Malawi owns ‘Lake Nyasa’, Tanzania claims unfounded – Former ICJ head judge

Malawi has been handed another boost on the Lake Malawi, which Tanzania calls Lake Nyasa,  that despite the border row with Tanzania, the  entire lake which is potentially rich in oil and gas is owned  by Malawi, according to former head of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Tanzania claim to half the lake – Africa’s third biggest – but Malawi disputes. The matter is currently under mediation but President Joyce Banda has hinted that if not resolved by September 30, Malawi will got to ICJ.

According to published report, revered British judge Professor Rosalyn Higgins, QC,  former ICJ head gave a legal opinion which concludes that Malawi owns the entire lake.

Malawi’s flagship daily, The Nation, reported in Friday that Higgins authored the opinion in 1988 as a consultant for Mobil Oil Corp which wanted to explore for oil and gas on Lake Malawi through Tanzania.

Higgins:Malawi owns lake
Higgins:Malawi owns lake

The firm wanted Higgins-hired before she was appointed to the ICJ-to establish the validity of Tanzania’s territorial claims to the lake.

“While the boundary between Malawi and Tanzania is Lake Nyasa [Malawi and] is a complicated issue, and not without its difficulties, I feel that the legal claims of Malawi to all of Lake Nyasa, and the submerged lands there under, is considerably the better claim,” the paper quotes the legal opinion

The professor also tore into the so-called “median” map that Dodoma has been brandishing as showing the lake split in half in the northern half.

The newspaper report said the legal opinion also gives Malawi impetus to push the case to the ICJ if current mediation efforts by the Forum of Former Heads of State and Government fail.

To reach the conclusion that Malawi owns the entire lake, Higgins looked at historical papers and maps during a period between 1890 and 1922, it reported.

“It can readily be seen on any map that all of Lake Nyasa was excluded from the German sphere of influence and that the sphere boundary was on the eastern side of the lake down to Chicure, where the line turned directly eastward until it joined with River Rovuma. The land to the north of this east-west line is today what is Tanzania, and to the south is that is today Mozambique,” the opinion reads in part.

According to the fast facts presented by the paper, Higgins was the first female judge to be appointed to the ICJ. She was elected president in 2006 until 2009 when she retired. Born in London on June 2, 1937, Higgins is a Fellow of the British Academy; Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and written widely on international law.

She was professor of International Law at University of Kent at Canterbury from 1978-1981 and at University of London from 1981-1995.

She was a Barrister at law, practising in public international law and petroleum law. She did her practice in the English courts and before various international tribunals, including the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of the European Communities.

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