Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has reportedly stepped in as another high-profile mediator in the border dispute over Lake Malawi being contested between Tanzania and Malawi.
In its latest edition, the African Energy Intelligence Report claimed that Obasanjo, who ruled between 1999 and 2007, discreetly flew into Lilongwe in early June to meet with President Joyce Banda on the issue.
The report said almost the entire encounter was dominated by the question of Lake Malawi, the north-eastern part of which has been officially claimed by Tanzania since oil exploration on the waters began.
Presidential press secretary Steven Nhlane confirmed Obasanjo’s visit on Wednesday, but indicated that the former Nigerian president visited Banda as a member of her advisory committee on economic matters.
Malawi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ephraim Mganda Chiume said the Lake Malawi border dispute is still under the mediation of the African Forum for Former Heads of State led by former president of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano.
The African Energy Intelligence Report said during Obasanjo’s visit, the President had seemed somewhat discouraged about the difference, saying talks with Tanzania had bogged down and the chances of avoiding international arbitrage on the question were fast dwindling.
The report further states that Obasanjo, who has previously been asked by the United Nations (UN) to mediate on a number of issues, such as he did in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2009, has intervened in Malawi in a strictly private capacity. However, the former Nigerian leader has been known on occasion to mix international mediation and business.
During a visit to Washington at the end of September last year, Banda tried to persuade Chevron’s executives to come to Malawi to explore Lake Malawi, according to the report. The firm is said to have excellent relations with Obasanjo through the lobbying firm headed by Andy Young, GoodWorks International.
(—Additional reporting by correspondent Marshall Dyton).