A number of people have written about the wrangle between Malawi and Tanzania over the ownership of Lake Malawi on the northern part where Tanzania is claiming ownership. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion on the issue, some writing has bordered on irresponsibility while others have not been helpful at all.
Some writers have even suggested that Tanzania can easily overrun Malawi should it decide to go war. War for what? Others are saying the SADC mediation team is unlikely to rule in favour of Malawi. Why speak for them and why speculate? Others have suggested that Malawi should be proactive and go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
But wait a minute, who is claiming ownership? The aggrieved party should take the initiative to go to ICJ not the other way around. Malawi should not panic. Malawi has not doubted the ownership of the lake. Facts are solid that the 1890 Anglo-German Treaty gives Malawi total ownership of land in the north.
Tanzania’s vigorous claim of ownership of the lake has come about as a result of the oil prospecting in Lake Malawi. Tanzania’s High Commissioner to Malawi has minced no words that they are claiming part of the lake to share oil resources. This claim is driven by greed. Even the 2016 Tanzanian map showing that it owns the northern part of the lake was a ploy to justify part ownership of the lake because they smelt ‘coffee’ in the lake. The new map was drawn without regard to original colonial international boundary between the two countries.
Apart from the treaty which gives Malawi total ownership of the lake, the Organisation of African Unity, the forerunner of African Union, made a decision in 1963 when the organisation was formed that the existing boundaries should be respected, meaning that boundaries should remain as they are.
Incidentally, former Tanzanian President the late Julius Mwalimu Nyerere was part of that decision. Surely, governments cannot be redrawing boundaries that were drawn by colonists over a century ago, and over 50 years when the two countries became independent.
The argument that the boundary should be in middle of the lake because that is how it is with Lake Victoria where Tanzania shares the boundary with Kenya and Uganda is flawed. It does not apply to Malawi and Tanzania over Lake Malawi because the treaty demarcated where the boundary should be. There is no need to negotiate the boundary. Documents that show that the whole lake belongs to Malawi are there.
Minister of Information Nicholasi Dausi is right when he says “the whole negotiation thing was wrong because you do not negotiate with somebody something which is already yours.” It is also good that President Mutharika has declared that the whole lake belongs to Malawi at different fora including the 4th Pan-African Parliament in Jonesburg last February. Malawi should not have panicked and started negotiations.
Government should now utilise the lake as much as possible just to show that the lake belongs to Malawi. Let government buy boats and ferries to transport people and goods on the lake from Songwe in Karonga to Nkhata Bay all the way to Monkey Bay on either side of the lake.