Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Dr Augustine Mahinga has said that part of Lake Malawi belongs to Tanzania, where they call it Lake Nyasa.
Mahinga said this on Monday when he met Malawian President Peter Mutharika at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe.
“This is a sensitive and contentious matter,” said Mahinga.
He said the old map, drawn before Malawi got its independence from the British, clearly shows a good chunk of the waters of the lake belong to Tanzania.
Mahinga, therefore said Tanzanians are not rewriting history.
His comments, ahead of the start of dialogue between Malawi and Tanzanians on the matter, will be a thorny issue.
Malawi and Tanzania returns to the negotiating table over the lake issue after Mutharika initiated the talks following his meeting with his Tanzanian counterpart the popular President John Pombe Magufulu a week ago on the sidelines of the AU summit.
In his remarks, President Mutharika said despite the Lake Malawi wrangles, the relationship between the neighbouring nations has always been cordial and should be enhanced.
“Malawians and Tanzanians are basically one and the same people as they share similar cultures, language, practices; and a common ancestral heritage. As one people, it is important to continue strengthening our historical relations that exist between us,” said Mutharika who has lived in Tanzania during his time he stay abroad.
Mutharika said his talks with President Magufuli in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia they discussed “various issues of mutual interest.”
Hre said: “The meeting opened a new level of cooperation, since both of us have strong desires to improve and enhance our relations to the higher levels.”
Malawi and Tanzania have signed a Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation (JPCC.)
Mutharika said he was “grateful” to Tanzania for accepting Malawi’s invitation for a JPCC Meeting in Lilongwe.
He pointed out that the commission has for the first time signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Political and Diplomatic Consultation through which the two countries will cooperate on matters of foreign relations which include: holding of quarterly meetings between Ministries of Foreign Affairs in each other’s countries with Resident Missions, holding bi-annual meetings between Ministries of Foreign Affairs and convening of the JPCC’s according to schedules.
“I am gratified that the meeting also made a lot of important agreements towards trade and investment promotion between the two countries which include: the establishment of the Simplified Trade Regime (STR) which will economically benefit Small and Medium scale businesses plying their trade between our two borders; establishment of the One Stop Border Post (OSBP) at Kasumulu/Songwe Border, which will make it easier for our traders to ply trade between the two countries,” said Mutharika.
The two nations also agreed on finding solutions to the Tariff and Non-Tariff Measures by March 2017, which affected trade between the two countries especially duties charged on Malawi Sugar in Tanzania and a Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) which will create a new opportunity for the air travel business and investments as it will enable Malawian Airlines to expand its operations in Tanzania.
Mutharika also revealed that Malawi and Tanzania have agreed to improve on areas of transport and communications systems including rehabilitation and upgrade of the road transport networks of the Northern Corridor and the joint exploration of feasibility of constructing rail links between Mbeya and Northern Malawi, Mbeya and Itungi Port to Malawi, and Mtwara through Mbamba Bay to NkhataBay.
“The operationalization of the Mtwara Development Corridor will go a long way in enhancing our shared goals in the socio-economic development of our countries” the Malawian leader said.
On his part, Mahiga said the commission also agreed on the development of the Songwe River Basin Development Programme, enhance cooperation in energy matters, tourism, health, education, agriculture, mining, fisheries, sports and gender.
“We have also agreed to start training each other’s Diplomats; Cooperation in Local Government Authorities whereby officials along the border Districts and regions of our two countries will be meeting on a regular basis to share best practices for mutual interest; cooperation in public service management reforms and supporting each other in common positions and each other’s candidates in regional and international meetings,” the Tanzanian minister said.
Foreign Affairs minister Francis Kasaila said he is upbeat the lake dispute talks will go on smoothly once they start in a few weeks time.
Meanwhile, exploration of oil and gas continues in Lake Malawi. Tanzania became interested in the lake after large deposits of oil and gas were discovered in the lake.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :