A ZIMBABWE-BORN academic Webiston Jokonya, who on September 5 last year stunned the globe after declaring a new sovereign State at the heart of the world’s waters, has come up with an 18-member cabinet as the journey to occupy the island begins.

The new state is called United Republic of Delvin (URD) and is currently registering citizens.

URD was formed from what was known as Howland Island, located north of the Equator in the Central Pacific Ocean, about 1 700 nautical miles southwest of Honolulu.

It is 160 hectares in size and also lies almost halfway between Hawaii and Australia.

It was unclaimed and uninhabited until last year when it was declared a country or sovereign state by Jokonya.

The academic initially planned to launch the “new nation” on January 24 before postponing to a later date to allow registration of citizens and mobilisation of resources to take place.

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Jokonya yesterday told NewsDay Weekender from his base in Lusaka, Zambia, that of the 18 cabinet members, 11 posts had since been occupied.

“UDR will have an 18-member cabinet and today [yesterday], we have filled 11 ministerial posts. We are in the process of recruiting seven ministers and applications are trickling in,” he said.

The filled ministries are Defence, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Communication, Housing and Public Works, Industry, Trade and Commerce, Education, Health and Child Welfare, Tourism and Environment, Labour and Public Works and Sport and Recreation.

The ministries without leaders are Home Affairs, Finance, Information and Publicity, Transport and Energy, Women’s Affairs, Agriculture and Religion and Culture.

“We are elated by the response from those interested in living in URD. We are receiving pledges and support from security details, infrastructure and transportation. We are targeting to go there by the end of March,” Jokonya added.

“The first tour is for executives only and the actual date for citizens’ relocation will be communicated upon our return. We are currently holding meetings every Saturday getting feedback from appointed ministers as we move to meet our target. We are also going to hoist our national flag during our executive visit.”

Jokonya (45) was born and raised in Hurungwe, under Chief Kazangarare, about 70km north of Karoi.

URD is characterised by an equatorial climate with scant rainfall, constant wind and intense sunshine.

There is low-lying nearly level, sandy, coral island surrounded by a narrow fringing reef depressed central area.

The natural resources include guano (deposits worked until late 1800s), terrestrial and aquatic.

The island is reportedly under the United States’s jurisdiction.

But, Jokonya, refuted the claims.

“The truth is, by now USA didn’t say anything about URD because they know the truth. There is a lot of misinformation on social media platforms about the new state,” Jokonya said.

Of late, leaders of the new state have been under fire on social media platforms, with some describing the move as a pipe dream while prospective citizens ask on the citizenship fees.

Some members from across the globe including Siera Lione, United Kingdom, Nigeria, India and South Africa, among many others, have come to the new nation’s defence.

They have charged that Jokonya remains a visionary leader of the new state.

One prospective citizen said there are numerous questions for the URD administrators without response or information regarding the current situation, rules, and process.

“As citizens, you should keep us updated so that we are well informed. What most of us do not realise is that this is a new kid on the block. There is a lot of planning, approvals, agreements from various stakeholders globally. It's not like we are inheriting an existing country,” one of the potential URD citizens posted.

In a statement this week, URD claimed that it was recognised as a sovereign state.

“URD is a country before Kiribati. The original people who own this island are the Kore people who left due to harsh weather conditions around 1814 to Gilbert Island, now called Kiribati. Since 1932, the US administration openly said they are guiding the islands for fisheries, but today, the Kore tribe and owners gathered to declare the island URD in 2023 and His Royal Majesty Webiston Jokonya was declared the permanent ruler of the URD,” the statement read.

“According to the resolution of the Princes of the Kores and URD constitution, URD is recognised by India government and southern Cameroon government and other international or intergovernmental recognised URD. It is also recognised by Khoisan Nation Self Defence Unity of South Africa, Hessequa Khoi Tribal Council.”

Jokonya’s move has been described as a pyramid scheme meant for financial gains.

“We are greatly concerned about character assassination and serious defamatory messages against the people of URD by some media houses. My dream will come true,” Jokonya said.

An academic, Jokonya holds a PhD in Information Technology with GEPEA University, Portugal;  PhD in Physical Education with the World University of Sports, Iran; PhD in Mass Communication with Anjad University, Pakistan; and Doctor of Business Administration, among other qualifications.

He was accorded a visiting professorship position at different universities globally.

It was during one of his academic research tours he came across the uninhabited territory.

The nation was named after his last-born son Delvin.

By December last year, URD had 36 registered members.

The Montevideo Convention on the rights and duties of states notes that a state has four characteristics — permanent population, defined territory, government and a capacity to enter into relations with other states.