Legendary Peace Corps General Counsel Weighs In on Tanzania Car Accident

by William Josephson (Peace Corps staff 1961–1966)

Anyone who has read Tricia L. Nadolny, Donovan Slack, Nick Penzenstadler, and Kizito Makoye’s multi-page December 21, 2021, USA Today story about the Tanzanian Peace Corps staffer who killed a Tanzanian while dangerously driving his car in Dar es Salaam, has to have a sense of outrage not only at the staffer’s behavior the night before and the morning of the killing but at the Peace Corps’ apparent complicity in obtaining his release and getting him out of the country.

If leaving the scene of a crime is a crime in Tanzania, the Peace Corps staffer committed that crime in addition to how Tanzania prescribes vehicular homicide.

If aiding and abetting is a crime in Tanzania, then probably the Peace Corps staffers, including the Peace Corps country director, were aiders and abettors.

Original and long-standing Peace Corps policy reflected in the Peace Corps agreements with host countries is that volunteers and staff are subject to their host country laws and regulations and do not have diplomatic privileges and immunities or any lesser degree of them that may be provided in the Vienna Convention. According to the USA Today story, the Peace Corps staffer had diplomatic plates on his personal car. Has Peace Corps policy in this respect changed?

The Acting Peace Corps Director or Executive Director, in yet another one of her after-the-fact lame apologies, having been exposed by the press story, regrets the death of Ms. Issa and says that the Peace Corps paid a mutually agreed upon sum into a bank account established by Ms. Issa’s eldest son and the administrator of her estate. How much was paid? How was this amount determined?

Presumably, vehicular homicide is a crime in Tanzania. If aiding and abetting a person who flees the scene of an accident is also a crime in Tanzania, then the Peace Corps staff and any other United States government personnel who aided and abetted the Peace Corps staffer’s release and departure from the country may have committed crimes in Tanzania. What is the Acting Peace Corps Director/Executive Director doing about that?

So far as one can tell from the story, the Peace Corps staffer who fled Tanzania has personally done nothing to compensate Ms. Issa’s family or the others he injured for the damage he has caused them. By obtaining his release and enabling him to leave Tanzania, the Peace Corps has apparently contributed to the difficulty of holding him civilly responsible for the damage he has caused Ms. Issa’s family and the others.

In the 1960s, when Tanganikan authorities accused a Peace Corps volunteer of murdering his wife, he was tried by Tanganyikan authorities in a Tanganyikan court. A member of the Peace Corps general counsel’s office attended the trial as an observer. The Peace Corps never considered that the volunteer should not be subject to Tanganyikan justice. The Court held that the charge of murder was not proven.

Does anyone who reads this know an adventurous and aggressive wrongful death litigator in Maryland who would be willing to try to bring the Peace Corps staffer to justice?

Bill Josephson

William Josephson is a retired partner of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. He is the senior advisor for the Sargent Shriver Peace Institute and a long-time partner, friend, and colleague of Sargent Shriver. In late 1960, at the age of 25, Josephson, with a State Department colleague, Warren W. Wiggins, co-authored The Towering Task, the document that outlined the structure of the Peace Corps. Josephson worked at the Peace Corps until 1966, holding positions as Special Assistant to the Director and then the General Counsel.



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