Agree to disagree! Malawi and Tanzania on Saturday confirmed talks collapsed on the long-running border dispute over Lake Malawi, thought to sit over rich oil and gas reserves, on matters of principle.
Malawi claims sovereignty over the entirety of Lake Malawi, Africa’s third-largest lake, while Tanzania says it is entitled to 50 percent of it. Lake Malawi is known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania.
Malawi government spokesman Moses Kunkuyu told Nyasa Times on Saturday in a statement that both countries have agreed “to file a request for mediation from former Heads of State from the SADC Region to be assisted by a panel of eminent jurists.”
Kunkuyu said Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for the two countries have agreed to file the request for mediation by 26th November 2012.
“It has further been agreed that the Former Presidents and eminent jurists should try to resolve the matter within the period between January and March 2013.”
According toKunkuyu, the Malawi and Tanzania have further agreed that if the mediation was not successful, the two countries would take their case to the International Court of Justice for final determination.
Malawi government has since said there will be no military action on the matter and assured Malawians that it is respecting this process “with diplomacy and good neighborliness at heart and that respecting this process, it must be stated, is in no way under representing the wishes of Malawians that the whole Lake belongs to Malawi.”
“The Government is of the view that the integrity and sovereignty of Malawi comprising the vast expanse of the entire Lake Malawi cannot be violated.”
And Malawian Foreign Minister Ephraim Chiume also stressed that there will be no exchange of gun fire over the lake.
“We don’t believe that we can afford to go to war,” Chiume is quoted to have told a news conference with his Tanzanian counterpart Bernard Membe.
Membe also assured that the matter will not escalate into war as widely feared.
“We are not going to use one bullet … This is a diplomatic crisis, which needs a diplomatic solution,” Membe said.
Last year Malawi awarded oil exploration licences to UK-based Surestream Petroleum to search for oil in Lake Malawi.
In July, Tanzanian authorities asked Surestream Petroleum to postpone any planned drilling on its side of the lake. The company has not yet started to drill.
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