Nationhood and Statehood: The Impact of a Conflated Discourse on African Polities and Their Non-Dominant Ethnic Groups

Reginald M.J. Oduor


It is now conventional to refer to post-colonial African polities as ‘nations’ or ‘nation-states’. However, in this article I argue that the conflation of nationhood and statehood has led to the violation of the rights of non-dominant ethnic groups to meaningful political participation, equitable economic opportunities, ethnic identity, and secession. Thus this conflation leads to an on-going lack of legitimacy in postcolonial African states, thereby exposing them to perpetual neocolonial domination.


Key words: nation, state, nation-state, ethnicity, neocolonialism

Full Text:



Amin, S. and Ousselin, E. 1997. The Nation: An Enlightened or FogShrouded Concept? Research in African Literatures 28(4): 8-18.

Anderson, B. 2006. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Revised edition. London: Verso.

Aristotle. 350 BCE Politics. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. The Internet Classics Archive. 2009.

Barasa, L. 2011. Report: Patronage locks out small ethnic groups. In Daily Nation, Wednesday 6th April, 2011.

Bartkus, V.O. 1999. The Dynamic of Secession. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Boehme, O. 2005. The Involvement of the Belgian Central Bank in the Katanga Secession, 1960-1963. African Economic History 33: 1-29.

Bruce, M.G. 1981. Europe's Ethnic Nations. The Phi Delta Kappan 63(3): 207-208.

Castellino, J. 1999. Order and Justice: National Minorities and the Right to Secession. International Journal on Minority and Group Rights 6(4): 389-415.

Collis, R. 1970. Nigeria in Conflict. London: Martin Secker and Warburg Ltd.

Coppieters, B. 2003. Conclusion: Just War Theory and the Ethics of Secession. In Contextualizing Secession: Normative Studies in

Comparative Perspective. Eds. B. Coppieters and R. Sakwa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 252-279.

Currie, D.P. (ed.) 1964. Federalism and the New Nations of Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Davidson, B. 1992. The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Eleazu, U.O. 1977. Federalism and Nation-building: The Nigerian

Experience 1954-1964. Devon: Arthur H. Stockwell.

Fanon, F. 1967. The Wretched of the Earth. Trans. Constance Farrington. Middlesex: Penguin.

George, D.L. 1939. The Truth about the Peace Treaties. London: Victor Gollancy.

Ghai, Y.P. 2000. Ethnicity and Autonomy: A Framework for Analysis. In Autonomy and Ethnicity: Negotiating Competing Claims in Multiethnic States. Ed. Y. Ghai. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-26.

Gurr, T.R. 1993. Why Minorities Rebel: A Global Analysis of Communal Mobilization and Conflict since 1945. International Political Science Review 14(2): 161-201.

Held, D. 1996. Models of Democracy, Second edition. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Hellsten, S. 2009. Afro-Libertarianism and the Social Contract Framework in Post-Colonial Africa: The Case of Post-2007 Elections Kenya. Thought and Practice: A Journal of the Philosophical Association of Kenya new series 1(1): 127-150.

High Court of Kenya. 2006. The Ilchamus and the Constitution of Kenya. Misc. Civil application no.305 of 2004.

Hunt, Chester L. and Walker, Lewis. 1974. Ethnic Dynamics: Patterns of Intergroup Relations in Various Societies. Ed. Robin M. Williams Jr. Homewood: The Dorsey Press.

Ihonvbere, J.O. 2000. Politics of Constitutional Reforms and

Democratization in Africa. International Journal of Comparative

Sociology 41(1): 9-25.

Islam, M.R. 1985. Secessionist Self-Determination: Some Lessons from Katanga, Biafra and Bangladesh. Journal of Peace Research 22(3): 211-221.

Kamau, J. 2000. The Ogiek: The Ongoing Destruction of a Minority Tribe in Kenya. Nairobi: Rights News and Features Service.

