THE LEGAL BACKGROUND OF THE PRINCIPLE OF SELF-DETERMINATION AND THE ILLEGITIMACY OF SECESSION
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The study aims at exploring the legal background of the principle of self-determination and the illegitimacy of secession as a solution to regional disputes. It was adapted from the third in a series of M. M. Elbasha's five articles in Arabic, which collectively examine the history and legal basis of issues relating to the peace agreement and proposed constitutional amendments intended to resolve Sudan's long-term civil war with the SPLM/A in southern Sudan. To support his thesis the author took into account texts of various laws and acts. Recently, the SPLM/A succeeded in forcing the national government in Khartoum to accept a peace settlement that virtually guarantees the southern region of Sudan self-determination and autonomy after six years followed by a referendum in which only the people of the southern region will vote to secede or to remain within the nation of Sudan. However, there are no legal basis to support the Government of Sudan's acceptance of a proposal that will eventually permit the residents of southern Sudan to unilaterally decide whether the unity and territorial integrity of Africa's largest nation will be maintained or whether southern Sudan will secede. The concept of the right of self-determination first appeared in President W. Wilson's speech in 1918 and concerned the issue of peoples under colonial domination. The right was adopted by the UN for the purpose of eliminating and terminating colonialism which was itself explicitly in contradiction to the purpose and principles of the UN an a direct violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of man. It still applies only to peoples in non-self-governing or colonized territories and not to indigenous peoples or political splinter groups resident within independent sovereign states. There is no legal connection between the principle of self-determination and secession. The principle of self-determination is a legitimate right of colonized peoples and peoples inhabiting trust territories and other non-self-governed territories, whereas secession is an illegitimate action taken by separatists. In case of Sudan, the freedoms sought by the southern rebels are the same freedoms which a free, representative and democratically elected government should guarantee to all its citizens. The struggle to obtain these freedoms should be waged for the benefit of all Sudanese and not simply to secure the secession of the southern region. The military dictatorship of Gen. Omar al-Bashir is not representative of the people of Sudan and has no legitimate authority to accept the terms of the proposed peace settlement. The referendum to determine the future unity or division of the nation is invalid because only residents of the southern region will be entitled to vote.
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