Part 3- the Nation

A NATION can be understood as a geographic space isolated for a given people through manipulations of law which give its people and government the widely accepted right to defend their territory with violence, if need permits.

It is this aspect of absolute authority over a given geographic area that gives rise to the notion of sovereignty or power. The distribution of that power often determines what the nation becomes, if republic or monarchy.

The major difference between the two is that power is distributed through electoral consent in republics while it is largely inherited in monarchies.  Nation states become concentrations of limited power which cannot be imposed on another nation (or territory) without expecting retaliation.

Nations are formed from different circumstances. Some, like North Korea are a result of wars that force a single nation to be divided into two parts amid intense mistrust and tension; similarly, in Sudan and South Sudan.

Others like Saudi Arabia are formed by visionary patriarchs who impart their foresight and belief (or religion) into their offspring and system of governance.

There is also a select group of nations like Ethiopia, Egypt, Libya and Greece, for example, that are ancient but have retained their statehood overtime despite mutations to their geopolitical-economy and social complexion. 

Most nations however, in their modern form, are a result of some conflict of occupation between or among groups contesting legitimacy over a territory or geographic space. Consequently, some nations will be born from displacing indigenous groups and stating a claim over the territory.

In the final scenario, the dominant group, a compromise among those groups while others, such as Australia, Canada and the US will be born from

Assuming sovereignty (or power) over a given territory and declare that territory a nation.

The history of nation states and their evolution from village, feudal, then city states and finally nation states alludes to some of these issues. The birth of any nation is rarely a clean affair. 

Indeed, some of the compromise that led to the formation or founding of some nations have been revisited in recent memory so that groups that felt displeased with the original agreement can be accommodated.

Czechoslovakia and Sudan are two countries, out of many, whose territories were re-demarcated to create new states by revisiting the original declarations of nationhood.

Other groups have been fortunate when it comes to reclaiming historical territories. Namibia and Zambia are two examples of countries whose history has led some internal groups to seek revisitation of pre-independence arrangements that were entered into without consensus or agreement in stating the claim over territorial space. 

In these states, there has been resistance to revise either the law or existing territorial integrity.   

What is immediately evident in the construct and survival of nations is that the law holds both overt and covert power. In other words, the law will reflect the identity of the country and the meaning behind the text of law.

In Zambia, for example, Part 1 and Article 1 of the 1991 constitution under the Declaration of Republic identified Zambia as a sovereign Republic. The 1996 amendment reiterated the nation as a republic whose people are sovereign and answerable to the supreme law of the land.

The 1991 constitution is reflective here because it changed the meaning of sovereign power from being dictatorial and deposed in a single individual; and instead passed it to the people. This imperious transfer of power remains the most undermined and overlooked contribution to the state and foundation of modern Zambia. 

The current law retains this notion in the preamble but diligently expands the principles of sovereignty and republicanism in Articles 4 and 5 respectively.

Sovereignty is still conferred on the people; in other words, power is vested in the public, not in a single political party and ultimately its leadership. The portion that deals with the nation being a republic leans towards legal assurances of the nation as a representative democracy, not a monarchy or dictatorship.

In short, this nation can be termed a constitutional democracy; a form of legalised self-governing system that receives the mandate to govern from the public via an electoral system. 

The constitution guarantees the sovereign status of the country. Therefore, any changes proposed to the identity or future of the country, good or bad, must be written into law.

For example, the one-party system was a legalised constitutional system that had to be renounced constitutionally. It was not enough to simply condemn it. In fact, irrespective of its inhuman and unrepresentative nature, it was legal for that time.

Under a democracy, if people have sovereignty, the translation is that they determine who leads them and elections are an important factor in facilitating the exercise of people’s democratic right to choose their leaders and to present themselves to be elected as leaders.  This text was especially relevant after the imperious return of multiparty politics to Zambia in 1991.

This exposes the various ways power can be distributed in republics: democracy values people in practice while dictatorships thrive on slogans and threats.

The constitution itself sums up the identity of the country in this way:The Republic is a unitary, indivisible, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-party democratic State.

Curiously, the 2016 Constitution goes a way to recognise the freedom fighters’ contribution to the country, but is deathly silent on recognising the pioneers of democracy on whose shoulders the free text of the law now rests. 

Arguably, those that fought for the restoration and reinstatement of Zambia’s democracy deserve equal measure of recognition as they did not just help to unshackle the nation from a repressive dogma that yoked every citizen. But also helped to position the country on a trajectory of regional and global admiration.

In a sound democracy the power of a cadre lies in their grasp of the prevailing global economic challenges and their ability to win the war of persuasion using cogent arguments and sound representation and not physical fights.

Back to top button