What is Sovereignty?
Sovereignty is derived from the Latin word “Superanus” which
means supreme or paramount.
Sovereignty is the supreme authority and power of a state to make
and enforce laws/policies within its area of jurisdiction. The state
exercise its power and authority in any way it can [either De facto
or De Jure (they will be explained below)] without any means of
external interference or control. The French philosopher, Jean
Bodin (1530-1590), propounded the idea of sovereignty his
publication of “The Republic” in 1576.
The Strouds Judicial Dictionary defines sovereignty as, ‘A
government which exercises de facto administrative control over a
country and is not subordinate to any other government in that
country or a foreign sovereign state.’ (The Arantzazu Mendi, 1939,
Sovereignty exists in two aspects:
1. Internal Sovereignty– This is absolute power of a state to
enforce law and compel obedience within its area of authority.
2. External Sovereignty– This is the power a state exercise to run
its affairs without external control or interference. The state is
subject to no other authority and remains independent.
Characteristics of Sovereignty
1. Permanence– This is the major attribute of sovereignty.
Sovereignty should exist as long as a state remain independent.
Sovereignty is a permanent feature of a state unlike the
2. Absoluteness– Sovereignty is supreme and absolute. It is not
subject to any control or interference.
3. Independence– Sovereignty doesn’t allow external interference ,
therefore, a sovereign state is independent and free from external
4. Indivisibility– The sovereignty of a state is indivisible. It remains
single and absolute.
5. Unity– “Unity is the spirit of Sovereignty”. A sovereign state
should stay united.
6. Comprehensiveness– Every member of the state is subject to
the sovereignty of the state. The power of a state is universally
Types of Sovereignty
1. Legal Sovereignty– This is the sovereignty vested on the law
making body in a state. E.g. Parliament
2. Internal Sovereignty– This is the absolute power of a state to
make and enforce law within its area of jurisdiction.
3. External Sovereignty– This refers to the power of the state to
run its affairs without any form of foreign interference.
4. De jure Sovereignty– De jure sovereignty is having independent
legal rule over one’s own country. The state have the right to
control its military, finances, territory and people.
4. De Facto Sovereignty– This sovereignty make use of force in
compelling obedience. However, such state might see itself as a
sovereign state while other external nations might not. E.g. Military
5. Political Sovereignty– This sovereignty resides with the supreme
body in a state. Political sovereignty lies with the electorates/
However, there can be some limitations to the sovereignty of a
1. Membership of international organizations
2. The military in government
3. The constitution
4. The electorate/ citizens
5. Public opinion
6. Dependency of a state
7. Pressure groups
8. Customs and Traditions
9. Type of government in practice
What is Sovereignty?