Mzuzu University public lecture delivers pro lake Malawi-ownership

Mzuzu University this week held a public lecture on Malawi and Tanzania border dispute where a Mzuzu based lawyer supported the former’s move to refer the matter to International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The public lecture titled “Some thoughts on colonial boundaries: The case study of Malawi and Tanzania border dispute” was organized by the university’s students council. It drew together academicians, historians and lawyers who made presentations on the border wrangle from their respective professional perspectives.

Christon Ghambi of CHRAM Associates said Malawi has a strong case on Lake Malawi border dispute with Tanzania should the matter be referred to the ICJ for settlement.

Speaking after making a presentation on “Interpretation of mandates regarding boundaries”, Ghambi said several treaties and agreements presented are evidence that the long standing dispute between the two countries can be resolved.

Ghambi: Malawi has strong case
Ghambi: Malawi has strong case

“Wrangles between these two countries have existed for almost 46 years now and each time we have seen same books being opened to refer to the agreements and treaties made between the British and Germans concerning these boundaries and it is surprising that the issue is still dragging.

“In my opinion, taking the case to ICJ is the best and only helpful option because these negotiations have been done before and don’t seem to take us any further,” Ghambi said.

He added that if the ICJ is going to use the evidences by the two countries, it is clear that Malawi will have a better stand to win the case. 

In his presentation on “International law agreements on shared water courses,” James Kushe, a lecturer in Geography and Water resources at the institution said it was the responsibility of Malawi Government to ensure that the dispute is resolved in favour of the country.

“Previous statements by Tanzania presidents have indicated the country has no stake even though in relation to international law, any water course shared by two or more countries is a shared water course,” he said.

Former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere while addressing the Tanganyika (now Tanzania) Legislative Council in October 1960 was quoted as saying “I must emphasize again…there is no doubt at all about the boundary. We know that no drop of the water of Lake Nyasa [now Lake Malawi] belongs to Tanganyika [now Tanzania] under the terms of the [1890] agreement.”

Kushe took the audience through several maps that depicted the boundaries as stipulated by the Anglo-German treaty which was ratified in 1901.

He accused colonialists of causing the conflict between the two countries. He faulted Britain and Germany for signing treaties without incorporating views of the local people in the two African countries.

“When these boundaries were made, locals were not consulted. As a result, some tribes were split. For instance, some tribes are found in both border districts of Malawi and Tanzania.

“Malawi Government should, therefore, tread carefully on this issue to ensure that the interest of its people is put first,” Kushe said.

The public lecture was graced by the presence of Malawi’s first female cabinet minister Rose Chibambo, seasoned academician Professor David Rubadiri and historian Professor Kings Phiri.

Prof. Phiri astonished the students packed in the hall with his mastery articulation of history. He took them through the history of the 46-year-old border dispute between the two countries.

He concluded his presentation underlining the need for Heads of State of the two countries to find ways of resolving the dispute without affecting the countries’ bilateral relations.

The dispute over the northern part of Lake Malawi has been an undercurrent issue over years. It overflowed in the open in July 2012 when Malawi granted oil exploration license to the United Kingdom’s Sure Stream Petroleum and later in December to South Africa’s Sac Oil Holdings Limited.

Malawi’s President Joyce Banda, in April, 2013 told a news conference at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on return from visits to the United States and Britain that Malawi will seek ICJ’s help to ensure that justice prevails because, in her view, mediation was not helping matters.

She said the mediation bid which was left in the hands of the Forum for Former African Heads of State and Government chaired by Mozambique’s former president Joachim Chissano was compromised because information Lilongwe submitted was leaked to Dodoma.

However, Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Membe was in May this year (2013) quoted by media confirming in Tanzania’s parliament that the two countries had resumed talks on the row.

Malawi’s case on the conflict is based on a July 1, 1890 treaty between Britain and Germany that maps the boundary between the two countries along the Tanzanian shore.

On the other hand, Tanzania is invoking the 1982 UN Convention on Law of the Sea that stipulates that in cases where nations are separated by a water body, the boundary lies in the middle of the water source.

According to the Anglo-German Treaty, the boundary “follows the course of the Ruvuma to the point of the confluence of the Msinje; thence it runs west ward to Lake Nyasa; thence striking Northward it follows the eastern, northern and western shores of the lake to the northern bank of the mouth of the River Songwe; it ascends that river to the point of intersection by 30 degrees of east longitude….”–Malawi News Agency

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