Two former African presidents in a three-member mediation team on the border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania yesterday asked President Peter Mutharika and his team to reflect on the Lake Malawi row with Tanzania and urged patience as mediation resumes.
Former presidents Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique) and Festus Mogae (Botswana) said this after meeting Mutharika at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre to congratulate him for winning the presidency and took advantage of the session to brief him on the mediation process.
Chissano, speaking in the presence of most of the presidential candidates in the May 20 Tripartite Elections Mutharika invited, said the talks stalled because Malawi was going into elections.
He said the two countries approached them as forum of former African presidents to mediate, adding the team, which also comprises former South Africa president Thabo Mbeki, was not taking any sides and are not a court to pass a verdict of who is wrong or right.
Said Chissano: “Our role is to bring both sides closer to each other and see how we move forward. We are going to look at the dates and our availability. The two sides should work in a friendly manner.
“If a friendly solution is not achieved, other steps such as taking the matter to International Court of Justice [ICJ] would be considered.”
He said logistics, provided by the two sides, were not readily available and it contributed to the delay to start the process.
On his part, Mogae warned Malawi that taking the matter to the international court is costly and time consuming.
He shared Botswana’s experience which had a dispute, also over a water body, with Namibia when he was a president and took the matter to ICJ.
Mogae said Botswana won the case, but the court told Botswana to continue allowing Namibians fishing and tourism services on their side, which he said they were already doing before they took the matter to court where they spent a lot of money.
Mutharika, who spoke before Chissano and Mogae, said Malawi’s position is that there is no dispute, adding Malawi is backed by treaties, including the African Union (AU) resolution that the lake belongs to Malawi.
He said it was Malawi’s wish that boundaries should be left as they are. He said the matter started when Tanzania opened an issue that the boundary should be in the middle of the lake.
Present at the Sanjika Palace meeting were Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu, Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture Kondwani Nankhumwa and Chief Secretary to the Government George Nkondiwa.
Members of the opposition political parties included Kamuzu Chibambo, Helen Singh, the Katsonga brothers Davis and Mark, John Chisi, Friday Jumbe, George Nnensa and Gustav Kaliwo.
The team went into a closed door meeting after briefing the media.