Malawi President Peter Mutharika has maintained that the Lake Malawi border issue is non-negotiable, arguing Africa’s third largest lake entirely belongs to Malawi.
But Tanzania—through High Commissioner to Malawi Patrick Tsere—said in an interview that Dodoma has not received any new policy position from Lilongwe and thus assumes that negotiation remains the path to agreement.
Asked whether new Justice Minister Samuel Tembenu’s announcement last week that Malawian officials would meet their Tanzanian counterparts over the lake in September this year means that the President’s campaign era of an uncompromising stance has evolved while in government, State House press secretary Frederick Ndala said on Thursday the “policy stance will be maintained and has not changed.”
“When [His Excellency] took over the realms of power, the previous administration had already submitted the matter to mediators. The current administration is reviewing the matter to determine the best way forward in line with our stated policy that the lake issue is not negotiable,” he said.
Ndala said after reviewing the People’s Party (PP) administration’s approach, the new government will inform the nation the course it intends to take.
But in a fresh interview with Nation on Sunday on Friday, Tembenu said Malawi would only be going to meet Tanzania to appreciate the Joyce Banda administration’s approach on the matter.
On his part, Tsere said although Dodoma has not received any official communication from Lilongwe, he believes the new administration will proceed with the negotiations.
“What is encouraging is that Malawi is willing to carry on with the negotiations. It is also pleasing that the new leader [Mutharika] is not hostile to his neighbouring countries going by his inauguration speech and the State of the Nation Address in Parliament.
“What I can assure you is that there will be no military incident over this matter or bloodshed. As Tanzania, we believe in peaceful resolution to differences.”
In the stand-off, Malawi asserts full ownership of the lake except the south-eastern stretch in Mozambique whereas Tanzania is claiming the north-eastern half on its shores.
Malawi’s argument is based on a July 1 1890 treaty between Britain and Germany that maps the boundary between the two countries along the Tanzanian shore.
On the other hand, Tanzania is invoking the 1982 UN Convention on Law of the Sea that stipulates that in cases where nations are separated by a water body, the boundary lies in the middle of the water source.
The case is in the hands of mediators headed by former Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano with ex-heads of State Thabo Mbeki (South Africa) and Festus Mogae (Botswana) as members.
The trio has since held a number of clarity meetings with both parties.