In January 2011, the Southern Sudanese voted overwhelmingly for their independence from Khartoum. After years of civil war, their forced relationship with the north is over. Where will the borders of the forthcoming state be? The new country inherited its international borders with Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic from pre-referendum Sudan. All these borders are colonial legacies. What about the border with Northern Sudan? Where does the new 2010 kilometre-long border between Northern and Southern Sudan come from?
One would expect that the new border would be a genuine African boundary as it is the expression of the will of the Southern Sudanese. Is it the end of the colonial borders then? Not really. This brand-new border is mostly a colonial regional boundary. It is the result of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which mostly recycled the colonial regional boundary inherited by newly independent Sudan. Of course back in 1956, this boundary was hardly surveyed and in some points very vague. Of course, the socio-political situation has dramatically changed since 1956. For example, oil was discovered in Abyei and the boundaries of this territory were disputed between the north and the south throughout the 2000s.
But still, the main reference is the colonial boundary. As in the case of Biafra, Katanga, Somaliland or Eritrea, the ultimate reference is always the colonial period. It is striking that many cases of secession or boundary contestation use the colonial reference as an argument to defend their cause.