President Joyce Banda has, today, been meeting leaders of various political parties in her continuation of soliciting views on the boarder wrangle that has erupted between Malawi and Tanzania over the ownership of Lake Malawi.
The meeting follows a recent declaration by Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete that his country deserves equal share in the lake Tanzania rivers are some of the largest tributaries emptying into the lake.
On August 15, President Banda also met Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader John Tembo, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Secretary General Wakuda Kamanga, United Democratic Front (UDF) leaders Friday Jumbe and George nga Ntafu, Peoples Progressive Movement (PPM) president Mark Katsonga Phiri, veteran politicians Gwanda Chakuamba and Kamlepo Kalua.
Special appearance on Joyce Banda’s guests list wasMalawi’s prominent historian and economist Desmond Dudwa Phiri, fondly known as DD Phiri, and academician Profesor Brown Chimphamba.
As was the case with the Lilongwe meeting, delegates also choose to keep a tight lid on what transpired in the caucus, despite the fact that journalists who went to Sanjika Palice for the official handover of medicines from Toyota Malawi to president Banda were asked to wait for the meeting.
“We have been held up here, since morning, only to be told they are not granting interviews. This is venom of higher degree,” fumed one of the journalists.
President Kikwete is quoted by Tanzania media that in his month-end address to the nation, he argued it would be illogical to ask his country’s citizens to simply give up the lake, where Lilongwe has awarded an oil exploration licence to a British firm, Surestream.
Tanzania wants the border to be at the centre of the lake and Malawi insists that the border should be along the shores.
President Kikwete said the Anglo-German Treaty of 1890 – an agreement between then-colonial powers Germany and Britain –that gave Malawi sole ownership of Lake Malawi was flawed and Tanzania has every reason to demand it be corrected.
He argued that the treaty denies Tanzanians living on the shores of Lake Malawi their given right to utilize proximate water and marine resources to earn their daily living.
Malawi President Mrs Joyce Banda is pursuing a non-confrontation approach in the negociations but her government has maintained that Malawi owns the entire lake under an 1890 agreement .
The Tanzania President also said he had assured there will be no use of military to solve the dispute, saying people should “get rid of fear of war.”
Kikwete in his address said three years after Malawi gained independence from Britain, on January 3, 1967, the Government of Tanzania wrote a letter to the government of Malawi to explain the border issues and recommend talks for the two countries to come up with a solution.
He said Malawi replied on 24 January 1967 acknowledging receiving the letter and promised that they will provide the answers in a short while. However, he said on June 27, 1967, President Kamuzu Banda while addressing the National Assembly of Malawi, refused Tanzania’s request, saying that Tanzania’s claim was not genuine and that historically Songea, Njombe and Mbeya was part of Malawi, thus, negotiations came to a halt.
“Tanzania did not give up. When Bakili Muluzi was elected, new efforts were made but they did not pay off,” Kikwete is quoted as saying.
“On June 9, 2005, Malawi’s third president, Bingu Wa Mutharika, who is now dead, wrote a letter to former Tanzanian president, Benjamin William Mkapa and advised him that our two countries should negotiate on the border of Lake Nyasa,” Tanzania leader said..
Kikwete argued that the Anglo-Germany Heligoland treaty is erroneous because it contravenes international law that requires riparian states to share adjoining water resources.
“It is our opinion that our countries do what the Anglo-German boundary commission did not do. Let’s do it as sovereign states through negotiations,” said the President.
The negociating teams of the two countries meeting recently in Malawi failed to come to mutual agreement and the next round of talks is scheduled for September 10 to 14 in Dar es Salaam.
The two countries will discuss the option of mediation by a third party with the possibility that a council of wise men under African Union (AU) would step in and help broker a settlement.
Should mediation efforts hit the rock, Malawi and Tanzania will have to take their case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for legal resolution.