Lua branca (Portuguese Edition)


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Teo, V. The aim of this paper1 is a reflection on the problem of secessionism in contemporary Africa in the context of postcolonial borders maintained because of the uti possidetis principle, on the example of Cabinda and South Sudan. South Sudan after decades of fighting gained political independence, breaching the principle established during the decolonization period, concerning the permanence of colonial borders in Africa. Cabinda, similarly like Western Sahara and Somaliland, or Biafra in the past, is still fighting for independence and calling for international political maps to be redrawn and formed around explicit idea of creating a new state.

All of the countries mentioned above continued their fight at a greater or lesser degree of intensity throughout the entire post-Cold War period. The national border is defined in international law as a line, or more strictly as a plane, within which the national territory is contained, separating it from the territory of another state or the territory not subjected to the state jurisdiction.

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The border as a dynamic element of a state is also an instrument of its policy2. In a systemic approach a border is one of the elements constituting the state as a set of institutions, defining the extent of its territory, the scope of its sovereignty and enabling it to function in the international environment. The borders are also a determinant of national identity - combined with a sense of unity and territorial cohesion, which can be changed by wars, revolutions and internal unrest3. The idea of - contemporary understood - borders was not known in the pre-colonial Africa, where they were not lines or planes, but uninhabited buffer zones, toward which nobody claimed any rights and through which the tribes used to move freely.


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Due to the low population density, large areas of available land and extensive agriculture, in Africa there were no investments in cultivated lands, as almost always it was possible to change them over for different ones, more fertile in a given period. The lack of demographic pressures led to the absence of territorial disputes, so common in Europe or Asia at that time. While on other continents the power of the state was evinced in the area of subordinated territories, in Africa its measure was the exercised authority over large populations, completely unrelated with territorial sovereignty, because of the fact that unlike in other parts of the world, the authority over a specified area did not have to mean exercising power over the population that inhabit it4.

Jeffrey Herbst, States and Power in Africa. Thoroughly examined and well known were only the territories of the Arab countries in Northern Africa, and Southern Africa. Therefore, the boundaries of the colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa were drawn on the maps according to the will of the European negotiators. In many colonies within the same borders, were put together the long-time hostile tribes or ethnic groups which also differed in religion5.

There is no doubt that the rules of European powers and their colonial policy stamped on the whole continent, and the consequences of this policy reflected in the historical events that are visible till today, even in the current international law. The simplest explanation for this sometimes artificial straight borders in Africa is that they were drawn in such manner where the costs involved in demarcating borders were too high. This was especially the case of the regions with low population densities such as desert Sahel and Sahara regions, as well as the forests of central Africa. The region became then an extension of the relations of the European colonial powers7.

The uti possidetis principle was for many years supported by the practice of the African states, categorically opposing to the secession of the territories of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia or Angola. The validity of application of the principle, which enabled a quick decolonization, was not questioned during the whole period of the Cold War. However, the shape of the African borders and the principle supporting their durability, which was created to bring peace after the withdrawal of the colonizers, have become the cause of many civil wars, which seem to be a natural stage of state-building processes in the African countries.

In the period preceding the independence of South Sudan, there were voices raising the need of leaving the criticized and not meeting its objectives principle uti possidetis, as well as allowing the African states to adjust their borders to topographical and ethnic realities, what would contribute to unfettered development of natural state-building processes on the continent.

However, the opponents of departing from uti possidetis principle notice that although it is not perfect, leaving it behind will cause an outbreak of numerous new intrastate and interstate conflicts, entailing death and suffering of millions of people, as well as the balkanization of the African continent. As it has been already mentioned, the creation of South of Sudan and, almost 20 years before, Eritrea is the only major change in African borders after the decolonization10, and stood in a clear contradiction with the principle uti possidetis.

It resulted also in the reflection over a real legal meaning of the principle and the future of its application in Africa. Queued to challenge the artificial postcolonial borders are standing, among others, Biafra in Nigeria11, 9 Pascal G. The war resulted in around , military casualties and between , to 2 million Biafran civilians who died mostly due to starvation.

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Today, although the expression of secessionist demands is forbidden in Nigeria for ex. Ostaszewski ed. If we try to look at South Sudan, which as a result of breaking the uti possidetis principle gained independence in July , we could, in fact, observe some similarities with the situation of Cabinda. Just like the territory of South Sudan for the Republic of Sudan, Cabinda also because of the same reason, has now a strategic importance for Angola. However, oil was not the only problem for the North. The other confrontational issue which could be a seedbed for future conflict was related to the waters of the Nile.

After independence South Sudan became the third richest country in natural precipitation in sub-Saharan Africa. Being the source of more than twoCase Studies. See more: Salman M.

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Moreover, Cabinda is also rich with other valuable resources or crops, such as coffee, timber, palm oil and rubber In consequence, if Cabinda was an independent state, it could be one of the richest countries in the developing world in per capita terms. The differences are, however, significant in terms of chances to gain independence.

Clearly, it translates to possible prospects of the armed forces. According to the statistics SPLA fielded an army numerically equal to the army of the Republic of Sudan, although, of course, inferior in terms of armament.


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Portuguese and later against the Angolan government. In the course of the war SPLA received a large help from the outside, while Cabinda cannot count for any help from outside.

