Sunday, March 24, 2013

State of Texas Nonexistent, Claims “Child of God,” in Court for Driving with “Republic of Texas” Plates


In the wake of the large boost given to the Texan independence cause by President Barack Obama’s reelection last year (discussed recently in this blog) and the more than a hundred thousand Texans who signed an online White House petition for peaceful separation (as also discussed in this blog), the activist stunts continue.

Freedom fighter.
On March 18th, in Liberty County, just outside Houston, an elderly Texan reputed to be a member of the sometimes violent separatist organization Republic of Texas demanded to be tried in an international criminal court, saying the United States’ “State of Texas” does not exist.  The man, Lionel Marmen Lamell, was charged with driving his Cadillac with a “fictitious” “Republic of Texas” license plate instead of the required state-issued plates.  Lamell, who needed all court proceedings to be shouted to him because of a hearing impairment, claims that the Republic of Texas (which joined the Union in 1846 after ten years of de facto independence) was never formally dissolved.  The proof of this, he said, ridiculously, was Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 53, which simply refers to laws enacted during the Republic of Texas period and which Lamell misinterprets as meaning that the entity that enacted those laws is extant.  Displaying a misunderstanding of the modus tollens rule of inference, Lamell told the court, “Unless you can prove in the Bible that I am wrong, then I am right.”  He added, to the judge, “I am washed in the blood.  I am a child of God.  You have no jurisdiction.  Amen.”

The text of Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 53, taped to the window of Lionel Lamell’s Caddy.
Despite supporting arguments from Albert Thomas, whose t-shirt identified him as “chief counsel for the Republic,” Lamell, who rejected court-appointed counsel, was found guilty.  Judge Tommy Chambers sentenced him to 180 days in prison, suspended upon completion of one year’s probation, and a fine of $1,500.  I hope someone clarified for him: that’s 1,500 U.S. dollars.


A Texan separatist at a recent rally

[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  (That is shorter than the previous working title.)  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Autonomy Good Enough for Leading Flemish Nationalists; Full Independence Too “Costly for Us and Belgium”


The leader of one of northern Belgium’s nationalist parties, Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams (CD&V, or “Christian-Democratic and Flemish”), said March 18th that he supported autonomy for Flanders, the Kingdom of Belgium’s Germanic-speaking northern half, but not outright independence.  Speaking during a visit to the francophone separatist region of Quebec, in Canada, the leader, Kris Peeters, who is also Flanders’ minister-president, said, “I don’t support Flanders independence.  I’m convinced that our region needs more powers in different areas, such as taxation etc., but I also believe that Flanders needs Belgium.”  Complete secession, he said, would be too costly for Flemings and for all Belgians, including the French-speaking Walloons of the south.

Kris Peeters with the Belgian, Flemish, American, and E.U. flags.
The sign on the podium has the word sfmoma, a Flemish slang term for “head honcho.” 
CD&V is the leading member of the governing coalition in Flanders’ devolved parliament.  The junior-coalition-partner Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliante (N-VA, or “New Flemish Alliance”), which has 16 seats to CD&V’s 31, favors a peaceable secession from Belgium (but wishes to remain in the European Union).  The far-right, racist Vlaams Belang (“Flemish Interest”) party has a full 21 seats but is in the opposition.  In the direct-representative lower house of Belgium’s national parliament in Brussels, CD&V is the second-largest party in the ruling coalition, while the N-VA and Vlaams Belang are in the opposition in that body.

In the minds of the far-right Vlaams Belang party, this is a photograph of Flanders’ gradualist, centrist minister-president, Kris Peeters, planning a Saracen invasion and occupation of Brussels.
Last week, the N-VA said it would push for greater separation if it wins Flemish elections scheduled for May 2014.  By then, Scotland will be farther along in its campaign to separate from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in a referendum now scheduled for September 18, 2014.  Catalonia will also vote next year on independence from the Kingdom of Spain.  How both campaigns proceed will likely have an effect on how the two competing visions for Flemish nationalism fare.

[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it some time in 2013.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

Friday, March 22, 2013

She Recognizes Me, She Recognizes Me Not: Fickle Vanuatu Dumps Abkhazia for Georgia


Ah, fickle youth!  Older nations like the United States and the major nations of Europe are more staid and loyal in their relationships, but young states still in their national adolescence often split up and pair up as their hormones dictate.  Such was the case this week when Vanuatu (age 32) started a relationship with Georgia (age 21) after unceremoniously dumping its former flame, Abkhazia (age 4—a bit young for romance, but, well, kids—what are you gonna do?).

