Skip to content

Defining “Nation” in Africa — Lessons for Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rican Governor Garcia Padilla said during a visit to Spain that Puerto Rico is “a nation.” This is not the case, under any legal definition of “nation.” Puerto Rico is a territory, a possession of the United States, and has been ever since Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States in 1898. Spain has not asked for Puerto Rico’s return, but the United States could in theory cede Puerto Rico back to Spain by an act of Congress. Clearly, Puerto Rico is not a nation.

Among African countries, things are not so clear. The United Nations lists 58 African entities under “regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings.” 54 African nations are recognized by the United Nations. The African Union includes 54 countries — but it does not include Morocco, which is a nation by all recognized criteria and has been a member of the U.N. since 1956, when it gained independence from France.

There is also Somaliland, which seceded from Somalia in 1991 and has many of the accoutrements of a sovereign nation, including its own currency and a president. The United Nations does not recognize Somaliland and neither does Somalia or the other nations in the region.

While Somaliland is the quasi-nation with the strongest claim to nationhood, there are other entities in Africa which have declared themselves independent countries but which are not recognized by the countries around them as nations.

Africacheck concludes that there are 55 nations recognized by the African Union or the United Nations or both.

The uncertainty about the geopolitical divisions in Africa has not benefited the continent as a whole, nor the uncertain quasi-nations. Puerto Rico can be sure, based on recent history , that the United States will not recognize Puerto Rico as a nation unless it declares independence. For example, Colin Powell wrote in 2003,

The department reiterates that the U.S. federal government is responsible for Puerto Rico’s foreign affairs. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States with commonwealth status.  The U.S. federal government has full responsibility for the conduct of foreign relations of all areas subject to United States jurisdiction, including all U.S. states, territories, and possessions.

Without recognition by the United States, Puerto Rico cannot expect rec0gnition as a nation by the United Nations either. Claiming to be “a nation” in the absence of recognition of nationhood has few benefits.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our Magazine, and enjoy exclusive benefits

Subscribe to the online magazine and enjoy exclusive benefits and premiums.

[wpforms id=”133″]