Patriotism has been said to be an indispensable weapon in the defence of civilization against barbarism. Nothing defines barbarism better that the premeditated and internationally unacceptable act of one country unilaterally assuming ownership of another sovereign state’s bequeathed property.
Unfortunate as this is, this is what Tanzania is doing and worse is now using unorthodox means to annexe Lake Malawi, granted to Malawi via the July 1, 1890 Anglo-German Treaty, also known as the Heligoland Treaty.
We will, for the sake of clarity, dwell a bit on this treaty. In 1890 neither Malawi nor Tanzania, as they are today, were represented.
At the Scramble for Africa, European countries literally tore Africa apart without giving a thought to the fact that the world is dynamic and that one day what they were referring to as ‘territories’, ‘colonies’ or ‘protectorates’ would evolve into states.
States with their own development agenda; with their own unique people; with their own aspirations, indeed, states that would need to live and coexist in peace alongside each other.
This lamentable greed and lack of foresight that underpinned the Scramble for Africa is what has led to the current state of affairs. Unfortunately this cannot be undone. However, our wise founding fathers, via the precursor to the African Union, smelt trouble.
And in this regard, the Heads of State and Government of Organisation of African Unity (OAU) made a resolution in 1964 that member states should recognise and accept the borders that were inherited at the time of independence.
The African Union made similar resolutions in 2002 and 2007. From the Heligoland Treaty and the OAU/AU resolutions, it is Malawians’ conviction that the border still remains the eastern shores of Lake Malawi.
Tanzania, through the concept known as “Riparian Rights” (the right of one who owns riparian land (land abutting or including a stream or river) to have access to and use of the shore and water), says it now owns half the lake.
In its efforts to wrangle the lake from Malawi, in blatant disregard of the Heligoland Treaty, the OAU resolution of 1964 and the AU resolutions of 2002 and 2007, it is leaving no stone unturned and if reports are true, special envoys armed with assorted inducements, promises and lies, are all over the place making nocturnal deals to buttress Tanzania’s bid.
Now let us pause here. Never mind the law of riparian rights, Tanzania’s interest in Lake Malawi is rooted in the feeling that it was, via the Heligoland Treaty, cheated. It feels it was robbed of a rightful inheritance. This may true – for argument’s sake, let us assume it is.
But flipping the coin to the other side, for what Nyasaland got, i.e. Lake Malawi; she lost something: most probably access to the Indian Ocean and a large chunk of the Maravi Kingdom which stretched deep into Tanzania up to the Indian Ocean.
This case was well made and delivered by Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda to his Tanzanian founding counterpart Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. It follows therefore, that if Malawi and Tanzania must negotiate over the ownership of the lake, Tanzania must be willing to cede a quid pro quo.
Grabby Tanzania, in the so called talks, has said nothing to that effect and will of course not.
And this begs the question, were the so called negotiations worth wasting time and resources on? Or more pertinently, is this consultation of African elders over a matter settled in 1890, reinforced by the OAU in 1964, further secured by the AU in 2007 and 2007, worth indulging in especially when the conclusion is being unduly influenced with foul play?
Patsepatse nkulanda is a well-known Chichewa adage. If someone comes to your house, knocks and says I want you to give me so many chickens, in exchange for say, so many doves – this is fair trade.
But if someone, barges in without knocking and says I will grab your goat in return for nothing – this is theft; barbarism of the worst sort. And this is what Tanzania, must not be allowed to do to us – as long as we are awake and resolutely united.
Rather than remake Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s case, which Tanzania now conveniently chooses to ignore, and rather than school the Taifas on what civilization is all about, we will now turn to what they have been up to after duping us into consulting the African elders.
The shameless marauding that a determined Tanzanian horde has engaged in, is worthy of condemnation in the strongest terms. Reports are rife that Tanzania has co-opted corrupt but powerful and well-funded fiends with interests in the lake. This is to say the least, unfair, in bad faith, given that the African elders are yet to determine the ownership.
Reports that apparatus of friendly foreign governments are picking up on their radar vis-à-vis this shameless lobbying, while the Malawi Government machinery is in a deep slumber are a clarion call that Malawi must act now or forever be damned.
Tanzania’s envoys are, as we speak, all over the world, palm-oiling decision makers to make sure that the outcome of the Lake Malawi mediation is decided in Tanzania’s favour.
To be specific, big oil conglomerates are in Dar es Salaam negotiating for oil deals to do with our part of the lake, a development t which is a slap in our faces given that Tanzania never wanted us to even prospect for oil.
For once, our leadership must steer clear of the bad habit of focussing on the mundane when danger is lurking. The type of leadership that Malawi needs now is not the ostrich type because by the time we lift our heads out of the sand, we will have nothing with which to quench our thirst – our lake having been seized.
In closing therefore we are not begging but demanding that Malawi must not, under any circumstances, cede an inch of our territory, let alone Lake Malawi, to any one.
The first thing is to immediately withdraw from the now compromised mediation effort. The second thing is to gather intelligence on what Tanzania has been up to behind the scenes. And the third thing is to go to the Hague for a settlement under international law.
If anything, Tanzania’s nocturnal activities are now ample evidence that the Taifas know that they have no iota of right to Lake Malawi, and that is why they want to bribe their way to its ownership. Surely, the international community cannot allow this!
We will conclude by addressing fellow Malawians. Although in Malawi we have a dispensation that promotes opposing views, only patriotism can see us through this threat.
Let all Malawians join hands, leave partisan politics aside, and support our country especially now that it needs us most.
Long live Malawi!