Conflicting reports from different branches of the Republic of Vanuatu’s government last year left it unclear for a while whether the South Pacific island nation (formerly the New Hebrides) would be one of the handful of independent states to grant diplomatic recognition to the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of South Ossetia.  Those two Moscow-aligned countries in the South Caucasus region unilaterally seceded from the newly independent Republic of Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and then were established more formally as independent states when Georgia tried unsuccessfully to reclaim them in a 2008 war with Russia.


Currently, Abkhazia and South Ossetia receive diplomatic recognition only from the Russian Federation (which sponsors them—“puppet state” not being too strong a word for the relationship); from two leftist-governed Latin American nations—Venezuela and Nicaragua—which do so only to piss off the United States; and by the minuscule Pacific island nations of the Republic of Nauru (the third-smallest country in the world), Tuvalu (the fourth-smallest), and, at one point, Vanuatu.  Tuvalu and Nauru are also among the only 23 countries in the world to recognize the Republic of China (Taiwan), and they do so for the same reason, pretty much: to qualify for lucrative development deals with Russia and Taiwan, respectively.  Taiwan explicitly courts western Pacific nations to extend its marine strategic reach, and it is probably these small states’ willingness to forego the economic benefits of ties with the People’s Republic of China for a cosy relationship with Taiwan that brought them to the attention of the Kremlin in the first place as potential “marks.”


Last year the media and the diplomatic world were jerked back and forth by conflicting reports from Vanuatu’s foreign ministry and the prime minister’s office as to whether it recognized Abkhazia in particular.  For a while it looked as though it were firmly in the recognition camp, but now, on March 18th, Vanuatu’s foreign ministry said that it recognizes only the Republic of Georgia, not Abkhazia.

Abkhazia’s coat of arms
There is similar confusion as to whether the Republic of Kiribati—which consists of 32 Micronesian atolls spread across a million square miles of Pacific—recognizes the two South Caucasus mini-states as well.  Kiribati, a former colony of the United Kingdom, is also a diplomatic partner of Taiwan’s.

Official seal of the Republic of South Ossetia
Russia’s sponsorship of Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence (to say nothing of Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh) represents a kind of double standard, since it is also stonewalling the Republic of Kosovo’s NATO-sponsored quest for United Nations membership on the grounds that it does not want to encourage separatism within its own sometimes-fissiparous federation.  Vanuatu, during its honeymoon with Abkhazia, seems to have had no similar qualms, despite the fact that its own transition to independence in the late 1970s was complicated by the “Coconut War,” during which three separate portions of the archipelago tried to split away: Tanna (a.k.a. Tafea) in the south, N’Makiaute, and Espiritu Santo in the north (which sought independence as the Republic of Vemerana in an insurrection incited by a Lithuanian-American libertarian millionaire).

Don’t worry.  We’ll protect you from NATO.

[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it some time in 2013.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

France’s Far Right Wants Early Vote on New Caledonia Independence—but Only Because They’re against It

The flag of Kanaky

Need another reason to be in favor of independence for France’s colony of New Caledonia?  Here’s one: Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s neo-fascist, immigrant-bashing Front National (F.N., or National Front) party is against it.  Nonetheless, she visited New Caledonia’s capital, Nouméa, recently, and told a crowd that she wanted New Caledonians to vote on independence as soon as possible.  This is mainly because she fears a delayed vote is more likely to result in the loss of the colony.

New Caledonia’s location in the South Pacific
First seen by Europeans in 1774, during one of Captain James Cook’s expeditions, New Caledonia was claimed by the French Republic in 1853, and in 1946 it was made a full “overseas territory,” with French citizenship for its residents.  Long after nearly all the other European colonies in the South Pacific had been granted independence, the French continued to hold onto theirs fiercely, reluctantly allowing the New Hebrides, which it governed jointly with the United Kingdom, to become the independent Republic of Vanuatu in 1980.  This leaves New Caledonia and France’s other two overseas territories, French Polynesia (including Tahiti) and Wallis & Futuna, among the very few remaining colonies in the region.  Growing unrest in the 1980s, some of it violent, brought the French and native New Caledonian leaders to the negotiating table, where in 1998 they hammered out the Nouméa Accord.  In it, New Caledonia was given some devolved rights of self-government and a provision that at a time no earlier than 2014 and no later than 2018 there would be a binding plebiscite on whether New Caledonia would stay French.

