Malawi must be ‘tough’ on Tanzania over lake dispute: ‘If it’s war, we are ready’- Lower Shire leaders

Traditional and religious leaders in  the southern Lower Shire Valley have demanded explanation from government on what it is doing to make neighbouring Tanzania pay over its claims over Lake Malawi.

Malawi and Tanzania currently have a dispute over ownership of Lake Malawi.

Tanzania calls the lake, Lake Nyasa, while Malawians call it Lake Malawi. Residents of both countries use the lake’s marine resources as well as conduct economic activities for decades, with governments in both countries collecting taxes.

The local leaders and elders in meeting with Malaiw Information and Civic Education Minister Moses Kunkuyu on Saturday emptied their chest on wide range of issues affecting the country.

One of the participants commenting during the meeting. Photo by Francis Mphweya/Mana

The leaders drawn from Chikhwawa and Nsanje districts were led by senior chief Malemia who told the Minister point blank that as leaders and elders, they are not satisfied with Malawi’s current position on the matter.

“Firstly, during our regular meetings here we came to the conclusion that Tanzania is legally and morally wrong on the lake dispute. Secondly, we are very much worried that the government seems to have taken a soft tone on the issue and we ask the current administration to speak tough otherwise if it is war we are ready to mobilize our communities to go and camp in north to fight them,” said the leader of delegation.

The chief further added that the lake brings employment to thousands of Malawians including his subjects through the Shire River, an outlet of the lake; as such any talk of surrendering half of it to Tanzanians will not be accepted.

While in Tanzania, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Bernard Membe, talking to residents of Katumbasongwe, offshore of the disputed lake in Kyela District  Mbeya Region, elders there claimed “ Malawians are indulging themselves in dangerous daydreaming.”

On his part, Kunkuyu told Nyasa Times in an interview that he is encouraged by the objective discussions he had with both the religious and traditional leaders.

Kunkuyu said he held a consultation meeting with traditional and religious leaders and other stakeholders in Nsanje District to get their views on the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) being implemented by government.

He added that the meeting was very participatory as both the leaders and government were able to discuss issues of national importance.

On calls by the leaders for the government to be tough on Tanzania, the official government spokesperson said Malawi was not being soft rather it it is only trying to give diplomacy a chance.

“The issue of Lake Dispute with Tanzania needs to be approached with sober mind and not emotions that is why as government we have taken the diplomatic route in order to find lasting solution to the issue at hand.

“Anyway, by reaching out to the chiefs it shows we are a listening government and we will do what is good for Malawians. But the president has said on so many occasions that not even an inch of the lake will go to Tanzania and that is our position as government,” said the soft speaking Kunkuyu.

Chairman of the Pastors Fraternal, Pastor Julius Matete described the meeting as helpful confessed it was the first time that such a gathering had been held in the district.

kUnkuyu: Speaking to journalists after the briefing
One of the participants commenting during the meeting. Photo by Francis Mphweya/Mana

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