BLANTYRE–Malawi, in a dispute with neighbouring Tanzania over the border of the giant Lake Malawi because of its oil and gas exploration, says it has the “rightful claim” to the whole freshwater lake based on the 1890 Treaty inked by colonial rulers Britain and Germany, Foreign Affairs Minister Ephraim Mganda Chiume has told reporters.
“Malawi has the rightful claim to the whole lake basing on the Heligoland Treaty signed by Germany and Britain. The treaty defines the border between the two countries as being the edge of the waters on eastern shore of Lake Malawi,” Chiume said in a statement.
Chiume said the position of the treaty was further reinforced and adopted by resolutions of the African Union in 2002 and 2007 and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Union (OAU) in 1963.
“The treaty stipulates that member states should recognize and recognize and accept the borders that were inherited at the time of independence,” Chiume added, apparently in reaction to remarks made by his Tanzanian counterpart, Bernard Membe.
Malawi was ruled by Britain before its independence in 1964, while Tanzania was first administered by German and later Britain.
Chiume said Malawi acknowledges Tanzania’s claim to half of the lake was based on common law, but argued that it was “Malawi’s position that the principle which Tanzania depends upon applies only where there is no treaty.”
He said there should be no cause for anxiety or alarm over the issue in Malawi, where the topic has generated extensive debate on social media networks. He said the two countries were engaged in discussions “so that an amicable solution is found on this long outstanding issue.”
“The nation is hereby informed that there are on-going discussions between our two countries and that the Malawi Government is determined to reach an amicable solution with the government of the United Republic of Tanzania.”
He said the discussions, which kicked off last month in Tanzania and will continue in Malawi on August 20, were being held in an “open and cordial manner with a view of reaching an agreement. Let us allow diplomacy to work,” he said.
Tanzania has also called for an amicable resolution to a dispute with Malawi over oil and gas exploration in Lake Malawi.
Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe was quoted by French News Agency (AFP) saying the issue was “very sensitive issue and we would like it to be resolved amicably. We will continue with talks."
He said exploration for oil and gas on northeast part of the lake should be shelved to pave way for the ongoing discussions to resolve the crisis.
Malawi, a former British colony, for its part, vowed to press on with exploration for hydrocarbons.
Tanzania claims a portion of the 29,600 square kilometre (11,400 square mile) lake, while Malawi cites the 1890 agreement that stipulates the border between the two countries lies along the Tanzanian shore of the lake.
Mozambique also claims part of the lake, Africa's third largest.
Last year, the government of Malawi's late president Bingu wa Mutharika awarded a British firm, Surestream Petroleum, a licence to prospect for oil and gas on the giant lake.
The company has been conducting an environmental impact assessment.
---©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment