Deadlocked: Malawi, Tanzania fail to agree

Malawi and Tanzania have reached a deadlock again over the disputed lake Malawi boundary, Tanzanian media reports indicated over the weekend.

Malawi claims sovereignty over the entirety of Africa’s third largest lake, while Tanzania says 50 percent is part of its territory. The row, which goes back half a century, could worsen if significant oil and gas discoveries are made.

The local press quoted the country’s foreign minister as saying that the two countries had yet again failed to agree on the dispute.

“There is now a need for the issue to be handled at the highest levels of international arbitration, ”  Tanzanian foreign affairs minister Benard Membe is quoted as saying in the Citizen newspaper.

Earlier in the week, Malawi information minister Moses Kukuyu said that  Malawi was not ready to surrender the lake to Tanzania.

“Government position is that the boundary between Malawi and Tanzania is along the north and eastern shores of Lake Malawi and basically giving total ownership of the lake to Malawi ….the talks with Tanzania will border on affirming this border other than negotiating it’s relocation because it was already demarcated and delimited,”Kukuyu said during a press briefing earlier last week.

Last  month  Malawi President Joyce Banda  cut off dialogue with Tanzania in a long-time territorial dispute concerning Lake Malawi, thought to have  highly coveted oil and gas reserves.

 Banda had said that she believed Tanzania had raised tension by moves such as alleged intimidation of Malawian fishermen on the lake, which also borders on Mozambique.

“Government would like to assure all Malawians that it will protect our territorial integrity and sovereignty as a State. Government is aware of how Malawians, especially those in the border with Tanzania, may be anxious and apprehensive in regard to this matter,” he said.

Malawi last year awarded oil exploration licences to UK-based Surestream Petroleum to search for oil in Lake Malawi, which is known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania.

But in July, Tanzanian authorities asked Surestream Petroleum to postpone any planned drilling on the lake. The company has not yet started to drill.

Tanzania, east Africa’s second-biggest economy, became a player in energy this year with several onshore and offshore gas finds, attracting multinational energy concerns to the area.

Lake Malawi contains more than 2,000 different fish species, attracting scuba divers, and environmentalists are concerned that oil exploration will disturb its freshwater ecosystem.

Exploration on the lake will start in earnest next year, authorities said.