Nouméa Accord signatories meeting last year
But exactly when to hold the vote could make all the difference, for two reasons: one demographic and one political.  First, New Caledonia’s indigenous people, called Kanaks or Kanakas, are in the minority, at 44.6% of the population.  (In French Polynesia, by contrast, native people are over three-quarters of residents.)  Europeans, mostly French, are 34.5% of New Caledonia’s population.  Most of the rest are Pacific islanders from Tahiti, Wallis & Futuna, and elsewhere.  But few French move to New Caledonia, and some are leaving.  Meanwhile, Kanakas outbreed other groups.  If the vote is left too long, then soon the “yes” votes for independence may have a plurality if not an outright majority.


Secondly: right now the two main anti-independence parties, le Rassemblement–U.M.P. and Avenir Ensemble, control just over half the seats in New Caledonia’ territorial legislature, while separatists occupy only 8 of the body’s 54 seats.  This does not at all reflect actual sentiment in the islands, which divides pretty closely along racial lines.  Instead, it reflects how deeply divided the squabbling pro-independence factions are, which has led many Kanakas to vote for the white parties in hopes of more political stability.  But anti-French and anti-colonialist feeling is still strong among Kanakas, and a delayed vote would also increase the possibility that separatist would find common cause and tip the political balance, while colonialist forces could falter or experience their own divisions.

Already, many pro-French leaders are seeing the possibility of a narrow result against independence stoking indigenous resentment, perhaps violently.  So some New Caledonians who want to remain in France realize that it may never be able to do so peacefully and are preparing to vote “yes” to independence as the lesser of two evils.  This is only one of the splits that could threaten the anti-independence coalition and dilute its message.

Nicolas Sarkozy in New Caledonia
So Marine Le Pen would like the vote to be held right away.  She wants to keep New Caledonia in France, she criticized the former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, for being open to giving the island up, and she especially opposes the current installation of the flag of the Kanaka people—who want to call their country Kanaky—as an official flag in the colony alongside the French tricoleur.  Sarkozy’s showing in New Caledonia in last year’s presidential election, in which he lost to the socialist François Hollande, was better in New Caledonia than anywhere else in the overseas territories other than Réunion in the Indian Ocean.  Sarkozy got 63% of New Caledonia’s votes, the anti-independence Rassemblement–U.M.P. party being after all a local branch of Sarkozy’s Union pour une Mouvement Populaire.  Sarkozy almost certainly lost some white votes because of Hollande’s stance against independence; Kanaka nationalists tended to favor Hollande, perhaps because they figured the question of independence would in the end be decided in Nouméa rather than in Paris anyway.  But Sarkozy was also hurt by an unexpectedly strong showing in New Caledonia by the National Front itself.  Sarkozy blamed these numbers on Hollande’s cosiness with separatists in French Polynesia—his implication being that pro-independence Kanakas were among those voting for Le Pen. There is some logic to this, I suppose: Le Pen has in the past resisted incorporating the Indian Ocean territory of Mayotte more closely into the French Republic by making it a full département, which it became in 2011, since she feared a resulting influx of brown people to the motherland.  France’s neo-fascists like to keep colonies at arm’s length, but they don’t want to lose them altogether, resulting in some odd mixed messages.  Suffice to say, national (French) party politics in New Caledonia are complicated and do not follow racial or pro-vs.-anti-independence lines.

Marine Le Pen with a swastika on her forehead,
as displayed at a Madonna concert which ran afoul of European laws for such things.
(Sorry, it was the most flattering picture of her I could find.)
Now, though, Marine Le Pen is steadfastly against independence and thus wants a quick vote she hopes the pro-colonialist forces will win.  One wonders, though: at what cost?  Would the National Front be willing to go so far as to hurry along a mandate for continuing colonization that may lead to more civil war in the territory?  Well, the F.N. was founded by Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, an accused torturer for the French army during the Algerian War, who is also known for fiery anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim comments and for physically assaulting one of his political opponents.  Maybe burning cars in the streets of Nouméa is exactly what France’s far right is hoping for.  They may well get their wish.

