Chissano: One of the mediators

Malawi is finalising the process of taking  its dispute with Tanzania over Lake Malawi, with its potentially massive reserves of oil and gas, to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, a senior minister has said

Two former African presidents, Joachim Chissano of Mozambique and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, have been mediating the dispute but so far nothing has come out of it.

“The government of Malawi has been committed to the mediation process and peaceful resolution of the dispute through contact and dialogue but we are now ready to take Tanzania to the International Court of Justice because they have been stalling the mediation efforts since 2012,” said foreign affairs minister Francis Kasaila.

Malawi foreign minister Ephraim Chiume made the latest accusation
Malawi foreign minister Ephraim Chiume made the latest accusation
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.

Malawi foreign minister Ephraim Chiume made the clarification
Malawi foreign minister Ephraim Chiume made the clarification
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.”

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.

Tanzania says talks over territorial rights on Lake Malawi have failed and is now asking for an international mediator to resolve a long-standing border dispute which has resurfaced because of potential oil and gas

“It is clear now, that we cannot resolve the issue between us,” Tanzania’s foreign affairs minister, Bernard Membe, told a news conference. “We will go ahead and propose a mediator, even if Malawi does not return to the negotiations.”

Chiume making the announcing in Lilongwe
Tanzania and Malawi, in talks for the last five days, have failed to agree on the disputed waters of Lake Malawi

The talks held in the northern Malawian city of Mzuzu failed to resolve the dispute and suggestion were made that matter be taken to the International Court of Justice, Malawi’s foreign minister Ephraim Chiume said over the weekend.

“At first there was a recommendation that since we are not able to meet halfway, then the route would be to go to the International Court of Justice…,” Chiume said.

“But there was a feeling that maybe we have not exhausted all options of diplomacy …Malawi accepted to consider mediation as a way of resolving the dispute and proposed to consider that at our next meeting next month in Tanzania,” he said.

Last October, Malawi had awarded oil exploration licences to UK-based Surestream Petroleum to search for oil in Lake Malawi, which is also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania.

Malawi’s second largest lake, Lake Chilwa, is drying up and could potentially affect the livelihoods of close to a million people that rely on it, a climate change expert has warned.

“For the past two years meteorological services has recorded drops in rainfall of less than 1,000 millimetres which has led to the lake drying up,” said Dr Sosten Chiotha, a climate change expert.

This will be the eighth time the lake, home to agriculture and natural resources valued at $21 million per year, will be drying up in the last 100 years.