provision in the treaties or law of the European Union outlined the ability of a state to voluntarily withdraw from the EU. The European Constitution did propose such a provision and, after the failure to ratify the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, that provision was then included in the Lisbon Treaty.
The treaty introduces an exit clause for members who wish to withdraw from the Union. This formalises the procedure by stating that a member state may notify the European Council that it wishes to withdraw, upon which withdrawal negotiations begin; if no other agreement is reached the treaty ceases to apply to the withdrawing state two years after such notification.
Finland successfully and peacefully seceded from the newly formed and weak Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1917, the latter led by Lenin who had goodwill towards the Finns due to their having helped in his revolutionary struggle. Unsuccessful attempts at greater autonomy or peaceful secession had already been made during the preceding Russian Empire but had been denied by the Russian emperor.
After a decade of tumultuous federalism, Ecuador and Venezuela seceded from Gran Colombia in 1830, leaving the similarly tumultuous United States of Colombia, now the Republic of Colombia which also lost Panama in 1903.
Pakistan seceded from the British Indian empire in what is known as the Partition. Today, the Constitution of India does not allow Indian states to secede from the Union. The territory of Indian-administered Kashmir has had a violent Muslim nationalist movement against Indian establishment mostly in the Valley of Kashmir since 1989, which continues which is assumed to be supported by Pakistan, though the latter deny those allegations.The militancy reached at its peak influence in the decade of 1990. However, it has been fading since start of 21st century. Other secessionist movements in Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Punjab (known as the Khalistan movement), Mizoram and Tripura were also formerly active, while Tamil Nadu had a non-violent movement in the 1960s. While a violent Maoist Naxalite insurgency continues to rage across a wide-swath of eastern rural India, the movement is not considered a secessionist movement because the goal of the Maoists is to overthrow the government of India, although rebel commanders have occasionally called for a Communist republic to be carved out of swaths of India. The Pakistani Armed organizations is a participant in the Kashmir conflict and strives to establish the merger state of Jammu and Kashmir from secular India to Muslim Pakistan.
The Movement for the Independence of Sicily (Movimento Indipendentista Siciliano, MIS) has its roots in the Sicilian Independence Movement of the late 1940s; they have been around for 60 years. Today, the MIS no longer exists, though many other parties have been born. One is Nation Sicily (Sicilia Nazione), which still believes in the idea that Sicily, due to its deeply personal and ancient history, has to be a sovereign country. Moreover, a common ideology shared by all the Sicilian independentist movements is to fight against Cosa Nostra and all the other Mafia organizations, that have a very deep influence over Sicily's public and private institutions. Also, the Sicilian branch of the Five Star Movement, which is according to the polls Sicily's most popular party, has publicly expressed the intention to start working for a possible secession from Italy in the case where the central government would not collaborate in shifting the nation's administrative organization from a unitary country to a federal state. Lega Nord has been seeking the independence of the so-called region of Padania, which includes lands along the Po Valley in northern Italy. Some organizations separately work for the independence of Venetia or Veneto and the secession or reunification of South Tyrol with Austria. Lega Nord governing Lombardy has expressed a will to turning the region into a sovereign country. Also the island of Sardinia is home to a notable nationalist movement. In Southern Italy several movements have expressed a will to secede from Italy. This newborn ideology is so-called neo-Bourbonic, because the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was under the control of the House of Bourbon. The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was created in 1816 after the Congress of Vienna, and it comprised both Sicily and continental Southern Italy. The Kingdom came to an end in 1861, being annexed to the newborn Kingdom of Italy. However, the patriotic feelings shared among the southern Italian population is more ancient, starting in 1130 with the Kingdom of Sicily, which was composed by both the island and south Italy. According to the neo-Bourbonic movements the Italian regions which should secede are Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata, Apulia, Molise, Campania, Abruzzo, and Latio's provinces of Rieti, Latina and Frosinone. The major movements and parties which believe in this ideology are Unione Mediterranea, Mo! and Briganti.
Active secession movements include: Iranian Azeri, Assyrian independence movement, Bakhtiary lurs movement in 1876, Iranian Kurdistan; Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Kh?zest?n Province Balochistan and independence movement for free separated Balochistan, (Arab nationalist); Al-Ahwaz Arab People's Democratic Popular Front, Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz (See Politics of Kh?zest?n Province: Arab politics and separatism), and Balochistan People's Party (BPP) supporting Baloch Separatism.
The Ryukyuan (Okinawan) people had their own state historically (Ryukyu Kingdom) and have sought to become independent from Japan since they were annexed by Japan in 1879, and especially after 1972 when the islands were transferred from U.S. rule to Japan.
The United Provinces of the Netherlands, commonly referred to historiographically as the 'Dutch Republic', was a federal republic formally established from the formal creation of a federal state in 1581 by several Dutch provinces seceded from Spain.
Secession movements have surfaced several times in the South Island of New Zealand. A Premier of New Zealand, Sir Julius Vogel, was amongst the first people to make this call, which was voted on by the Parliament of New Zealand as early as 1865. The desire for South Island independence was one of the main factors in moving the capital of New Zealand from Auckland to Wellington in the same year.