[You can read more about Kanaky, (French) Polynesia, and many other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sulu’s Return: The “World’s Poorest Sultan” Invades Sabah, Threatens Southeast Asia’s Fragile Geopolitical Balance


The Republic of the Philippines, which just last year brought its civil war with southern Muslims closer to an end with an agreement for a new autonomous region, has a new headache to complicate its relationship to the Moro minority.  Details emerged slowly last month as 200 or so Filipino paramilitaries made a quiet amphibious landing on the shores of the neighboring Malaysian state of Sabah.  The porous marine border between far-eastern Malaysia and the far-southwestern Philippines has long been a conduit for contraband arms, linking the Moro separatist insurgency on Mindanao to other Muslim minority struggles such as that of southern Thailand’s Malays, as well as fundamentalist terrorists in Indonesia.  One entity plying these waters is the Abu Sayyaf Group (A.S.G.), a Moro-aligned militia which is considered an arm of al-Qaeda.  But these new intruders on the beaches of Sabah turned out to be the self-proclaimed Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu and were claiming Sabah for their monarch.  An ensuing standoff with Malaysian troops became violent on March 1st.  An unknown number have died, and the governments in Kuala Lumpur and Manila are trying to contain the diplomatic fallout.

Early Sulu Sultanate rebels (during American rule?), with an early version of the royal flag
Sabah, the northeastern quadrant of Borneo (whose south is Indonesian and whose north is Malaysian) once belonged to the Sultan of Sulu, at the time the most powerful ruler in the Philippines.  In 1851, as the Spanish Empire was encroaching in the region, Jamalul Alam, Sultan of Sulu, signed a treaty with Spain, which Madrid interpreted as a cession but which the sultanate regarded as an alliance between equals that preserved the sultan’s sovereignty over the small Sulu archipelago, Sabah, the Philippine islands of Palawan and Basilan, and part of the large island of Mindanao.  When Spain turned Sabah over to the United Kingdom in 1885, it was without the sultan’s approval.  Nor was he consulted when his other territories, the de facto Philippine ones, were stripped from Spanish control at the start of the Spanish-American War in 1898, in a local independence struggle that quickly became superseded by the Philippines’ new status as a protectorate of the United States.  (A Republic of Zamboanga existed very briefly on Mindanao’s west coast during the war).  The sultan acknowledged U.S. rule in 1915 and reluctantly agreed to allow his territory to be incorporated into the U.S.’s newly declared commonwealth of the Philippines, but the details of that agreement did not deal with the tricky matter of Sabah, now being run as a British colony.  The U.S. was not interested in pressing a claim against the British, but the independent Philippine government which took power in 1949 was, and claimed it owned Sabah as well.

Proposed territories of a future Bangsa Moro Republic
In fact, one could argue that the self-determination movement among the southern Philippines’ Muslim began in Sulu.  During Sabah’s brief independence (1957-1963), between the end of British rule and incorporation into an independent Malaysia, the Philippine president, Diosdado Macapagal, who had family ties to Sulu, invoked the Sultanate of Sulu so often in asserting his territorial claims on Sabah that he was even suspected of wishing himself to become the new sultan.  (Though a Roman Catholic from the north of the country, near Manila, Macapagal was a descendant of a prince of Tondo, a northern-Philippine monarchy which was once a vassal state of the Kingdom of Brunei, whose lands included Sabah as well.)  A declaration of autonomy in the Sulu islands was quashed in 1961, and soon afterward the Moro people began demanding a separate state consisting of the island of Mindanao and the smaller islands formerly under the Sulu sultanate’s rule.  This helped spark a bloody Muslim-vs.-Catholic civil war in the south through the 1970s and ’80s, with demands for a Bangsa Moro Republic (B.M.R.).  (The Moro are not one ethnic group.  The name derives from the early Spanish traders who considered all Muslims “Moors.”  Today the term covers a variety of groups speaking different languages, the Philippines being one of the more ethnolinguistically diverse areas in the world.)

Flag of the Moro National Liberation Front (M.N.L.F.)
Macapagal’s successor, Ferdinand Marcos, coveted Sabah as well.  The awkwardness of a Catholic president using Muslim royal history to extend his mini-empire proved too difficult to manage: in 1968, a secret élite military unit on the northern island of Corregidor became notorious when recruits from Sulu were massacred (according to one version of events) by their Christian officers.  It turned out the men had been training for an imminent invasion of Sabah.  This did not help already bad relations between Malaysia’s left-leaning government and the right-wing Marcos dictatorship.  After Marcos’s removal in a 1986 “people power” revolution, Malaysian–Philippine relations warmed, an Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was created, and Malaysia acted as a third-party broker in negotiations between Manila and southern insurgency groups such as the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the Moro National Liberation Front (M.N.L.F.).  Surely, Malaysia partly wanted to make sure not only that an increasingly Islamized insurgency would not spill over into Borneo but that no Sulu-based territorial conflicts arose between the two nations.  However, that is what happened this February.

