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Tanzania and Malawi Conflict Over Lake Nyasa

2012 september 3
by Moses Mongo

Lake Nyasa – Picture by FAO

Tanzania and Malawi are in dispute over the ownership of Lake Nyasa. The former claims to own 50 percent of the lake while the latter insists that the entire lake is on its territory.

According to Mr. Membe, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; On July 27, 2012, the ministers for foreign affairs and borders and security experts held a meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania during which it was agreed that gas and oil prospecting should be suspended within the disputed points. However, as negotiations continue, it was reported recently that Tanzania security machinery spotted some aircraft said to belong to oil and gas prospecting companies licensed by Malawi flying in Tanzania’s airspace without permission from the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA).

According to Mr. Membe, the Tanzanian government received reliable information from Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) that Malawi had leased out blocs, some which fell on Tanzanian side of the lake to certain oil and gas prospecting firms.

The Tanzanian government asked Malawi to halt the exploration activities until the border issue was resolved. However, Mr. Patrick Kabambe, Malawi’s permanent secretary in the ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to this request with the strong statement.

His minister, Mr Ephraim M’ganda Chiume, also reiterated this position at a press conference in Malawi saying that Malawi would not give “an inch of its land”

The statement was interpreted by the Tanzanian side as an act of provocation. As the air surrounding the relations of the two nations remain potentially volatile. International relations experts and politicians have urged the two to solve the matter amicably.

Malawi bases its claim on the 1890 Anglo-German Agreement signed July, 1890; while Tanzania also uses the same document, which confirms the presence of illogical borders and allows the two countries to meet and adjust the borders under the auspices of relevant Border Commissions.

Mr. Membe (The Minister for Foreign Affairs in Tanzania) noted that Tanzania has a map drawn by Britain (who then ruled Tanganyika and Nyasaland the countries which are today known as Tanzania and Malawi) indicating that they was an agreement to review the border and locate it at the middle of the lake as the case in the border between Malawi and Mozambique on the same lake..

In reaction, the minister for East African Cooperation, Mr Samuel Sitta, who spoke in his position as leader of Government business in Parliament, said that Tanzania would not be intimidated by Malawi on the issue. He assured residents living along the lake, who depend on it for their daily livehood, to continue with their activities without fear because the government would ensure their safety and security.

Mr. Membe emphasized “The government orders such firms to stop their activities and we hope our counterparts in Malawi understand our position in this matter. We want to assure Tanzanians that our country will remain safe from any open or perceived threats,”

MP Zambi from Tanzania said; during the former presidents Mkapa Benjamin and Muluzi Bakili administrations the relation between the two countries was very good and the chance should have been used to resolve the dispute but the government wasn’t serious about it”

But Prof. Baregu of Tanzania, also said since the problem has existed for many years, it was time the two countries reached an amicable solution to end the dispute. He said negotiation with the Malawi government should take the issue before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Presidents; Dr. Kikwete of Tanzania and Hon. Joyce Banda in happy faces when met in Maputo, Mozambique.

The possibility for this conflict to grow has been reversed since after a meeting held between the President of Tanzania Dr. Jakaya Kikwete and Hon. Joyce Banda of Malawi who met in Maputo, Mozambique where both agreed to use diplomatic way to solve the issue through the committee formed, also ensured their Nations that  the issue is not as big as it has been exaggerated and incase of any failure it can then be taken to the International Court of Justice, but both don’t expect it to be taken too far since a chance of resolving the issue is quite promising. The President of Malawi quoted saying “… things were not as bad as Malawian thought, people in Malawi just read newspaper…”

In that special meeting which also featured Tanzania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hon Bernard Membe, Dr Kikwete and Hon Banda said the two countries have a long history which should be preserved for the future generations. This can be the end of a long time Lake Nyasa border conflict between Tanzania and Malawi which has been rising and fading in different periods.

The next meeting will be held on the 10th of September 2012, to continue with discussion on the issue.

Observers and military experts have been warning; every diplomatic avenue should be explored and all peaceful options exhausted before anyone subjects their citizens and their economics to perpetual hardships that invariably come with war. Where also the consequence of doing so is very dire not only to Tanzania and Malawi but for the entire SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) region”

A good lesson for the two countries is how oil and gas, which is at the centre of the crisis have devastated many African countries economically, socially, culturally and politically.

Lake Nyasa (also known as Lake Malawi, or Lake Nyassa in Tanzania, or Lago Niassa in Mozambique), is an African Great Lake and the southernmost lake in the East African Rift system. It is about 560km long and has a greatest width of about 75km. It consists of a single basin with greatest depth of about 706 m.  This lake, the third largest in Africa and the eighth largest lake in the world, is located between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. It is the second deepest lake in Africa, although its placid northern shore gives no hint of its depth.

The same Lake mostly referred as Lake Nyasa by the people of Tanzania and Lake Malawi in Malawi. Both residents of the two countries living by the lake have been utilizing marine resources and conduct other economic activities to run their lives for decades, including governments collecting taxes.

The two countries have been in a healthy relation even during the struggle for their independence; Malawi relies on the Port of Tanzania for its economic activities since Malawi is a landlocked country, where both share a lot of economic interests.

One Response
  1. william permalink
    oktober 3, 2012

    I think the president of Malawi must emity/coppy how the former president was fair and living in peaceful with his fellow president of Tanzania. for other side I think there’s some people who want to devorce us because they desire Tanzania to be in crisis so as to come and take our resources. simply Tanzania there are lot of resources so they want to put us in crisis. so for my side we us a Tanzania before doing anything we must explore why they doing this. kuna watu wasiopenda inchi yetu iendelee na amani wanataka kuivuruga kupitia malawi ile wapate nafasi ya kuingia inchini mwetu, hivyo viongozi wetu fanyeni kwanza uchunguzi mjue ni nchi gani inawatumia hawa wamalawi kutuchokoza. asante/ thanks.

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