Secession? Why secession?

There is nothing new in human history about secession.

Secession is the very real human reaction to sustained oppression and alienation experienced by historical inhabitants to invasive cultures.

Secession embodies the enduring human tendency towards rectification of imbalances, illegitimacies and injustices, and to regaining social and cultural cohesion of the original peoples.

Historically, civil hostilities have erupted when the voices of the oppressed, alienated or marginalised peoples were not heard or given credence, and those people so oppressed reached breaking point.

All great Empires, invasions and colonial land-grabs over thousands of years have ultimately gone the same bumpy route, ending in flotillas of secessions by conquered, annexed or assimilated territories and peoples, who strive to emancipate themselves from untenable, enforced, violent or alienating circumstances.

The list of overthrown despots, tyrants, and invaders (whether individuals or groups) throughout history is extensive. It is an unfortunate aspect of human nature, that once a group have grasped control of a nation through whatever circumstances, they become very reluctant to relinquish that control without a fight: the greater the stakes, the more protracted, bigger and more savage the fight. Looting, violence and insurrections escalate, and frequently leaders emerge from the insurrectionists who then become tyrants themselves. And the cycle repeats itself, passing through multiple iterations and evolutions on the nation’s path to social stability or self-destruction. Secession is a positive resolution of this conflict.   

Peaceful and successful secession is possible if disputes are settled with fairness and security for all involved. This is evidenced in the secession in 1905 between Sweden and Norway, who have existed peacefully side-by-side now for more than a century.

Current experience is that multiple nations across the World are striving to shed, or have succeeded in shedding, themselves of the vestiges of Empire, Colony, or Invasion. Self-determination, cultural autonomy and history are the main driving forces behind the need for a separate or regained Statehood.   

Arguments FOR secession

  • The right to liberty, safety, freedom of association, freedom of choice, and to private property
  • Self-determination of peoples
  • Self-defence: when a larger group presents lethal threat to minorities or the government cannot adequately defend an area
  • Preserving culture, language, etc. from assimilation or destruction by a larger or more powerful group
  • Rectifying past injustices, especially past conquest by a larger power, or invasions of territories
  • Furthering diversity by allowing diverse cultures to keep their identity
  • Economic enfranchisement of an economically oppressed class that is regionally concentrated within the scope of a larger national territory.
  • Consent as important democratic principle; will of majority to secede should be recognized
  • Making it easier for states to join with others in experimental union by the Will of the People.
  • Dissolving such union when goals for which it was constituted are not achieved, such as Norway & Sweden in 1906.
  • Escaping "discriminatory redistribution", i.e., tax schemes, regulatory policies, economic programs, etc. that distribute resources away to another area, especially in an undemocratic fashion, or regulatory enforcements which favour the few or aspire to hidden agendas (not for the Good of the People).
  • Enhanced efficiency when the state or empire becomes too large or cumbersome to administer efficiently
  • Preserving "liberal purity" (or "conservative purity") by allowing less (or more) liberal regions to secede
  • Keeping political entities small and human scale through the right to secession.

Types of Secession

Secession theorists have described a number of ways in which a political entity (city, county, canton, state) can secede from the larger or original state:

  • Secession from federation or confederation (political entities with substantial reserved powers which have agreed to join together) versus secession from a unitary state (a state governed as a single unit with few powers reserved to sub-units)
  • Colonial aka "wars of independence" from a "mother country" or imperial state
  • National (seceding entirely from the national state) versus local (seceding from one entity of the national state into another entity of the same state)
  • Central or enclave (seceding entity is completely surrounded by the original state) versus peripheral (along a border of the original state)
  • Secession by contiguous units versus secession by non-contiguous units (exclaves)
  • Separation or partition (although an entity secedes, the rest of the state retains its structure) versus dissolution (all political entities dissolve their ties and create several new states)
  • Irredentism where secession is sought in order to annex the territory to another state because of common ethnicity or prior historical links
  • Minority (a minority of the population or territory secedes) versus majority (a majority of the population or territory secedes)

Arguments against secession

Academics have variously postulated arguments that might be used against secession. However, none of these are applicable to the secession of the Sovereign State of Good Hope.

  • "Protecting Legitimate Expectations" of those who now occupy territory claimed by secessionists, even in cases where that land was stolen.
  • "Self Defence" if losing part of the state would make it difficult to defend the rest of it.
  • "Protecting Majority Rule" and the principle that minorities must abide by them regardless of deleterious impacts suffered by the minorities.
  • "Soft Paternalism" because secession will be bad for secessionists or others.
  • "Distributive Justice" arguments that wealthier areas cannot secede from poorer ones.
  • “Democratic processes were circumvented”. There was never any democratic process or agreement by the First People, when they were successively dispossessed of their land and rights by the Colonists, then subsequently under the Union, then the Republic of South Africa, nor under the current “democracy” ruled by the ANC.

