Malawi likely to win lake row with Tanzania at ICJ, says university historian

A renowned University of Malawi historian Simbarashe Mungoshi says Malawi is poised to win the case in which it is tussling with Tanzania over the ownership of Lake Malawi if it maintains its stand of taking the matter to International Court of Justice (ICJ).

In the standoff, which dates back to early 1960’s, Tanzania is seeking 50 per cent of the ownership of the part of lake under dispute while Malawi claims 100 percent ownership.

The latest dispute comes after government of Malawi last year awarded contract to a British company Surestream Petroleum to start gas and oil exploration in the lake. Surestream is currently conducting Environmental Impact Assessment.

Mungoshi: Malawi will win

But this infuriated Tanzania which has called on the Malawi Government and the company carrying out exploration of oil and gas in the eastern part of the lake to stop doing so until the standoff between the two countries over.

In recent meeting to resolve that matter Malawi proposed to take the matter to ICJ after the meeting ended in a deadlock. But Tanzania was reluctant.

However, Mungoshi a history lecturer at Malawi Polytechnic told Radio Islam that there is possibility that the ICJ would rule in favour of Malawi considering its previous ruling on border dispute between Botswana and Namibia over the ownership of one island called the Kisikili which is on the River Okavango.

“When these two could not resolve the dispute among themselves, they took the matter to the International Court of Justice and the ICJ ruled in favour of the 1890 Treaty of the Heligoland. So we have a precedent here ICJ took recourse to the 1890 Heligoland treaty to decide the ownership of the Kisikili Island. So I think Malawi is right in taking the matter to the ICJ,” he says.

Mungoshi says he found rather crooked that some people in Tanzania could argue that there is international maritime treaty which requires states bordering water body to have an equal share of the waters.

“I know that treaty it is of 1982.  But the treaty goes on to say that in the event that there was an agreement prior which stated otherwise, the prior agreement should be the one to define the boundary”.

In this case, he says, the prior agreement in on this the treaty of the Heligoland.

Mungoshi says in 1962Tanzanian parliament, voted and greed that the boundary between Malawi and Tanzania on the eastern shores of Lake Malawi is on the shore.

They even invited the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere the former president of Tanzania who elaborated in this matter in the parliament. And he said and I quote; “not event a drop of water belongs to Tanzania.”

According to Mungoshi Tanzania was one of the first countries in 1963 to ratify the OAU charter which among other things recommended that upon independence the boundaries should remain as was before independence.

“And it’s sad that now Tanzania is turning against all these agreements by crookedly referring to part of the UN treaty in 1982 and as I said this treaty did not say ‘abolish the previous agreement’. It says in the events that there are no such agreements. This was to help the countries that are newly independent like South Sudan may be”.

He says he is sure that the issue could be ruled in favour of Malawi at the ICJ

“The courts world over work basing on precedent they take reference to a similar or a number of similar cases that’s where they base their ruling and maybe that’s why Tanzania is not willing to go there because they know the procedures and they have lawyers who might have advised them.”

Tanzania is reluctant to allow Malawi to take the matter to the ICJ arguing that the issue could be resolved through diplomatic negations between the two countries.

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