President Peter Mutharika returned home yesterday from the 28th Summit of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after completing a charm offensive with the presidents of Tanzania and Zambia.
According to Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Francis Kasaila the issues included the Lake Malawi wrangle and the snowballing case on the importation of maize from Zambia.
Mutharika’s bilateral meetings with Tanzania’s President John Magufuli and Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu were held on Monday and Tuesday, respectively on the sidelines of the summit.
Speaking through Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Rejoice Shumba, Kasaila confirmed that the Lake Malawi wrangle was among topics Mutharika discussed with Magufuli during their meeting.
She said the two leaders registered their commitment to resolve the neighbouring countries’ differences on the matter through mediation and negotiations.
The wrangle has seen Tanzania claiming half of the lake, disputing and defying a colonial boundary that apportioned the entire lake to Malawi.
Regional leaders have been mediating on the matter, but tension between the two countries reached a new height a year ago when Malawi’s plan to explore the lake for oil were frowned upon by Tanzanian authorities who, last year, produced a new map showing half of the lake belonging to Tanzania.
But reports indicate that Mutharika and Magufuli warmed up to each other, agreeing to hold another bilateral meeting soon.
They further instructed the two countries’ security institutions to work together and solve, among other things, immigration challenges the countries are facing.
Kasaila said the two presidents also discussed the need for frequent joint meetings and how to promote bilateral trade, especially the issue of the Ntwara Corridor and how best to utilise Tanzania’s port facilities of Dar-es-Salaam.
A tweet posted by Malawi’s High Commission to Tanzania shows pictures of Mutharika and Magufuli sharing light moments after their meeting. The social media on Monday was awash with the pictures, including those of the two leaders shaking and holding hands in a photo opportunity after the discussions.
A video clip circulating on social media shows both leaders sloganeering, starting with Magufuli saying “Malawi woyee!” and Mutharika reciprocating “Tanzania woyee!.
On Mutharika’s meeting with the Zambian President on Tuesday, Kasaila said the Malawi leader briefed his counterpart on the maize saga, which has degenerated into many questionable facets of what was supposed to be a straight-forward importation of 100 000 metric tonnes of maize from Zambia.
Some politicians, technocrats and companies on both sides of the border are being probed, amid public suspicions that some planners of the deal intended to benefit through corruption and fraud.