BLANTYRE--A top Malawian official says the country will not stop its oil and gas exploration activities on the disputed Lake Malawi as demanded by Tanzania, saying the "entire lake belongs to Malawi."
"We categorically put it to them [Tanzania] that as far as we are concerned, the entire lake belongs to Malawi. So our view is that there is no reason to stop the project," Patrick Kabambe, principal secretary in the ministry, was quoted in The Daily Times.
Kabambe said the Malawi sentiments were expressed at a two-day meeting in Tanzania last week between the two neighbours where Tanzania still demanded that it wants all exploration on the lake stopped because it owns 50 percent of the lake, which it still calls Lake Nyasa after the colonial name of Malawi, then called Nyasaland.
The Malawi delegation was by Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Ephraim Chiume, while the Tanzanian team was headed by his counterpart Bernard Membe.
Membe was quoted by Tanzanian local media as saying his country wants "all exploration activities in the north east part of the lake to be shelved to pave way for the on-going discussions to resolve the crisis."
He added:"We told our colleagues from the Republic of Malawi that any exploration or research activities for oil and gas prospects must stop forthwith as their presence was likely to jeopardise the on-going negotiations and pose a security threat."
Kabambe cited the 1890 eco-land agreement between Britain and Germany which stipulates the border between the two countries is the edge of the waters of Lake Malawi. Malawi is a former British colony while Tanzania was ruled by Germany.
"Our terms are very clear on this, but we will continue to engage with Tanzania as a good neighbour," Kabambe said.
He said the two countries have agreed to revive the border dispute talks in the Malawi northern city of Mzuzu on August 20.
"The two countries have stressed the need to resolve the issue of boundary on the lake diplomatically," he added.
The government of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika September announced it had awarded to British firm Surestream Petroleum a licence to explore oil and gas on the giant lake which straddles a third of the country.
Surestream secured 20,000 square kilometres of blocks 2 and 3 in the north of the fresh water lake in Karonga district, which borders Tanzania.
The company has been conducting an environmental impact assessment.
---©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.