Tuesday, 7 August 2012


Dodoma. The government yesterday sent a strong warning to its southern neighbour, Malawi, by ordering an immediate stop to all gas and oil prospecting activities on the portion of Lake Nyasa that falls on the Tanzanian side.
Tension has been mounting between the two neighbours over the location of the border on Lake Nyasa, whereby the government vowed to protect its territory and its people at any cost.It warned companies that have been undertaking gas and oil exploration activities in the lake to stop immediately as the two countries engage in negotiations.

The minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe, told the Parliament yesterday that the two governments were still discussing the dispute and had virtually agreed to suspend all prospecting activities, which may affect interests of either country.

However, according to Mr Membe, the Tanzanian government received reliable information from Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) that Malawi had leased out blocs, some of which fell on Tanzanian side of the lake, to certain oil and gas prospecting firms.

“The government orders such firms to stop their activities from today (yesterday) and we hope our counterparts in Malawi understand our position in this matter. We want to assure Tanzanians that our country will remain safe from any open or perceived threats,” he emphasised as he tabled his ministry’s Budget estimates for this financial year.

“We urge our counterparts in Malawi to respect agreements and remove all aircraft that are landing on the lake,” he added.Tanzania and Malawi are in dispute over the ownership of Lake Nyasa that is on the border separating the two countries. While Tanzania claims to own 50 per cent of the lake, Malawi recently claimed that the entire lake is on its territory.
On the Tanzanian side, residents of Mbeya, Iringa and Ruvuma regions carry out fishing on their country’s side of the lake, apart from undertaking other types of economic activities.

Malawi bases its claim on the 1890 Anglo-German Agreement signed July 1, 1890; while Tanzania also uses the same document, which confirms the presence of illogical borders and allows the two countries to meet and adjust the borders under the auspices of relevant Border Commissions.

Mr Membe noted that Tanzania has a map drawn by Britain (who then ruled Tanganyika and Nyasaland) indicating that they was an agreement to review the border and locate it at the middle of the lake as the case in the border between Malawi and Mozambique on the same lake. Following the conflict, the then Malawi’s President Mr Bingu wa Mutharika wrote to his counterpart President Benjamin Mkapa (then President of the United Republic of Tanzania) requesting a formation of a joint committee that would work on the dispute.

Under Tanzania fourth phase regime, a committee of ministers for Foreign Affairs was formed and met for the first time in 2010.

On July 27, 2012, the ministers for foreign affairs and borders and security experts held a meeting in Dar es Salaam during which it was agreed that gas and oil prospecting should be suspended within the disputed points.
However, as negotiations continue, it was reported recently that Tanzania’s security machinery spotted some aircraft said to belong to oil and gas prospecting companies licenced by Malawi flying in Tanzania’s airspace without permission from the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA).

A recent statement issued by Malawi’s permanent secretary in the ministry for Foreign Affairs Patrick Kabambe heightened the tension over the dispute when he said that the entire lake belonged to his country.
The statement was interpreted by the Tanzanian side as an act of provocation.  As the air surrounding the relations of the two nations remain potentially volatile, international relations experts and politicians have urged the two to solve the matter amicably.

MPs who contributed to the ministry’s 2012/13 Budget said it was high time the two countries sat together and discussed the matter due to the fact that they are neighbours and that residents on the shores of the lake, their different nationality notwithstanding, are the same people.

Gando MP Khalifa Khalifa (CUF) said there was a need for the United Nations to intervene in the dispute and ensure it is solved amicably.

“Tanzania and Malawi may quarrel over this oil-rich area, end hurting their people and economies, while in reality those companies searching oil and gas do not even originate in Africa,” said Mr Khalifa.Mr Membe said further that there was a possibility for Tanzania–Malawi border conflict being resolved by an arbitrator.

Source:The Citizen