The interpretation of self-determination as a vote for secession shaped the state that South Sudan has become since the 2011 referendum. Self-determination, this paper argues, is a democratic political process in which citizens determine their preferred form of statehood and nature of governance for their country. In South Sudan, however, political actors – with international support – established conditions that reduced such complex democratic processes to narrow technical matters. Equating self-determination with secession consolidated political and military domination in a process designed to end such domination. This was done at the expense of a more inclusive, process-oriented and political interpretation of self-determination.
First published in Civil Wars on Taylor & Francis Online, June 2017.