Tanzania awaits final word on Lake Malawi dispute
Malawi and Tanzania have been at loggerheads on where the border should be drawn between the two countries on the third largest fresh water body in Africa-Lake Malawi also known as Lake Nyasa in the neighbouring country; Owen Nyaka investigates.
A new revelation under President John Magufuli’s leadership shows that neighbouring Tanzania’s position over the dispute remains intact until the mediation team releases its final report.
Two years ago, a high level team of former African Heads of States led by former Mozambican president, Joachim Chissano was tasked to mediate in the Malawi-Tanzania border dispute. Other members of the mediation team are the former presidents of South Africa and Botswana, Thabo Mbeki and Festus Mogae respectively.
The team decided to give ample time to Malawi and Tanzania to conduct their general elections before proceeding with arbitration efforts following a request from both countries.
Head of Communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional and International Cooperation, Ms Mindi Kasinga told Tanzania press recently that the country’s position over the dispute remains the same until the Chissano-led team accomplishes its arbitration efforts between the two countries.
Kasiga comment was in reaction to the recent publication by the Malawian online (Nyasa Times) that carried a news article titled: ‘Malawi protests to Tanzania again over its new map.’
Quoting Malawi’s Minister’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, the article insisted that the government led by President Peter Mutharika was proceeding with the mediation that was initiated by former president Joyce Banda administration and her Tanzanian counter-part former president Jakaya Kikwete.
The Malawi government maintains that Mutharika’s government could not have adopted the mediation policy to have the final verdict and wants to see what route map the current Tanzania President Magufuli would want to use on the matter.
According to Kasiga, there is still no consensus on the row deal between the two countries and that Tanzania is still patient pending the final report from the mediation team.
“Now that we have already concluded the two elections in our two countries, we hope the mediators will soon continue with their arbitration procedures, but we want to state categorically that we have not shifted our position on this dispute,” said the ministry’s spokesperson when recently speaking to Katare Mbashieu- a journalist of Tanzania Daily News.
The origin of the current crisis between Tanzania and Malawi is an agreement made between the British and the Germans on July 1, 1890. The agreement known as the Treaty of Heligoland (The Anglo-Germany Heligoland Treaty) was signed in Berlin, Germany, between the British and the Germans.
At the centre of dispute is where the border should be drawn between the two countries on the third largest fresh water body in Africa – Lake Malawi, also known as Lake Nyasa in the neighbouring country.
Tanzania insists that the border should be in the centre of the lake while Malawi claims that the country owns the whole of the surface of the lake because for the past 50 years of independence it has been part of Malawi and that UNESCO declared Lake Malawi as World Heritage site.
Former acting Permanent Secretary in the Tanzania Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development, Dr. Selassie Mayunga earlier this year also told Dar es Salaam press that government has already acquired all important documents from the United Nations (UN) that show that the border between Tanzania and Malawi runs through the middle of the lake.
Dr. Mayunga who was handling over his office to the newly appointed Permanent Secretary in the same ministry, Dr. Yamungu Kayandabira said the documents were obtained from UN headquarters and the former colonial masters.
“As I leave this office I am glad that these documents are very important and I believe that they will be very instrumental to the diplomatic row between Tanzania and our neighbouring country,” he insisted.
Efforts to contact Malawi’s foreign affairs minister proved futile.