Let me tell you two stories that have caught my attention lately. It is an all too familiar story of a group of people wanting to secede and become an independent country.
In the first story, the leaders of the separatist movement asked their people to decide on whether they would like to become a separate country. A referendum was swiftly organized and held. As one can imagine, the central government was not exactly supportive, in fact it sent out its police force to physically stop the people from participating, i.e. voting, in the referendum. Hundreds of people were hurt and the world watched stunned by the images.
In the second story, the leaders of the separatist movement, after months of continued protest, announced their desire to become a separate country. In fact, on the 1st of October, they announced their secession and the name of their new country.
Both stories have a lot in common. The central governments are headed by, symbolically, by what could seem like a monarchy. Part of what is at the heart of the secession movement is the claim of a separate identity and a major linguistic difference and a civil war that ended with their unification.
I am speaking of what could be the next two new countries in the world, “Catalonia” and “Ambazonia”. If you have not guessed it yet, I am speaking of Spain and Cameroon; two countries that are far apart from each other but going through what seems like the same issue. Both countries have refused to engage in any sort of negotiations or mediations with the separatist movements, and interestingly, both countries shut down internet as means of deterring the protest.
The European Union called on all sides to be responsible and “respect the rule of law and avoid any act of violence” in Cameroon, meanwhile the Catalan leaders say they want international mediation and have repeatedly urged the EU to get involved, which has remained awfully quiet.
Catalonia is Spain’s richest region and accounts for 19 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product. And while the constitutional court has suspended the parliamentary session where the Catalan government was due to declare independence, the Spanish government has passed a law making it easier for financial institutions and large companies to move their headquarters away from Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. Cameroon on the other hand, has sent military to the English speaking part of the country as a means of suppressing the secessionist movement. The English speaking population is a minority, representing a fifth of the 22 million population.
I find it interesting that the responses to these movements that are so similar in nature are so different from one another. One the one hand, there is quiet and the other “messages of caution” and “fear of war”. Are lives in one country more valuable than in another? Are governments in one country more trustworthy than in another, especially when it comes to such important movements? To be honest, I did not see any of it coming, but now that it is here, I do not see how either one cannot end badly if the central governments take such a stubborn approach.
It is interesting that we are seeing times where the global political structure is being challenged and shaken at the core. And it seems that after a few decades of creating regional and supra-state structures, there is now a fracture at the state level. This world certainly keeps us all on our toes.