No military action in Lake Malawi: Tanzania downplays new map and seeks mediator

Tanzania on Saturday denied that they have deployed military vessels on the Lake Malawi (known in Tanzania as Lake Nyasa) and also dismissed its security organs were harassing Malawian fishermen.

Malawi President Joyce Banda announced this week that her government  would take Tanzania to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the border dispute in the Africa’s third largest lake which is said to have oil deposits. Malawi awarded oil exploration licenses to UK-based Surestream Petroleum to search for oil in the lake.

Lilongwe  has also accused Dar Es Saalam of provocation by releasing new map that shows the border line passing in the middle of the disputed lake.

Malawi Foreign Affairs Minister, Chiume (left) Tanzania Foreign Affiars Minister Membe (right) : Deadlock on lake border

But Tanzania’s foreign affairs minister, Bernard Membe, speaking at news conference on Saturday denied that Tanzania had stationed military vessels on Lake Nyasa, explaining  that the country was carrying out “normal” patrols on the water body.

“It’s true that several fishermen, including two Malawians, were found fishing illegally on the Tanzanians side of the lake.  This, however, does not mean that we have been actively targeting Malawians,” Membe said as quoted by The Citizen  newspaper of Tanzania.

“We have only been carrying out routine patrols on the Tanzanian side of the lake,” Membe said adding  that Tanzania would continue to pursue diplomatic means, including seeking mediation, to end the dispute.

He however challenged  Malawi President on her decision to  take Tanzania to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), saying Tanzania, despite being a member of the court, was not a signatory to the compulsory jurisdiction declaration.

On the new map that shows the border line passing in the middle of the disputed lake,, Membe said the map was needed for administrative purposes and reflected the “actual boundary”.

The minister said he did not believe the new map was the only reason that prompted Malawi to pull out of the talks because the country could raise the matter during the discussions.

Membe said Tanzania will propose  a mediator “even if Malawi does not return to the negotiations.”

Tanzania wants an international mediator to be appointed from among former African presidents from the 15-nation trade bloc Southern African Development (SADC). Both Tanzania and Malawi are members of SADC.

Last year Malawi, an impoverished southern African country, in Lake Malawi, as it hopes to join the regional oil and gas bonanza.

In July, Tanzanian authorities asked Surestream Petroleum to postpone any planned drilling on the lake. The company has not yet started to drill.

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