Tanzania assures Malawi, ‘no war’ over lake dispute

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ephraim Mganda Chiume says Tanzanian Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs Bernard Membe has assured him that his country will not “go to war” with Malawi over a border dispute in Lake Malawi, now poised to become a new oil and gas frontier.

Chiume disclosed this in an interview with Malawi News Agency (MANA) in Maputo after a meeting with his Tanzania counterpart, assuring that the two countries’ activities and co-existence will continue as before.

He said Tanzania President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete will make a formal assurance that there will be no war when he meets Malawi President Joyce Banda who has indicated that her government wants to “resolve our differences diplomatically and amicably.”

The two leaders are set to meet in Maputo during the two-day summit of the Southern African Development Community, which begins Friday.

Chiume: War is not the answer

Chiume said the issue of the border between Malawi and Tanzania is a bilateral issue between the two countries and that Malawi has refused to call it a conflict.

“As Malawi we are not calling it a conflict or dispute rather a misunderstanding and at this point we are going to sort it out ourselves without the inventions of other bodies,” he said.

Asked for his position on the rumour that the hidden issue behind the confusion is oil Chiume said: “The issue is not about oil exploration, or fishing or drawing water from Lake Malawi, the issue here is about the border.

“I don’t think we can dwell on these side issues and start isolating them, rather let’s focus on how we can sort out the border issues and once we do that everything will fall into place,” he said.

Malawi bases its ownership of the entire lake to an 1890 treaty between former colonial powers Britain and Germany and says the treaty was later reaffirmed by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) as Malawi was gaining its independence in the early 1960s.

Tanzania rejects colonial era agreements as permanent and argues most international laws support sharing common bodies of water by bordering nations.

The border dispute erupted after Malawi last year issued a licence to British firm Surestream Petroleum to prospect for hydrocarbons.

The two nations are set to hold talks on the disputed border in the northern Malawian town of Mzuzu on August 20, two days after the Maputo summit.

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