The High Level Mediation Team (HLMT) on the Lake Malawi border row between Malawi and Tanzania last week cancelled its scheduled meeting after Tanzania said it will not attend the meeting.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Francis Kasaila confirmed in an interview yesterday that the meeting was scheduled to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa on May 8 and 9, but they received communication from the delegation on May 4, that the talks have been postponed.
Kasaila, while strongly insisting that the entire lake belongs to Malawi and that Tanzania cannot claim anything as it is currently outside their territory, said that as government, Malawi will determine the way forward on the postponement whether it is indefinite or not.
He said: “We were engaging the High Level Mediation Team to understand whether the postponement is indefinite or they have proposed a new date so that we look into the new date and see if we are going to be available or not because the date has to be convenient for both parties. That is the process we are taking. Depending on what we see, then we will decide on the way forward as government.”
Kasaila said the country has all along been pushing for the mediation talks so that resolutions have to be made on the issue at the soonest time possible.
The team, led by former Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano, made the postponement barely days after Tanzania High Commissioner Victoria Mwakasege had told The Nation that her country was highly interested in benefitting from oil resources in Lake Malawi.
She said it is not a secret that Malawi is in oil exploration on the lake; hence they would also want to benefit from the same resources.
The talks were scheduled to resume in April after a long break but were postponed following the death of Chissano’s mother in that month.
The HLMT convened the first mediation talks from March 20 to 21 in 2014 in Maputo where the governments of Malawi and Tanzania submitted their respective positions.
The submissions in the lake dispute presented showed that the boundary is the shoreline of Lake Malawi as established by Article 1(2) of the 1890 Anglo-German Treaty, whereas Tanzania claims that the boundary is the median line of the lake based on the principles of customary international law.
The bone of contention is thus the position of the boundary expressed by both parties to the HLMT, whereupon it (HLMT) proposed that the parties should consider how best they can jointly exploit and share the resources found on the lake before establishing position of the boundary between the two countries.
The HLMT was of the view that through the benefits accrued in the process, the boundary dispute would eventually be resolved.
However, both Malawi and Tanzania delegations did not agree with the HLMT on the proposal and reaffirmed that the boundary issue be resolved first. The HLMT, therefore, promised to proceed on the basis of submissions by the two countries and advise on the next course of action at the subsequent meeting. n