Jamalal Kiram III, current Sultan of Sulu
The “royal army” currently at large in Sabah is led by a younger brother of Jamalul Kiram III, an elderly invalid in a Muslim slum neighborhood of Manila who ordered the invasion and calls himself “the poorest sultan in the world” (though he is only one claimant).  Kiram’s aim at first seemed merely to goad the Philippine government into a more aggressive irredentism against Malaysia, but as Manila has disavowed any support for the invaders and scrambled to repair its relationship with Kuala Lumpur, the Sultan has begun to sound more radical.  The Sultanate of Sulu’s shadow government now includes a minister for foreign affairs, and it is suddenly calling itself the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.

Abraham Idjirani, royal spokesman, at a recent press conference
What Moro separatists in the Philippines make of this is as yet unclear.  The M.N.L.F. first said it regarded Malaysia’s defensive actions as a war on all Moros, but then it tried to squelch rumors that M.N.L.F. fighters were on their way to Sabah to support the Sultan.  One complication will be some territorial overlap between the Sultanate and not only the M.N.L.F.’s proposed Bangsa Moro Republic but also the more moderate MILF’s planned Bangsamoro autonomous region (a subset of the desired B.M.R. territory).

The Sultanate of Sulu’s current flag
What are the chances that the Sultanate of Sulu will become an independent state?  Approximately nil.  Western governments are already worried that a more autonomous Bangsomoro will turn the Philippine–Malaysian border region into a murky no-man’s-land where al-Qaeda can flourish.  The West would never tolerate the establishment of a separate Muslim statelet that would be ripe for Islamist radicalization.  The former colonial master, the U.S., has always stood squarely with Manila against the Islamist rebels of the south.

Poster for The Sultan of Sulu, a 1902 Broadway play that mocked the monarch
But could the world’s poorest sultan throw a politically sensitive region on the boundary between the Christian and Muslim worlds into bloody turmoil?  Well, they already have.  Everyone’s trying to figure out now what this new player wants.

[You can read more about the Sultanate of Sulu, Bangsomoro, and many other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Italophone Swiss Bid Ciao but Not Auf Wiedersehen to Right-Wing Ticinese Nationalist Giuliano Bignasca


In Switzerland, the original multi-ethnic, multi-lingual democracy, which has weathered many of the storms of Europe’s separatist tumults without coming apart, has, for better or for worse, lost one of its fringe separatist nationalists this week.  Giuliano Bignasca, the founder of the Lega dei Ticinese (League of Ticino) representing Switzerland’s one Italian-speaking canton, Ticino, died on March 7th.  He was 67.

Ticino is Switzerland’s one predominantly-Italian-speaking canton.
Italian-speakers make up about 6.5% of Swiss, a country dominated by its two-thirds German-speaking majority but whose federal system dictates a careful balance of power between German-, French-, and Italian-speaking communities.  Most Swiss Italian-speakers live in Ticino, a small Alpine canton which borders Italy’s northern lake district, not far from Milan.  Much of what is now Ticino was part of the Holy Roman Empire’s Duchy of Milan until German-speaking Swiss annexed it in the 15th and 16th centuries.  But it was not until 1803, when Napoleon Bonaparte redrew the borders within and among occupied Switzerland and his northern Italian puppet states that Ticino was given a full federal role in the Swiss Confederation—which it retained in post-Napoleonic Switzerland.  At the same time, Napoleon permanently split the Ticinese apart from their cultural and linguistic cousins of the Cisalpine Republic in what became the northern Alpine reaches of the Kingdom of Italy.  (See a recent article from this blog on other aspect’s of the complicated geopolitics of the Swiss–Italian border.)

Swiss and Ticinese flags fly side by side—something some Helvetic Italophones would like to change.
Although Francophone separatism in Switzerland is long-standing, Ticinese nationalism owes its emergence to the Lega Nord (Northern League) just over the border, which emerged in the late 1980s to push for greater autonomy, even independence, for the northern third of the Italian Republic, known to its nationalists as Padania.  The Northern League is avowedly xenophobic and right-leaning, as is Bignasca’s Ticino League (as opposed to the more left-wing “soft-nationalist” bioregionalism of Domà Nunch and other groups, which envision Ticino and northern Lombardy merging to form an independent nation called Insubria).

