Malawi’s department of foreign affairs has clarified earlier comments made by President Joyce Banda that the southern African nation has decided to take the Lake Malawi dispute with Tanzania to the International Court of Justice.
President Banda had earlier in the week said that Malawi was giving up on mediation efforts and would take to the courts to settle the dispute.
“Our view is that we should eventually go to court. We should not waste time on this,” Banda told reporters in Lilongwe on Monday after returning from visits to the US and Britain.
She said the mediation bid left to Mozambique’s ex-president Joachim Chissano in his capacity as head of a forum of retired leaders from the regional bloc SADC, was “compromised because information submitted by Malawi was leaked to Tanzania”.
But Malawi’s foreign affairs minister Ephraim Chiume clarified that position over the weekend saying that there are more than committed to finding an amicable and lasting solution to the lake boundary dispute with Tanzania, “through peaceful dialogue and diplomatic efforts.”
In the statement Malawi said it had trust and confidence in the Forum, saying the members are men of high integrity, and believe that the matter will be handled with professionalism and objectivity that it rightly deserves.
“This is why Malawi gladly resorted to the mediation on the matter by the Forum for Former African Heads of State and Government, which is being chaired by His Excellency Joaquim Chissano, former President of the Republic of Mozambique,” the statement reads.
Malawi, which claims that it owns the entire lake, awarded a license to British firm Surestream to explore for oil in the north-eastern waters which borders Tanzania.
The prospects of an oil find on the lake has re-activated the half a century old border dispute which has left the two countries deadlocked in the last few attempts to resolve the wrangle.Tanzania claims that it owns 50 percent of the lake, which it calls Lake Nyasa.
The foreign affairs department said that that it wrote the Chairperson of the Forum, raising concerns on the participation of a Tanzanian national, who is the Executive Secretary of the Forum.
“It was the view of the Malawi Government, that the Executive Secretary’s participation may compromise the mediation process, and that the playing field may not be level.”
Malawi’s claims of full ownership are based on the 1890 agreement, while Tanzania disputes this validity, insisting part of the lake falls within its borders.