Tuesday, 7 August 2012
Tanzania,Malawi locked in dispute over lake
Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- Tanzanian Foreign Minister has warned Malawi against permitting foreign investors to prospect the Lake Nyasa or Lake Malawi for oil and gas between the
two countries before a dispute over the lake is solved by the two governments.
Bernard Membe, Tanzania's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said that the move was a violation of the territorial integrity of Tanzania. "I hereby take
this opportunity to warn the government of Malawi to stick to the agreement entered by the joint governments' team on the Lake Nyasa dispute in May this year until when
this dispute has been resolved through diplomatic means. I repeat.. Let us give diplomacy a chance.," he said Monday whiletabling the ministry's budget estimates for the
financial year 2012/13 in Parliament in Dodoma, the country's capital. "In the same vein I wish to warn companies currently conducting mineral prospecting on the eastern
shores of Lake Nyasa to stop forthwith because the area belongs to the Republic of Tanzania," he added.
Membe also assured more than 600,000 Tanzanians living in the vicinity of the lake and depending on it for livelihood to continue with their normal activities, saying the
Tanzanian government would guard them and their property at any cost. His statement came shortly after the Minister for East African Cooperation, Samuel Sitta, who spoke
in his position as Leader of government business in Parliament, said that Tanzania would not be intimidated by Malawi on the issue. The two countries are currently embroiled
in decades-long dispute over the lake rich in fishing resources and now more lucrative potential oil and gas after Malawi signed contracts with a number of foreign firms for
exploration in the whole lake, which is Africa's third largest freshwater body.
Tanzanian government asked Malawi to halt the exploration activities after local residents reported the aerial survey by the foreign investors, but Malawi government
responded strongly saying it would not give "an inch of its land".Tanzania citing the 1982 UN Convention on Law of the Sea that stipulates that in case nations are bordered by
a water body, the border of the two nations will always be on the middle of the water body. Malawi, however, made its statement on the whole lake based on the Heligoland
Treaty of 1890 between Germany and Britain, which stipulates the border between the two countries as lying along the Tanzanian shore of the lake.
The border row has lingered for scores of years since the independence of the two counties back in 1960s, sometimes simmering and at times becoming a forgotten vestige.
In contrast with the top diplomats' spat, Tanzanian academics and media are calm about the dispute while the official Daily News called for 'amicable' diplomatic solutions and
academics called the 'military confrontation' a price both sides are unable to afford.Godfrey Zambi, a legislator said the statement by Malawi's official that the entire lake
belongs to Malawi should not 'anger' Tanzania authorities."Although the declaration by the top Malawi official should alert our government, it's still wise to stick to diplomatic
ways of resolving the matter," he said. Mwesiga Baregu, a professor in Political Science and International Relations told the Citizen newspaper published on Monday that if
the negotiation with the Malawi government won't bear fruit, the government should take the issue before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) instead of resorting to
military options. (Xinhua)