President Peter Mutharika’s speech at the opening the 4th Ordinary Session of Pan-African Parliament on May 8 at Midrand, Johannesburg in South Africa could not have come at a better time than now when Tanzania has openly said that it wants a share of oil resources on Lake Malawi.
APM deservedly got a standing ovation for his speech which tackled, among other things, conflicts and border wrangles that are dividing African nations. In case you did not read or watch him deliver the speech, APM talked about the importance of unity among African countries.
My favourite passage is: “Our national boundaries should never be an excuse for division. I have used the word excuse because excuses are not reasons anyway. From the 1890 Heligoland Treaty to the 1964 Resolution on Border Disputes among African States by the OAU, there has never been a reason for disrespecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations. Africa did not come to be what it is by mistake. It is then wise to remember that we co-exist peacefully because our forefathers who founded the countries we govern today valued unity in spite of our boundaries.”
He continued: “In 1964, we all pledged that we will respect the borders we found by colonialism. In Resolution 17(1) of the First Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), all member States solemnly pledged and declared to respect the borders existing on their achievement of national independence.The most outstanding of those forefathers was Julius Nyerere who sponsored the resolution and led Tanzania in playing an active role in respecting the territorial integrity we inherited from colonialism. Paradoxically, our unity lies in the borders that divide us. On 6th March 1997, in Accra, the founding President of Tanzania, Nyerere himself, said we must continue respecting the borders we found because without unity, there is no future for Africa,” APM told Pan African parliamentarians.
In short, APM’s message is that, as a continent, we need peace and security to prevail.
Mutharika’s speech is timely because the statement by Tanzania’s High Commissioner to Malawi, Mrs. Victoria Mwakasege last week that her country wants to benefit from the oil resources in Lake Malawi is not in any way in the spirit of Pan Africanism.
Mwakasege, in an interview with this paper, said oil is the main reason why her country has been demanding ownership of half of the lake. She said that it is an open secret that Malawi has started exploring for oil on the lake and Tanzania would also like to benefit from the same resources.
“That is the way things should be. But we need to find a solution to deal with these matters and the talks will give us a direction on the way forward on the matter. Our position on the lake has never changed because we have always maintained that our common border is in the middle of that lake,” she is quoted by the paper.
Her comments follow Tanzania’s latest position on the lake after the country published a new map in September last year which shows that the border between Malawi and Tanzania on the lake side is in the middle.
While Mutharika might not have been directly responding to her comments, I want to agree with APM that borders should not be an excuse to start conflicts or to divide countries. As he rightly puts it, it is in the spirit of Pan-Africanism that OAU was founded that African countries should stand together as a united front.
Oil resources found on Lake Malawi or on Tanzanian soil still stands to benefit the African continent. Surely, oil on our lake will benefit the two countries in one way or the other, even if Tanzania has no direct involvement in drilling and refinery.
Word on the street is that, the attitude of ‘what’s in it for me’ is one that is really fuelling conflicts on this continent.
President’s top critic, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, who is also Leader of Opposition has responded to APM’s State of the Nation Address (Sona). Obviously, as a man of style when it comes to speech delivery, he responded to the Sona with verve. But as my work colleague once said, ‘substance is miles away’. As many have said before, Chakwera does a good job of pointing out the problems with the President’s speech (all APM’s speeches), calling them empty, ‘tearing them apart, or indeed calling World Bank resumption of budget support ‘an act of mercy’. But what the former man-of-the-collar has failed once again is to give us the alternative. As I write, his party, the once mighty MCP, is divided with some supporters calling for their once dear leader to resign. So, can the Hon. Leader of Opposition stop worrying about APM’s speeches for a while and fix his party?
Word on the street is that MCP needs Chakwera more than Malawians need him. n