NO WAR WITH MALAWI - SAYS KIKWETE


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.

Diplomatic talks: Kikwete and Banda

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.

Dialogue

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.

Ownership

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.
Jokes

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.

JOYCE BANDA: I shall Die For Malawi

Malawi President Joyce Banda on Saturday made an emotional declaration that she shall die for the sake of her country, in what observer see as a defiant insinuation to the threats of war by Tanzania on the ownership of Lake Malawi.

Speaking at a Ngoni traditional festival in the northern district of Mzimba on Saturday, Banda said emphatically in an related to the function: “I shall die for the people of Malawi. I shall die for the land of Malawi.”

Tanzania has been warmongering on the standoff over oil and gas exploration in Lake Malawi – also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania.

But Malawi has been diplomatic on the issue and are arranging showdown talks on August 20.

President Banda arriving at the Ngoni function. Photo by Amanda Chiliro/Nyasa Times

The dispute of the third-largest fresh water resource in Africa has escalated because Tanzania is demanding Malawi to halt exploration activities granted to British company Surestream Petroleum for oil and gas. Surestream is currently conducting an environmental impact assessment.

Meanwhile, a history and political science lecturer at the Malawi Polytechnic, Simburashe Mungoshi suggests the dispute can only be resolved by compromise.

“When these boundaries were agreed upon by the British and Germans it was a give and take game,” said the lecturer on VOA.

“The British had to give up claims in some territories in Tanganyika area. Needless to say the Germans had also to give up. So in which case, if Tanzania wants a change in boundaries it would be a give and take. If they want something they must give something. Malawi is a land locked country; we need access to the sea. May be they could give us an equivalent piece of land to take us to the sea.”

Malawi insists the whole lake belongs to her and there is no way the country can halt oil and gas exploration.

A home to about 1,000 endemic species of fish Lake Malawi is located at the junction of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. It sustains nearly 10 million people in these three countries.

CALM PREVAILS ON LAKE MALAWI

The situation around Lake Nyasa has remained calm and people whose livelihoods depend on the lake should continue with their activities undisrupted, Tanzania's Mbeya Regional Commissioner Abbas Kandoro has said.

Kandoro told the 'Daily News' in a telephone interview on Wednesday that there is no need for anxiety for residents around the lake as the Tanzania-Malawi border dispute was being solved by the governments of the two countries.

Kandoro, who by virtue of his post as RC is also the Chairman of Mbeya Regional Defence and Security Committee, assured the residents that everything was under control.

"People should remain calm and continue with their economic and social activities. Everything is under control and there is no need to worry," he said.

The explanation by the RC follows rumours going round in Tanzania and Malawi that the armies of the two countries are deployed at the border following a simmering border dispute.

At the heart of controversy is a move by the government of Malawi to grant oil and gas prospecting licences to British companies on the entire lake. Dar es Salaam has maintained that it owns half of the lake and has thus urged Malawi and the oil and gas prospecting companies to stop their activities pending diplomatic discussions to resolve the standoff.

Meanwhile, media reports from Malawi have accused what they described as "some overzealous Tanzanian officials" for war-mongering.

"Despite Malawi government saying it wants the matter to be handled diplomatically, some overzealous Tanzanian officials have been war-mongering," reads part of comment in a Malawian newspaper.

The two countries have scheduled Aug 20, this year, in Mzuzu, the northern city of Malawi for talks on the matter.

MALAWI PANIC OVER TANZANIA'S WAR THREATS

Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa because of its peace and tranquility but the current diplomatic row with her neighbour Tanzania has created panic among its people, particularly those living along the two countries’ border.

The fear has ensued following media reports quoting Tanzania authorities that they were ready to go to war with Malawi if the country continues with its plans to explore gas and oil on Lake Malawi.

Malawi awarded a contract to UK’s Surestream Company last year to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the lake which is believed to have oil and gas in abundance.

Basing her argument on a common international law which stipulates that when two countries are separated by a body of water, the border is at the middle of that body, Tanzania claims half of the lake belongs to her as such Malawi cannot explore oil on it.

Internal Security Minister Uladi Mussa: Fear not

And Malawians living in Karonga and Chitipa, the two border districts with Tanzania, are getting worried with their safety as some are already planning to flee following the war remarks by Tanzania.

Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Membe this week told his country’s Parliament in Dodoma should Malawi not stop its plans to explore oil on the lake they will regard it as an act of aggression.

No panic

But Malawi’s Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Uladi Mussa, speaking to Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) on Tuesday asked the people in the two districts to remain calm assuring them nothing would happen.

“I should assure all the people in this country to remain calm. We are talking to the Tanzanian government and all will be fine. If push comes to shove we will take the matter to International Court of Justice,” reported the radio.

The minister reaffirmed that the entire lake belongs to Malawi adding that government has evidence to prove its point.

Mussa further said government will not stop exploring oil on the lake as demanded by Tanzania saying “they [Tanzanians] have no powers to do so”.

“There is no issue here. We all know the lake belongs to us. In fact if such a claim came from Mozambique at least it would have made sense to some extent but not Tanzania. We have all the evidence and treaties are there to support that Lake Malawi belongs to Malawi,” said the Home Affairs Minister.

Malawi arguments

Malawi government argues that the principle being pursued by Tanzania- that the border is along the middle- only applies where there is no treaty but in this scenario the border was clearly and specifically defined in the 1890 Heligoland Treaty.

Germany and Britain, colonial masters of Tanzania and Malawi respectively, signed the treaty after the issue- of the border between the two countries- was clearly defined.

In addition, records show that in 1963 Heads of State of Organisation of African Union (OAU) made a resolution that member states should recognize and accept the borders that were inherited at the time of independence.

The leaders also made similar resolutions in 2002 and 2007 during the African Union (AU) summits.

However, Malawi Government’s decision to extract gas and oil on Lake Malawi has not only touched on the raw nerves of the Tanzanians but many Malawians as well who have argued that the disadvantages of the project far much outweigh the benefits.

Malawi, a former British colony, and Tanzania, once ruled by Germany, are due to hold showdown talks on the disputed border in the northern Malawian town of Mzuzu on August 20.