Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has categorically denied reports that his country is preparing to go to war with its neighbour, Malawi, because of a dispute over Lake Malawi, where a British- based company is exploring for oil.
Speaking to journalists after a closed discussion with the Malawi President Mrs Joyce Banda in Maputo, Mozambique, the Tanzanian leader said the war mongering comments were coming from overzealous opposition parties in his country who want to score political mileage over the issue.
“I am the Commander of the army. I have not issued any directive to my armed forces for war. So if it did not come from me, it is not true,” said Kikwete.
There have been reports of war by the Tanzanian media that army tanks and forces have been patrolling the Tanzanian side of the lake.
Kikwete said his country has over the years enjoyed good relationship with Malawi and it has no intention to strain it in any way.
The Tanzanian leader who kept on referring to the Malawi President Banda as “my sister” said the two countries will use dialogue to resolve the issue.
The two countries have set up a working committee which will meet on August 20 in Mzuzu city, northern Malawi.
President Banda said she is hopeful that the border issue will be handled “diplomatically”.
She thanked President Kikwete for sparing time to discuss the matter, saying it had raised fears among people living along the lake.
President Banda however maintained that the whole lake belongs to Malawi and former Tanzanian leaders including Julius Nyerere and Benjamin Mkapa have both honoured the lake boundaries agreed upon in 1890 and reaffirmed after independence.
“Malawi owns 100 percent of the lake,” she said.
But Banda stressed that her government will continue to engage Tanzania into a diplomatic dialogue to resolve the border dispute amicably.
Since the wrangle began in July following Malawi’s prospecting for oil in Lake Malawi through an international firm, Surestream, there has been speculations of the two countries planning to go to war over who owns the African’s third largest lake.
But President Banda stressed that war between the two countries could never be the solution.
President Kikwete, however, said his government will leave the issue to the working technical committee of the two countries to get to its final conclusion.
Meanwhile, during Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) summit in Mozambique, Zambian President Micheal Sata interjected the chairperson’ speech to joke about the border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania.
When opening the summit earlier, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza said the regional bloc will also have to confront a brewing border conflict between Malawi and Tanzania.
But Sata saw an opportunity to joke.
“If they start fighting we are going to host the refugees,” he shouted from his seat.
Malawi government’s stand on the matter is that Lake Malawi entirely belongs to the country as stipulated in the 1890 Heligoland Treaty, also known as Anglo-German Treaty, signed among the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Ireland and German concerning territorial interests in Africa.
According to the Malawi government, the Heligoland Treaty was also reinforced by both the 1963 Treaty and Agreement of the Organization of African Union (OAU) and its successor African Union (AU) in 2002 and 2007 that “member states should recognize and accept the borders that were inherited at the time of independence.”
Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :