Malawi risks being blacklisted for failure to comply International Conventions, according to an environmental activist in Southern Africa, Godfrey Mfiti who is also the Director of Institute of Sustainable Development in Malawi.
Malawi being a state party to the 1972 world heritage convention has breached the convention by embarking on oil exploration on World Heritage property which is Lake Malawi National Park.
An oil and gas concession is awarded to RAKGAS to explore oil and gas on Lake Malawi including the National Park marine protected area.
Mfiti points out that this has contravened own legislation of Malawi enacted through Parliament. The 1993 Parks and Wildlife Act does not allow extraction and exploration on petroleum and minerals on protected areas.
The same process has flouted the 1998 SADC Protocol revised in 2000. The exploration of oil and gas has also flouted the Helsinki rules on shared waters.
Malawi is offered a deadline to respond to the UNESCO Reactive Mission Report which is on 31st November, 2015.
“Why is it that the civil servants not advise the executive? The main reason is that there conscience and profession ethics have been defeated by the wave of political interference. Any opposition to oil exploration will be deemed as working against the executive arm of government,” wondered Mfiti
So far the department of culture, wildlife, Tourism and that of Parks have proceeded to request government to withdraw the oil exploration process.
Politics of Oil Concessions on Lake Malawi
In 2011, Surestream was awarded an oil exploration license in north of Lake Malawi. RAKGAS was later awarded oil and gas concession for exploration in the southern part of Lake Malawi including world heritage site in 2013.
Surestream is claimed to be a UK based company and got the concession in 2011 during the reign of late Bingu Wa Mutharika. The concession was awarded without proper due diligence of the company.
In 2015 it has been found out that one of the former Counsel to the President, Z Allan Ntata is now a company secretary of Surestream and Rak Gas.
The Ex-Counsel is a barrister at law and during the time the concession was being awarded he did not declare conflict of interest. The position of an advisor to the President on Legal affairs is critical to the Presidency.
The current policy and legal framework is outdated and not suitable for oil exploration. Coincidentally, the then legal counsel to the President is now a company secretary to Surestream a company awarded a concession. RAKGAS a company that later a license to explore oil in the south of Lake Malawi has now acquired some shares in Surestream.
Breach of International Conventions
Oil Exploration on Lake Malawi and the Property contravenes the following: 1972 World Heritage Convention of Paris which Malawi ratified in 1982. 1998 Southern Africa Development Community (SADIC) Protocol revised in 2000
Lake Malawi National Park was declared a protected area in 1934 and was gazette in 1980. Later in 1984 was inscribed as world heritage natural site due to its unique beauty.
The 1992 National Park Act amended in 2002 which prohibits the exploration and extraction of oil and minerals in all protected areas.
The country’s out dated legal and policy framework is not ready for oil /gas exploration and extraction. The threats of oil/gas exploration and extraction on Lake Malawi’s biodiversity and outstanding universal values are huge than the benefits.
Extraction of oil and gas on Lake Malawi will affect over 1.5 million people along the lakeshore whose livelihood is dependent on the Lake.
The oil/gas exploration and extraction will benefit a few individuals and greedy
Lessons from other countries
Oil exploration activities in Ogoniland in the Niger delta of Nigeria has destroyed huge biodiversity and marine wildlife due to similar practices of rushing into exploration and extraction without stringent legal and policy framework.
Despite high revenues generated from oil only few politicians and businesses linked to politicians benefit from the proceeds.
In Ghana civil society have helped government to formulate policies and legislations suitable for oil exploration.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :