Immediate past-president of Malawi, Joyce Banda, who has been in a self imposed ‘exile’ since her election loss in 2014, has backed the decision by the government led by President Peter Mutharika to take the long running border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania concerning their lacustrine border to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague in Netherlands.
.The dispute centres on Lake Nyasa, as it is known in Tanzania, or Lake Malawi as it is known in Malawi.
Tanzania government administrative map of regions and districts indicates that the border runs down the middle of the lake. Malawi’s interpretation is that all waters between Malawi and Tanzania are theirs.
Malawi’s claim is based on an 1890 treaty between Germany and the United Kingdom. After Tanganyika came under British control after World War I, the lake was administered from the Malawian side by British authorities. The border dispute has arisen more than once since independence, the first time being in 1967.
Tempers in the current dispute have been ebbing and flowing since started exploration activities on the lake.
Banda, who ruled Malawi from April 2012 to May 2014, told Tiuzeni Zoona programme on Sunday monitored from the private owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS).
She stressed the whole Lake Malawi belongs to Malawi and supports the idea of taking the Lake dispute to the International Court of Justice for determination.
“I don’t want to be dragged into any politics over the Lake dispute. Lake Malawi belongs to us. History supports us in totality. This is not the time to play politics over this matter. Let’s unite in defending what belongs to us,” the former President said.
“I am particularly concerned with the recent remarks by the Tanzania envoy seeking for their share on the oil exploration. This is a different matter all together, which means their claims for the Lake are on resources, which must not be entertained at all cost,” said Banda.
Recently , Tanzania come out clearly that it wants shares of the oil exploration proceeds in Lake Malawi. Through its envoy in Malawi, the north east border neighbor went further and postponed the negotiation talks, which were slated for May 8-9, 2017 in Johannesburg.
Banda said: “ It is unfortunate that while acknowledging that the lake belongs to us, Tanzania wants a share of the mineral resources therein.”
She said her administration resolved to take the matter to The Hague court but former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete implored with the Malawi Government to give room for contact and dialogue.
”However, it is proving that our neighbours are not honest and committed to resolving this wrangle. Hence, I wish to commend President Mutharika and his government for the decision to take the matter to the ICJ.”
Therefore the much anticipated negotiation talks between Malawi and Tanzania, over the ownership of the Lake, will not be resolved any time soon.
The development disappointed the Malawi Government, considering the resolve President Peter Mutharika and his Tanzania counterpart, John Pombe Magufuli, made for the resumption of the mediation talks when they met on January 30, this year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The two leaders resolved that the mediation process on the Lake Malawi boundary dispute, be revived after a prolonged break since March 2014.
However, Malawi Government received communication on the postponement of the meeting from the High Level Mediation Team (HLMT) Chairperson, Joaquim Chissano, who is former President of the Republic of Mozambique.
The meeting’s postponement coincides with earlier accessions by Tanzania of its interest in oil exploration since 2012. At this time, Malawi’s north eastern border neighbor, started claiming that it owns half of the eastern part of Lake Malawi.
Malawi Foreign and International Cooperation minister, Francis Kasaila, expressed concerns over the pace of the talks, arguing that by now both nations could have known the fate on the matter.
Kasaila said that the Malawi Government intends to resolve the issue as soon as possible, consideration there are a number of development projects that are to take place on the Lake, including the oil exploration.
The Foreign Minister said Malawi Government position remains the same, that the boundary is the shoreline of Lake Malawi, as established by Article 1(2) of the 1890 Anglo-German Treaty; therefore Lake Malawi belongs to Malawi in its entirety. This is despite Tanzania claims that the boundary is the median line of the Lake, based on principles of customary international law.
President Mutharika in April, took the country’s concerns of Lake Malawi to the Pan-African Parliament meeting in South Africa. In his flagship address he quotes the 1890 Heligoland Treaty (between Germany and Great Britain – current U.K.), that declared the Lake belonging to Nyasaland (former name of Malawi). President Mutharika also invoked the agreement in the 1964 Organization of African Unity treaty that emerging independent nation-states on the continent entered into; in the treaty, new nation states, were called to respect colonial borders they inherited from the colonial rulers.
Mutharika said African countries have respected these treaties and therefore, called on his counterparts, to resist border disputes to bring disunity on the continent.
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