Malawi says no war with Tanzania, JB briefs opposition leaders

Despite warmongering of Tanzania over a border dispute involving Lake Malawi now poised to become a new oil and gas frontier, Malawi President Mrs Joyce Banda says her country will not “go to war” but would engage in peaceful dialogue.

President Banda called for a meeting with Malawi opposition leaders on Wednesday in Lilongwe before her departure to Mozambique for the 32nd Summit of Heads of State and Government where she is expected to hold talks with Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete.

Banda met Leader of Opposition and MCP president John Tembo, UDF leaders Friday Jumbe and Geroge Nga Ntafu, DPP secretary general Wakuda Kamanga, PPM president Mark Katsonga Phiri, veteran politicians Gwanda Chakuamba and Kamlepo Kalua at the New State House in Lilongwe to brief them on her government “dialogue” position.

The Malawi leader has also briefed the faith community and media managers on the border issue.

President Banda: Remains level-headed in the dispute

“Even if the diplomatic route fails, it does not necessarily mean we will go to war with our brothers and sisters in Tanzania,” President Banda has said.

“ We can resort to other channels to solve the matter,” Banda told reporters in her first public reaction to the issue.

Banda insists Malawi will pursue any peaceful means and would opt for legal redress from the International Court of Justice if the two countries will have a deadlock on the matter during the August 20 meeting to be held in Mzuzu.

“Much as it is a well-known fact that the lake belongs to Malawi, we will engage our Tanzanian counterparts and resolve our differences diplomatically and amicably,” Banda, who served as Foreign Affairs Minister in late Bingu wa Mutharika cabinet, said.

And Minister of Information, Moses Kunkuyu assured that the matter will not escalate into skirmishes.

“Malawians need not to panic because there is no cause for alarm,” he told Daybreak Malawi programme on Capital FM on Wednesday.

“We know the treaties that define our borders. And we do respect such treaties, therefore, we see no reason why we should engage our Tanzanian counterparts in warfare. We will exhaust every diplomatic channels to resolve this matter,” he said.

“Malawi has never talked war with any country since time in memorial, and Malawi is not blandishing guns with Tanzania,” added Kunkuyu.

Tanzania threatened war if Malawi continue oil exploration  and does not share about  50 %  of  Lake Malawi which legally belongs to Malawi based on the Helgoland Treaty of 1890 and subsequent African Union declarations that African countries should respect borders set by colonial rulers.

Malawi claims a colonial-era agreement dating from 1890 that stipulates the border between the two countries lies along the Tanzanian shore of the lake.

Meanwhile, Anna Mghwira, a political analyst based in Arusha, cautions that the complexity of the boundary dispute between the two developing nations is a time bomb.

“The two countries ought to conclude the issue once and for all, lest the wrangle escalates into unnecessary skirmishes,” she observes in comments published by The Citizen of Tanzania.

UK-based Surestream Petroleum has been conducting an environmental impact assessment on the lake.

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