A contingent of high-ranking Malawian officials is visiting areas around Lake Malawi to reassure residents that war with Tanzania is not imminent.
“A high-powered Malawi government delegation including Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Ephraim Mganda Chiume are in the lakeshore district of Karonga, which shares a boundary with Tanzania, to talk to chiefs and local people to assure them that nothing like war will come from the border dispute over Lake Malawi,” Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Principal Secretary Patrick Kabambe announced on October 11.
He said Tanzanian authorities had sent a letter responding to issues raised by the Malawian government that caused suspension of dialogue between the two countries over the lake.
Kabambe said that, among other things, Tanzanian officials had not been aware of the presence of their own military personnel on the Tanzanian side of Lake Malawi, much less that these security personnel were harassing Malawians.
“On the new map, they [Tanzanian authorities] said they issued it because they have new regions in their country,” he added.
Tanzania had issued a new map in late September that shows half of Lake Malawi (also known as Lake Nyasa) as its territory.
Kabambe added that although Malawi believes that taking the matter to the International Court of Justice in the Hague is the best option to resolve the dispute, there is still room for dialogue between the two sides.
“The door on dialogue on the matter is still open,” he said.
Tanzania’s High Commissioner to Malawi, Patrick Tsere, said the lake still belongs to Malawi and Tanzania until the border dispute between them is resolved.
Tsere noted that the water body’s resources are accessed by both Malawians and Tanzanians.
“In fact, our rough estimates reveal that over 600,000 Tanzanians benefit from resources from Lake Malawi. Therefore, there is no way Malawi and Tanzania will go to war on this matter because Tanzanians love Malawi and likewise, we strongly believe that Malawians also love Tanzania,” he said.
“To this effect we are therefore, still ready for talks with our Malawian counterparts to resolve the matter.”
Malawi claims it owns the whole of Lake Malawi on the basis of a 1890 treaty between former colonial powers Great Britain and Germany, which, it says, was later reaffirmed by the Organization of Africa Unity, the precursor to the African Union, when the country gained its independence in 1964.
However, Tanzania says the Anglo-Germany Treaty that gave Malawi sole ownership of the whole lake was flawed.