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Tanzania has warned that it will be prepared to go to war
with Malawi on the ownership of Lake Malawi, also referred to as Lake Nyasa by
some countries, thought to have oil deposits.
The two countries have scheduled August 20,this year, in
Mzuzu — the northern city of Malawi -for showdown talks in Mzuzu on the matter.
Despite Malawi government saying it wants the matter to be
handled diplomatically, some overzealous Tanzanian officials have been
war-mongering on the matter.

Tanzania’s chairman of the parliamentary committee for
Defence, Security and Foreign Affairs, Edward Lowassa, is quoted by The
Citizen, declaring:   “We expect this conflict will be solved
diplomatically using the committee of foreign affairs ministers from both
countries and using the mediator whenever needed. Malawi is our neighbour and
therefore we would not like to go into war with it.”


“However, if it reaches the war stage then we are ready to
sacrifice our people’s blood and our military forces are committed in equipment
and psychologically. Our army is among modern and stable defence forces in the
world,” declared Lowassa.
There are reports that Tanzania has already sent troops to
the border but that has not been independently verified.
Malawi’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
Minister Ephraim Chiume  has since assured that “ this should not be a
cause for anxiety or alarm.”
Nonetheless, Tanzania minister for Foreign Affairs and
International Cooperation, Bernard Membe, has ordered Malawi to consider an
immediate stop to all gas and oil prospecting activities on the portion of the
 lake that falls on the Tanzania side.
He told parliament  that the Tanzanian government was
committed to ensuring that its people are protected “at any cost”.

The conflict time
line
According to Chiume, the border between the two countries
was defined in the Heligoland Treaty signed by the former colonial powers
 Germany and Britain  on 1st July 1890.
“The Heligoland Treaty defined the border between the two countries
as being the edge of the waters on eastern shore of Lake Malawi.
“Furthermore, the Heads of State and Government of the
Organisation of African Unity (OAU) made a resolution in 1963 that member
states should recognise and accept the borders that were inherited at the time
of independence. The African Union (AU) made similar resolutions in 2002 and
2007,” said Chiume.
But Tanzania’s Membe said the conflict started in the early
1960s, when the first Malawian president, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, claimed
that Lake Nyasa and the whole of Mbeya in Tanzania were part of Malawi using
the 1890-Heligoland treaty.
“But, talks about the matter stopped somewhere as Dr Kamuzu
Banda had a relationship with South Africa and Tanzania was in support of South
African freedom fighters,” Membe said.
He said serious talks on the matter were revived in 2005,
between President Jakaya Kikwete and the late Dr Bingu wa Mutharika, whereby a
ministerial committee was appointed by both countries to solve the dispute over
the border and the lake’s name.
“The committee met in 2010 and 2012, whereby a number of
issues were discussed including some of the aircraft claimed to belong to the
oil and gas researching companies from Malawi flying in the Tanzania airspace,”
he said.
He told Parliament that Tanzania was interested to end the
conflict through round-table discussions and to find a long-term solution.
Tanzania wants 50 per cent share of the lake, but Malawi
claims to own the whole of it.
Malawi has awarded Surestream Petroleum  of UK a
licence to prospect for oil on the lake.

Source: Nyasa Times 

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