Bignasca embraced Bossi and his ideology.
The League of Ticino was founded in 1991 to push for a “no” vote in a looming referendum on Swiss membership in the European Economic Area (E.E.A.), a sort of antechamber to the European Union.  The measure was defeated.  Bignasca and his League campaigned unsuccessfully to keep Switzerland out of the United Nations, which it joined in 2002, but almost single-handedly prevented the Swiss from contributing U.N. peacekeepers.  The pro-Europeanism of Romand nationalists and other Swiss Francophones, as well as the wealthy, and often politically liberal, German-speaking Swiss who like to buy vacation homes in picturesque Ticino were other targets of Ticinese regionalist resentment.

German- and Italian-speakers have been fighting over Ticino at least since the Battle of Ponte Rozzo in 1524.
Whatever one thinks of Swiss isolationism, Bignasca’s regional chauvinism had a dark side.  He famously complained of the proliferation of dark-skinned players on Switzerland’s national football (soccer) team and once proposed building a wall between Ticino and Italy.  (For most Swiss, any ethnolinguistic fellow-feeling tends to be overridden by traditional Helvetic xenophobia.)

The League of Ticino in 2011 became the dominant party in the canton.  But the League was Bignasca and Bignasca was the League.  Whether Ticinese nationalism will survive in its current virulent form without its charismatic founder remains to be seen.

[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it some time in 2013.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  (Meanwhile, if you still have money burning a hole in your pocket, an excellent way to support the “Springtime for Nations” blog is by considering donating a volume to the “Springtime of Nations” Research Library via the “Springtime of Nations” Amazon wish list.)]

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ethiopia’s Oromos Mourn Separatist Leader


The Oromo people of southern Ethiopia this week are mourning the death on March 3rd of Abdulkarim Ibrahim Hamid (nom de guerre: Jara Abba Gadaa (also spelled Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa)), a founder of the Oromo Liberation Front (O.L.F.) and its armed wing the Oromo Liberation Army (O.L.A.), a key player in the decades-long struggle for a separate Oromo state in southern Ethiopia.  Hamid was 77 years old and died of kidney failure in Yemen, where he had been living in exile.


Hamid was born in 1936 in eastern Oromia (also spelled Oromiya) and in 1967—during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie—joined the Bale rebel movement of Gen. Wako Gutu.  After serving a five-year prison term in Somalia, he returned to Oromia in 1976, where he helped found the O.L.F.  By this point, Selassie, who claimed Oromo ethnicity among his mixed ancestry, had been deposed by the Communist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, which ushered in a period of ethnic insurrection by ethnic groups formerly loyal (of only uneasily) to the Emperor.  This period was complicated by Somalia’s aggressive territorial claims on southern and western Ethiopia, including a Somali claim that the Oromo, like the Ogaden, were in fact simply western Somalis, an issue which tore at the loyalties of some Oromo separatists.

Jarra Abba Gadaa (center, next to flag-holder), with O.L.A. rebels in 1978.
After a falling-out in 1979, Hamid founded the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Oromia (IFLO), supported by outside interests in Djibouti and Saudi Arabia—though, then as now, Oromo separatism has always been ethnic rather than religious in character.  In 1991, the collapse of Mariam’s sponsor state, the Soviet Union, led to his fall as well.  Ethiopia was taken over by Meles Zenawi’s multi-ethnic Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (E.P.R.D.F.), composed mostly of Tigrays, Oromos, and anti-Communists from Ethiopia’s dominant Amhara ethnic group.  But the O.L.F. quit the E.P.R.D.F. soon after it took power, leaving the ruling coalition dominated by the ethnic Tigray minority, to which Zenawi belonged.


The two Oromo factions reconciled in 2000, and Hamid was a key figure in the two groups’ successor organization the United Liberation Forces of Oromia (ULFO), later renamed the Front for Independent Democratic Oromia (FIDO).  Zenawi died in 2012, but Oromo rebels remain an armed opposition to the still-Tigray-dominated successor government.

There are currently attempts to bring Hamid’s body home to Oromia from Yemen for burial.

[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it some time in 2013.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  (Meanwhile, if you still have money burning a hole in your pocket, an excellent way to support the “Springtime for Nations” blog is by considering donating a volume to the “Springtime of Nations” Research Library via the “Springtime of Nations” Amazon wish list.)]

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