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However, for many years the Angolan government was trying to prove that in the awakening of the Cabindan separatist activity there were engaged some foreign forces, blaming the Republic of Congo or the DRC, and pointing out that it was in fact nationalism with Congolese tendencies and even raising engagement of the French petrol company — Elf The territory remained under the tight control of the Angolan government and there was no sign that this would change. What little quasi-governmental apparatus the Cabindans built remained largely outside the territory.

The region was severely stricken in October when the government sent around 30 Angolan troops that could be deployed after having defeated the UNITA rebels in fact, among them there were also recently incorporated ex-UNITA soldiers Obviously, Cabinda has no geographic border with Angola, although the key point here is rather the argument that it was a separate Portuguese colony what makes it entitled to independence.

In its Charter, the self-declared government of the Republic of Cabinda emphasizes two further points: first, that Cabinda was recognized as distinct from Angola in Portuguese Constitution; and second, that in the Organization of African Unity recognized it as being decolonized African country, distinct from Angola.

From the other side in Portugal, when it became known that Cabinda had oil, broke the Treaty of Simulambuco and made Cabinda a full province of the Colony of Angola. The Alvor Treaty granted Angola independence within its existing boundaries, meaning — together with the Cabinda province According to Jean-Michel Mabeko-Tali to understand the Cabindan question it is necessary to take into account three factors.

Second is to understand socio-economic and identity issues.


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Finally, 20 In the earlier period the Portuguese had already included Cabinda to its colonial possessions, what was recognized by the Portuguese British Alliance Treaty of , and reconfirmed by the convention signed by those countries in Williams, op. The complexity of the socio-economic issues in Cabinda is based, first of all, on the ethnic cultural and linguistic relation of the Cabindan population with the Kongo people Bakongo living in the Republic of Congo and in the DRC It is worth to emphasize that the Cabindans having a common ethnic and linguistic Kikongo language identity not only had been reunited within concrete territory under the Treaty of Simulambuco , but also have the tradition of economic migration to both countries mentioned before Republic of Congo and the DRC.

Moreover, in the Republic of Congo former French colony the Cabindans are also present on the national political scene, even occupying important, high-level positions such as Prime Minister Alfred Raoul and Antoine Dacosta or President Alfred Raoul as an interim president in Their nationalism at that time could be called rather micronationalism, although sometimes encouraged by the Congo-Brazzaville26 elites, it was not a threat to the Portuguese, as their form of protests was rather verbal The main strategy of separatists is the internationalization of the Cabinda question.

To achieve this goal, there have been a number of efforts to involve former metropolis in the process again, with a declared aim of persuading the Portuguese state to resume its supervisory role in accordance with the famous Simulambuco Treaty. This strategy seems to have a little chance of success, because whatever political option governs in Lisbon, it cannot afford to openly confront Angola on this issue in the situation of the increasing Portuguese commercial interests and their importance, especially now in the time of economic crisis Although in there was a ceasefire signed by the Angolan government and one of the separatist groups — FLEC-Renovada.

The most radical factions of FLEC attempt to maintain the military pressure on the ground.

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This event overshadowed the situation in the Cabinda itself, becoming a good excuse for the Angolan security forces to conduct arbitrary detentions among Cabindan intelligentsia and critics of the MPLA rules, as well as the acts of violence toward the people accused of sympathizing with FLEC. This issue was raised repeatedly in the reports 28 Tony Hodges, op. However, it must be also stressed that the incident with the Togolese football team was not an isolated case.

During the last 20 years different factions of FLEC used such means of violence as hostage-taking and kidnapping activities, not only to pursue their political aims, but also because of the economic reasons, what can be considered as an ordinary criminal act Southern Sudanese resistance groups split and fought many times against each other.

Sometimes they took up arms against the central authoritarian government together with northern opposition groups, but it also happened that some fractions of the SPLA went even further and supported the Khartoum government against other southern groups as once did Riek Machar. What also varied were the political aspirations of the Southerners: from immediate secession, through regional devolution, confederation and recognition of non-Islamic nature of the Southern society. Moreover, the Southerners were also divided by ethnic-regional differences and personal rivalries between their leaders33, the fact which is still present in Southern Sudanese political life in the post-independence period, having its culmination in the civil war that erupted in December and turned into severe ethnic clashes The project to end genocide and crimes against humanity, 3.

In Cabinda also there is and there was a large variation of views on the future of the province.

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As the separatist movement was much factionalized, some of the groups opted for a large autonomy within the Angolan state, for others only a total independence was really worth fighting for, among the latter there were supporters of immediate independence, but it was also possible to find those who agreed on the transitional period before a complete decoupling In South of Sudan in January approximately 99 per cent of voters opted to secede from the north, which led to the formation of a new state in July This type of secessionist settlement is something different and new in comparison with Cabinda and other cases such as the Casamance or Western Sahara that may have started with strong separatist aspiration but usually are forced to end up with self-determination options within the existing state.

In case of the governments in Luanda, Dakar, Rabat or Mogadishu this kind of consent is not likely to be obtained. The so-called absent pillar of the Angolan strategy toward Cabinda is the strong reinvestment of the petrodollars in the troublesome province, so as to gain some local support, or at least minimize the impact of the separatist discourse The same mistake had been committed for many years by the government in Khartoum, which deliberately did not invest in the south, leaving a widening gap in development between the north and the south of the country.

In the South Sudanese case the conflict ended in secession but as the recent years show, it did not end the problems of South Sudan.

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