Explanations for the 20th century explosion in secessionism

According to academics, there are six potential explanations for the drastic increase in new states witnessed during the 19th and 20th centuries:

  • Collapse of Empires and oligarchic states, and the erosion of their extraction economies and authority
  • Ethno-national mobilization - Ethnic minorities have been increasingly mobilized to pursue states of their own.
  • Restoration or demands for rectification of the rights to Statehood by Original or First People.
  • Institutional empowerment - The growing inability of empires and ethnic federations to maintain colonies and member states. Colonies becoming prohibitively expensive to maintain, with ongoing wars and revolts draining the resources of the Colonists and Empires.
  • Relative strength - Increasingly powerful secessionist movements are more likely to achieve statehood.
  • Negotiated consent - Home states and the international community are increasingly consenting to secessionist demands.

Secessions in the 19th, 20th and 21st Century

19th Century secessions

1830: Ecuador and Venezuela seceded from Gran Columbia (later Republic of Colombia)
1830: Belgium: Arising from the Belgian Revolt in 1830, Belgium seceded from the Netherlands.
1836: Texas seceded from Mexico. Was then annexed into the United States in 1845.
1840 The Federal Republic of Central America dissolved, and all the member states seceded amidst general disorder.

20thCentury secessions

1903: Panama seceded from Republic of Colombia
1905: Norway and Sweden seceded, dissolving their union due to a constitutional crisis.
1910: South Africa: the four self-governing colonies of the Cape Colony (British), Natal Colony (British) and the Boer colonies of Orange Free State and Transvaal seceded from the British Empire. After the South Africa Act was passed by Britain in 1910, the four colonies entered into a union in order to preserve the White domination which had been embedded during British colonial rule.
1916: Ireland declares secession from the United Kingdom, and gained independence in 1922.
1917: Finland peacefully and successfully seceded from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.
1945: Austria seceded from Nazi Germany on April 27 1945
1947: Pakistan seceded from the British Empire
1962: Algeria secedes from France
1971: Bangladesh (Eastern Pakistan) seceded from Western Pakistan (now Pakistan) after the Bangladesh Liberation War resulted in the defeat of Western Pakistan.
1991: Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus secede after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
1991: Croatia and Slovenia secede from Yugoslavia.    Dissolution of the Soviet Union.  
1992: International recognition of the seceded states of the former Russian Union – Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and later in 1992, Georgia.

Eritrea seceded from Ethiopiain a United Nations referendum, with the blessing of the newly formed Ethiopian government.
Following the election of the Nationalist government in 1948, some English-speaking whites in Natal advocated for secession of Natal. Following a referendum (Whites-only) a Republic was formed in 1960. In 1993, prior to South Africa’s first post-apartheid elections, Zulu leaders as well as some politicians in Cape Town, considered secession in order to rectify historic wrongs and fulfil a desire for self-determination.

21st Century secessions

2002: East Timor finally secedes from Indonesia, after being occupied by Indonesia since the Portuguese sovereignty was terminated in 1975. Now known as Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.
2006: Montenegro secedes from Serbia
2008: Kosovo secedes from Serbia
2011: South Sudan secedes from Sudan after a successful referendum voted 98% in favour of independence.
2014: Crimea declares independence from the Ukraine in March 2014.
2014: Donetsk People’s Republic declares independence from Ukraine in April 2014
2017:  Sovereign State of Good Hope declares secession from South Africa

Western Australia       

1933: a referendum passed with a two-thirds majority to secede from Australia. The referendum had to be ratified by British Parliament, which duly refused to recognise the state of Western Australia because a petition to the British Parliament by a small minority claimed the Australian Constitution would be contravened in terms of a clause stating “one indissoluble union”.
2017: A new non-partisan Western Australian Secession Movement was founded. The movement was established formally with a social media presence in September 2017. The group was inspired by the disproportionately low share of federal resources and returns from taxes, and lack of perceived representation by the Federal Government. The Commonwealth Government continues to exploit Western Australia’s resource-rich economy and fails to share the prosperity evenly.

Great Britain      

In the process of seceding from the European Union.

United Kingdom               

Facing persistent challenges for secession by Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, and Cornwall.


Spain is experiencing two main secessionist challenges: Catalonia and Basque Country.


Sicily has been striving for secession (on and off) from Italy since 1816


Experiencing several secession movements currently


An autonomous region in Somalia, which established its own government in 1991. However, the region’s self-declared independence remains unrecognised by any country or international organisation.   

Morocco / Western Sahara          

After nearly 40 years of strife and hostility (1975 to current date), Western Sahara is in process of finally attaining self-determination and the establishment of a Sahrawi State.