The first day of the 11th Al Jazeera Forum witnessed the book signing of African Borders and Secession in International Law by Dr. Dirdeiry Mohammed Ahmed and published by Al Jazeera Centre for Studies in March 2017.
In the book’s first part, “The African System”, the author examines the circumstances surrounding the emergence of the regional African system, how it was formed, and its distinguishing aspects. He explains how respecting the existing borders, albeit not legally obligatory, has resulted in the adoption of the "inviolability of inherited boundaries" as a new customary norm. In addition, the Cairo Declaration led to the development of an inter-state practice of respecting and sustaining the regional post-colonial status quo. As a result, Africa has developed a customary territorial system that has fundamentally changed the application of the international law vis-à-vis Africa. In particular, this system has put an end to the re-division of the African borders and prevented secession, and has turned these two legally binding principles into a rule which states cannot violate.
In the second part, "Equal Self-Determination", Ahmed illustrates the alternative legal rules created by Africa to regulate its territories and borders and examines the prohibition of secession in Africa. He explains how the African rule of non-secession is a product of the sustainability of the current territorial situation and preservation of the standing borders. Thanks to this rule, there are no more demands of secession in Africa, and no African country can issue an explicit separatist demand.
However, due to the terrible political cost of calling for secession, separatists in Africa pretend to respect this African rule and make alternative claims, hoping that these claims might be responded to by the African Union or the state itself. Examples of such claims include seeking to obtain an old right stated in the referendum on liberation from colonialism, as in the case of Eritrea, claiming a constitutional right to self-determination, as was the case in South Sudan, or calling for separation as a corrective measure based on a claim of misrepresentation in the government, as was the case in the Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Such claims have distorted the African regional system and led to complexities that are difficult to solve or understand.