Q&A – 18 April 2016

Starting my own country

Having lived in Europe for over 20 years, I would like to now start my own country. I am sick of being governed by other people especially with some laws that I do not agree with. I believe with my own country, I can have the best policies and attract people to apply for citizenship where I will ensure safety and wealth of all my people. How do I do about this? What do you recommend I do?
GH, Europe

Walt Disney, founder of Disneyland once said that “if you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.” Much as we believe you are dreaming, we have decided to answer your question.

There is no law that we have found that stops you from using your resources to start a country. However, forming a country may sound easy, but getting it recognized as one is the difficult part.

The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States is a treaty signed at Montevideo, Uruguay, on December 26, 1933, during the Seventh International Conference of American States. Tanzania is not a signatory to this treaty.
The convention sets out the definition, rights and duties of statehood. Most well-known is article 1, which sets out the four criteria for statehood that have been recognized by international organizations as an accurate statement of customary international law. The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.
Furthermore, the first sentence of article 3 explicitly states that “The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states.” This is known as the declarative theory of statehood and is very important for you to take note of.

A basic point should be emphasized: Article 1 is qualified by Article 11 because it prohibits using military force to gain recognition of sovereignty. Hence you cannot start capturing another country to form your country, meaning that you first need some land.

With two exceptions that we came across, existing land has all been claimed by existing countries. The main exception is Antarctica. Even then, should you brave the weather and lack of “population appeal,” Antarctica is managed by the most powerful countries in the world, and it’s unlikely they’ll let you just plant a flag and say, its yours. Second, there is Bir Tawil, a tiny plot of land between Egypt and Sudan, which neither claim. However, there is very little appeal to this area, due to it being only a patch of sand although it seems to be the only place on earth that is not claimed by anyone and may still be habitable.

There is the other option of you trying to buy an existing country. If you’re wealthy enough, you can buy an island, though it’s unlikely that the host nation will just cede sovereignty to you. A more corrupt or destitute country might be more easily swayed, but even that is difficult: our research which we could not verify reveals that a pack of libertarians tried to buy Tortuga from impoverished Haiti, but were rejected. There are some things money just can’t buy.

We recommend you look for another project. Otherwise you need to consult a wealth retention consultant for more guidance. This is beyond us as lawyers who are known to have much smaller dreams than yours.

Public leaders declaration of properties

Are public leaders forced to declare their properties? Is there any law which requires them to do so?
RK, Iringa

The ethics of public leaders in Tanzania is guided by the Public Leadership Code of Ethics Act. This is the law which guides and directs as to the ethics of all public leaders in Tanzania. The code of ethics requires public leaders
to declare their assets in written form to the ethics commissioner. Such declaration has to be submitted to the ethics commissioner within thirty days after being appointed, at the end of each year and at the end of such leader’s term in office.

A public leader is supposed to declare all assets owned by him, his spouse and unmarried minor children. Further to that a public leader is not allowed in the course of his official duties to acquire any significant pecuniary advantage or assist in the acquisition of pecuniary advantage to another person, by improperly using or benefiting from information which is obtained in the course of his official duties and which is not generally available in the public.

The ethics secretariat which is established under article 132 of the constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania has the duty, among others, to inquire into any alleged or suspected breach of the code by public leaders. Any breach may result in a fine, imprisonment or both.

Husband married twice

I got married to a person I thought was single until when I found out that he has another wife. Under our religion he cannot have more than one wife at the same time. Can I divorce him?
TY, Singida

From the limited facts we have, it seems that you entered into a void marriage contract meaning that you were never married and hence may not even need a divorce. However your lawyer can guide you further on steps to take. In the event that you are married, then what you have stated is a ground you can use to petition for divorce.
More seriously, our Penal Code makes this a criminal offence. Section 165 states that any person who dishonestly or with a fraudulent intention goes through the ceremony of marriage, knowing that he is not thereby lawfully married, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for five years. You may also want to consider pursuing him under the criminal route.