Kikwete says Tanzania army ready, raises stakes in Lake Malawi row

Tanzania President Jakaya Kimwete in a speech  to mark the country’s national heroes’ day celebrations on Thursday, raised the stakes in an escalating border dispute with Malawi by saying its armed forces were ready to protect the country against any foreign threat to its territory.

“Anyone who tries to provoke our country will face consequences … Our country is safe and the army is strong and ready to defend our country,” said Kikwete without directly mentioning the Malawi border dispute.

“We will not allow anyone to mess with our country, or try to take away our territory. We will deal with them just as we dealt with (former Ugandan ruler Idi) Amin,” said Kikwete as quoted by Reuters.

The Tanzanian army helped topple Amin in 1979 after he invaded part of Tanzania’s territory.

President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete; Our army prepared to defend territory
President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete; Our army prepared to defend territory

Kikwete’s remarks come after Malawi President Joyce Banda, told former heads of State from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) mediating in the row between Malawi and Tanzania over Lake Malawi border to reach an agreement on the matter by this September or else the matter should go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Banda also stated that her government will not bow down to “entertain any interim agreement” on usage of the waters of the lake with Tanzania “until the sovereignty issue is amicably resolved” through the Sadc forum.

Tanzania has repeatedly assured their citizens to continue using the lake without any fear.

Malawi had pulled out of talks on the issue in October, accusing its northern neighbour of intimidating its fishermen, a charge Tanzania denied.

It returned to the negotiating table this year as the soured relations delayed exploration for oil and gas.

In 2011, impoverished Malawi awarded exploration licences to British-based Surestream Petroleum to search for oil in the lake.—(Additional reporting by Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala, Reuters)

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