Knight, D.B. 1985. Territory and People or People and Territory? Thoughts on Post-colonial Self-Determination. International Political Science Review 6(2): 248-272.

Krejci, J. and V. Velimsky. 1981. Ethnic and Political Nations in Europe. N.P.: Croom Helm.

Kymlicka, W. 1995. Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of

Minority Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Kymlicka, W. 2002. Contemporary Political Philosophy. Second edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Link, A.S. (Eds.) 1984. The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, vol. 45. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Manwaring, W.H. 1938. Organic Theory of the State. The Scientific Monthly 47(1): 48-50.

Mazrui, A.A. 2004. Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Violence. In A Companion to African Philosophy. Ed. Kwasi Wiredu. Malden: Blackwell, pp. 472-482.

Mbiti, J.S. 1969. African Religions and Philosophy. Nairobi: Heineman.

Mill, J.S. 1890. Considerations on Representative Government. New York: H. Holt and Co.

Miller, D. 2003. Political Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Miscevic, N. 2014. Nationalism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. Edward Zalta. Winter edition.

Accessed 25 December 2018.

Moore, M. 1998. Introduction: The Self-Determination Principle and the Ethics of Secession. In National Self-Determination and Secession. Ed. M. Moore. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1-13.

Museveni, Y.K. 1997. Sowing the Mustard Seed: The Struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Uganda. London: Macmillan Education.

Mute, L. 1998. State versus Tribe: The Ideology of Tribalism. In Readings in Constitutional Law and Politics in Africa: A Case Study of Kenya. Ed. Kivutha Kibwana. Nairobi: Claripress, pp. 443-456.

Narang, A.S. 2002. Ethnic Conflicts and Minority Rights. Economic and Political Weekly 37(27): 2696-2700.

Nwankwo, A.A. and Ifejika, S.U. 1969. The Making of a Nation: Biafra. London: C. Hurst and Company.

Okondo, P.J.H. 1964. Prospects of Federalism in East Africa. In Federalism and the New Nations of Africa. Ed. D.P. Currie. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, pp. 29-38.

Okpaku, J. (Ed.) 1972. Nigeria: Dilemma of Nationhood: An African Analysis of the Biafran Conflict. New York: The Third Press.

Orwell, G. 2002 [1946]. Politics and the English Language. London: Horizon. Blackmask Online. Available at Accessed 23 December 2018

Peter, Chris Maina. 2007. Human Rights of Indigenous Minorities in Tanzania and the Courts of Law. Journal on Minority and Group

Rights 14: 455-487.

Praeg, L. 2014. A Report on Ubuntu. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.

Republic of Kenya. 2010a. The 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census. Nairobi: Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Republic of Kenya. 2010b. Constitution of Kenya Act. Nairobi: Government Printer. Available at Accessed at 23 December 2018.

Seton-Watson, H. 1977. Nations and States: An Enquiry into the Origins of Nations and the Politics of Nationalism. Boulder: Westview Press.

Staerklé, C., Sidanius, J. Green, E.G.T and Molina, L. 2010. Ethnic

Minority-Majority Asymmetry in National Attitudes around the

World: AMultilevel Analysis. Political Psychology 31(4): 491-519.

Taylor, C. 1994. The Politics of Recognition. In Multiculturalism:

Examining the Politics of Recognition. Eds. Charles Taylor, Kwame

A. Appiah, Jurgen Habermas, S.C. Rockefeller, M. Walzer, and

Susan Wolf. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 25-73.

WA Thiong’o, N. 2011. Remembering Africa: memory, restoration and African renaissance. In Reclaiming the Human Sciences and

Humanities through African Perspectives. Eds. Helen Lauer and

Kofi Anyidoho. Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers, pp. 1519-1535.

Walzer, M. 1983. Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality. New York: Basic Books.

Widner, J.A. 1997. Political Parties and Civil Societies in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Democracy in Africa: The Second Phase. Eds. W. Zartman and Marina Ottaway. Boulder: Lynne Rienner.


  • There are currently no refbacks.