Tanzania has dismissed Malawi’s protests against the alleged deployment of two ships on Lake Malawi saying that the vessels are meant for lake Nyasa and not in the disputed territory of the lake.
Malawi, which sits to the west of Africa’s third-largest lake, claims the entire northern half of the lake, while Tanzania, to the east, says it owns half of the northern area. The southern half is shared between Malawi and Mozambique.
“It’s true that we want to buy ships for lake Nyasa and not lake Malawi as it has been stated by the Malawian authorities…this plan has been in our ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi general election manifesto for some time,” said Tanzania’s Transport Minister Dr Harrison Mwakyembe.
Malawi over the weekend wrote Tanzania to protest against plans to deploy two ships on Lake Malawi. It warned that the deployment of ships would threaten the on going mediation efforts to resolve a long-standing border dispute.
Foreign Affairs Minister Ephraim Chiume said in a statement that Tanzanian government officials had stated in parliament that the East African nation was buying six new passenger ships, two of which were destined for Lake Malawi.
But Dr Mwakyembe said that the plans to deploy the vessels should be understood as replacing the operating ships with the new ones in Lake Nyasa.
“There Tanzanians in Mbamba Bay who need to be served diligently by their government. That’s what we are doing and not otherwise,” he said.
Over 2 million families who solely depend on Lake Malawi for food, transport, recreation and other daily needs in Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique are anxiously waiting to see an end to the long standing dispute over the ownership of Africa’s fourth largest lake
According to Tanzanian authorities about 600,000 families depend on the lake and Malawi says 1.5 million people depend on the lake for their livelihood.
Known as lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Mozambique, the disputed water mass is thought to sit over rich oil and gas reserves.
A year ago, Malawi awarded oil exploration licenses to British-based Surestream Petroleum to search for oil in Lake Malawi, which is known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania. This is what re-ignited the dispute.