How the terms country, nation and State have become fused

President Museveni authored an interesting and thoughtful article on the difference between the terms, country, nation and state.

He was contributing to some ‘conversation’ in the press between Dr Kizza Besigye, former president of FDC and Mr Yoga Adhola, a leading UPC ideologue, on ‘mixing up’ the terms nation and state.
The term country, as the President asserted, is derived from the Latin word contrata, which literally means the land on which one stands or habits.

In other words, a defined geographical entity. In international relations when one talks of “inviolability of territorial integrity of a state” one is referring to that geographical space with internationally recognised borders, which should not be tampered with by any outsider without inviting retaliatory action.

The 54-member countries of the African Unity inherited their boundaries at independence from colonial masters, with exception of Ethiopia and Liberia which were not colonised.

The Charter of the Organisation of African United signed in May 1963 endorsed these artificial colonial borders as given, a big mistake, as if to legitimise what was decided at the Berlin Conference of 18845.

The word nation is also derived from the Latin word nascis, as the President said, which is interpreted to mean people linked together by descent and common heritage.

This definition could have suited ancient Rome but is has become difficult to uphold in the modern increasingly cosmopolitan world when a given geographical space is populated by people from a multiplicity of ancestries, cultures and heritages.

Uganda, for instance, is made up of many nationalities – Baganda, Banyoro,Batoro, Acholi, Banyankole, Bagisu, Basoga, Teso, Lugbara, Alur, Bagwere, Banyole, etc.

Many of the nationalities (or tribes as the colonialists called them) are much bigger than Belgium, Latvia, Estonia and a host of other European countries. While each of these nationalities had their own countries geographical space, they did not live in exclusivity.

In Buganda, for instance, different nationalities from within and outside Uganda have settled there and the majority have fully integrated in the society, without losing their cultural and ancestral identity. The same was true in Bunyoro, Ankole and Bugisu and other areas. They also inter-married.

Frequently, the word nation is used interchangeably with country and also with state. The League of Nations and its successor organisation, the United Nations were organisations established by countries, excluding those who were still under the yoke of colonialism.

The United Nations has now a membership of 193, growing from just over 50 members in 1945, following the accession of new members mainly as a result of decolonisation and the disintegration of the USSR and Yugoslavia.

The United Nations is an organisation of Member States also referred to as countries and nations. The governing authority in a given country or nation is the state party, which is responsible for representation as the United Nations.

The fusion of country, nation and state is perhaps best demonstrated by the United States of America. This is a country composed of 50 federal states, each with its own territory, state government and legislature.

With exception of defence, finance and foreign affairs, the state governments are almost fully independent of the Federal Government, based in Washington DC, the capital territory carved out of Maryland and Virginia. While the Federal Government superintends over the whole country, it administers no territory per se, as that is left to the State Governments.

In the present world, therefore, it is academic to draw a clear distinction between country, nation and state given the converges referred to above.

Mr Naggaga is an economist, administrator and retired ambassador. gnaggaga@yahoo.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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