Former president Joyce Banda has backed the Peter Mutharika administration’s decision to take contentious Lake Malawi border dispute with Tanzania to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague in The Netherlands.
Commenting on the issue in an exclusive interview with privately owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) in Tiuzeni Zoona Programme monitored yesterday, Banda—who ruled the country from April 2012 to May 20 2014—said she fully supported the decision government has taken on the matter.
During the interview, the former president, who has been in a self-imposed ‘exile’ since her election loss in 2014, emphasised that the whole lake belongs to Malawi; hence, Tanzania had no grounds to claim any part of it.
She said: “I have read what the Tanzanian High Commissioner to Malawi said recently about Lake Malawi. It is unfortunate that while acknowledging that the lake belongs to us, Tanzania wants a share of the mineral resources therein.”
Banda also said her administration resolved to take the matter to court but former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete implored with the Malawi Government to give room for contact and dialogue.
She said: “However, it is proving that our neighbours are not honest and committed to resolving this wrangle. Hence, I wish to commend President Mutharika and his government for the decision to take the matter to the ICJ.”
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration announced last week its intention to take the lake wrangle with Tanzaniza to the ICJ following a decision by the latter to shun mediation talks.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Francis Kasaila stressed that while Malawi has always been committed to the mediation process and peaceful resolution of the dispute through contact and dialogue, it was disappointing to note that Tanzania does not show interest to have the issue resolved.
He said: “We are now ready to take Tanzania to the International Court of Justice because they have been stalling the mediation efforts since 2012.”
In July 2013, former head of the ICJ and respected British judge, Professor Rosalyn Higgins, QC, gave a legal opinion, suggesting that Malawi stands a better chance of winning the case against Tanzania.Higgins said while the boundary between Malawi and Tanzania is Lake Nyasa (Malawi) and is a complicated issue, and not without its difficulties, he felt that the legal claims of Malawi to all of Lake Nyasa, and the submerged lands there under, is considerably the better claim.
Meanwhile, Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Isaac Munlo, has said Malawi needs to create a special budget line that will facilitate the country’s hope of winning its Lake Malawi border wrangle at ICJ.
He made the recommendation in his presentation before the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, Security and International Relations.
He also emphasised the need for Malawians to desist from taking a backseat role, but to be seen to be firmly utilising the lake and its resources without any let up or apprehension.
On February 5 2017, Malawi and Tanzania signed a Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation (JPCC) agreement amid the long-running and outstanding wrangle of the ownership of Lake Malawi.
Developments relating to possible exploration of oil in the lake have reignited the wrangle which dates back to the 1960s. n