Building on our comparative research about policies and politics of redress in Tanzania and Fiji, we identify and explore nation-building in post-colonial ethnically and racially divided states. The historical legacies of colonial and post-colonial state formation give rise to two issues. The problem of national identity arises from the need of post-colonial states to overcome legacies of colonial racial formations that created strong elements of group identification. With independence, nation-states face competing pressures to address enduring inequality but also to respond to political mobilisation, both of which may be grounded in group identities. The dilemma of democratic legitimacy derives from the competing pressures of nation-states to follow global norms of behaviour while responding to the domestic electorate. In such instances, states may be judged on different, incompatible criteria. Because national identity did not grow in tandem with the administrative apparatus of the state in these societies, the state may become spoils for political victors, prolonging existing divisions. Overcoming these problems will require enlightened leadership, both domestically and internationally.