The NZ South Island Party with a pro-South agenda, fielded only five candidates (4.2% of electoral seats) candidates in the 1999 General Election but achieved only 0.14% (2622 votes) of the general vote. The reality today is that although "South Islanders" are most proud of their geographic region, secession does not carry any real constituency; the party was not able to field any candidates in the 2008 election due to being unable to enlist 500 paying members, a requirement by the New Zealand Electoral commission. The party is treated more as a "joke" party than any real political force.
Between 1967 and 1970, the state of Biafra (The Republic of Biafra) seceded from Nigeria and fought a war that ended with the state returning to Nigeria. Later in 1999 at the beginning of a new democratic regime, other secessionist movements emerged, the movement for the Actualization of a Sovereign state of Biafra was formed as a military wing of the Republic of Biafra.
Sweden, having left the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Norway in the 16th century, entered into a loose personal union with Norway in 1814. Following a constitutional crisis, on June 7, 1905 the Norwegian Parliament declared that King Oscar II had failed to fulfill his constitutional duties. He was therefore no longer King of Norway and because the union depended on the two countries sharing a king, it was thus dissolved. After negotiations Sweden agreed to this on October 26 and on April 14.
After the Awami League won the 1970 national elections, negotiations to form a new government floundered, resulting in the Bangladesh Liberation War by which the eastern wing of Pakistan seceded, to become Bangladesh. The Balochistan Liberation Army (also Baloch Liberation Army or Boluchistan Liberation army) (BLA) is a Baloch nationalist militant secessionist organization. The stated goals of the organization include the establishment of an independent state of Balochistan free of Pakistani, Iranian and Afghan Federations . The name Baloch Liberation Army first became public in summer 2000, after the organization claimed credit for a series of bomb attacks in markets and removal of railways lines.
Somaliland is an autonomous region, which is part of the Federal Republic of Somalia. Those who call the area the Republic of Somaliland consider it to be the successor state of the former British Somaliland protectorate. Having established its own local government in Somalia in 1991, the region's self-declared independence remains unrecognized by any country or international organization.
The Constitution of the Soviet Union guaranteed all SSRs the right to secede from the Union. In 1990, after free elections, the Lithuanian SSR declared independence and other SSRs soon followed. Despite the Soviet central-government's refusal to recognize the independence of the republics, the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.
In 1910, following the British Empire's defeat of the Afrikaners in the Boer Wars, four self-governing colonies in the south of Africa were merged into the Union of South Africa. The four regions were the Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Natal and Transvaal. Three other territories, High Commission Territories of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), Basutoland (now Lesotho) and Swaziland later became independent states in the 1960s. Following the election of the Nationalist government in 1948, some English-speaking whites in Natal advocated either secession or a loose federation. There were also calls for secession, with Natal and the eastern part of the Cape Province breaking away. following the referendum in 1960 on establishing a republic, and in 1993, prior to South Africa's first elections under universal suffrage and the end of apartheid, some Zulu leaders in KwaZulu-Natal considered secession as did some politicians in the Cape Province.
In 2008, a political movement calling for the return to independence of the Cape resurged in the shape of the political organisation, the Cape Party. The Cape Party contested their first elections on 22 April 2009.
Present-day Spain (known officially as "the Kingdom of Spain") was assembled as a central state in the French model between the 18th and 19th centuries from various component kingdoms with varying languages, cultures and legislations. Spain has several secessionist movements, the most notable ones being in Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia.
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A referendum took place in Southern Sudan from 9 to 15 January 2011, on whether the region should remain a part of Sudan or become independent. The referendum was one of the consequences of the 2005 Naivasha Agreement between the Khartoum central government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M).
A simultaneous referendum was supposed to be held in Abyei on whether to become part of Southern Sudan but it has been postponed due to conflict over demarcation and residency rights.
On 7 February 2011, the referendum commission published the final results, with 98.83% voting in favour of independence. While the ballots were suspended in 10 of the 79 counties for exceeding 100% of the voter turnout, the number of votes were still well over the requirement of 60% turnout, and the majority vote for secession is not in question.
The predetermined date for the creation of an independent state was 9 July 2011.
In 1847, seven disaffected Catholic cantons formed a separate alliance because of moves to change the cantons of Switzerland from a confederation to a more centralized government federation. This effort was crushed in the Sonderbund War and a new Swiss Federal Constitution was created.
In 2014 after the start of Russian intervention in Ukraine, several groups of people declared independence of several Ukrainian regions:
What is now the Republic of Ireland is the only territory that has withdrawn from the United Kingdom proper. Ireland proclaimed independence in 1916 and, as the Irish Free State, gained independence in 1922. Currently the United Kingdom has a number of secession movements:
Discussions and threats of secession often surface in American politics, and secession was declared during the American Civil War. However, in 1869 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1869) that unilateral secession was not permitted saying that the union between a state (Texas in the case before the bar) "was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States."
On June 25, 1991, Croatia and Slovenia seceded from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia also declared independence, after which the federation broke up, causing the separation of the remaining two countries Serbia and Montenegro. Several wars ensued between FR Yugoslavia and seceding entities and among other ethnic groups in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and later, Kosovo. Montenegro peacefully separated from its union with Serbia in 2006.