Not even an inch of our lake
After catching the whiff of the tantalising aroma of oil that could be under Lake Malawi, the greedy and shameless Tanzanians have taken it upon themselves to use a muscular show of force to intimidate this country that they are prepared to go to war over the lake’s ownership.
Ranging from government officials to MPs, the Tanzanians are truly beating drums of war and they even have the audacity of demanding half of our Lake Malawi.
One of their MP Edward Lowassa, is quoted by The Citizen of Tanzania, declaring: “We expect this conflict will be solved diplomatically using the committee of Foreign Affairs ministers from both countries and using the mediator whenever needed. Malawi is our neighbour and, therefore, we would not like to go into war with it.”
“However, if it reaches the war stage, then we are ready to sacrifice our people’s blood and our military forces are committed in equipment and psychologically. Our army is among modern and stable defence forces in the world.”
I am not going to sabre-rattle in this column and call up citizens to arms to defend our lake as some of the overzealous Tanzanian leaders are doing at the moment.
Rather, I will ask President Joyce Banda and her government not to cower into submission but show leadership and be firm and unequivocal in their rejection of the Tanzanian demands in the face of this provocation, intimidation and warmongering by our northern neighbours over a lake that this country has owned as long as we can remember.
This naked aggression, showboating and flagrant display of power by Tanzania must be met with utmost resolve that this country will not give up what is rightfully ours.
Our historians are very keen on reminding us that this matter is not new and that the border between Malawi and Tanzania was defined in the Heligoland Treaty signed by the former colonial powers Germany and Britain on 1st July 1890. That agreement gave the whole lake to Malawi.
They tell us that there was once an altercation between Julius Nyerere and Kamuzu Banda over the matter in 1967. The history books insist that Kamuzu was resolute and emphatic in telling Nyerere that the water body belonged to Malawi and that if there was a country that got a raw deal from the artificial partitioning of our borders done by imperialist Britain, Germany and Portugal, that country was Malawi.
Kamuzu could have meant that the shape of our country’s borders look like some squeezed grotesque, jutting out of the big palm of some colossus. We are simply an over-squeezed nation between Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique, greatly in need of breathing space.
And for someone to think they can take our only remaining jewel in the crown, Lake Malawi, is total madness and that is why I am appealing to Joyce Banda to show utmost resolve and protect our lake from the aggressors.
She should get her inspiration from Kamuzu who stood up to the warmongering Nyerere.
Africa and the world at large is replete with border disputes. They range from the well documented hot potato of Falklands Islands in South America over which Britain and Argentina fought a senseless war in 1982 to the fight between Nigeria and Cameroon over the oil rich Bakassi Peninsula.
If the Tanzanians insist on this empty flexing of muscles, JB should take the matter to the International Court of Justice where Nigeria was embarrassed after the court gave Bakassi to Cameroon amid the bigger nation’s empty display of raw power and might.
Although the Nigerian senate decreed the handover of territory was illegal, Bakassi is now under the weaker Cameroon. Oil or no oil, we cannot surrender even a centimetre of our lake to the bullying Tanzanians.
And talking about the oil on the lake, some self-appointed environmentalists such as RP president Stanley Masauli want to parrot some imported and hackneyed lines about stopping the prospecting for oil to save the chambo fish.
But I have not heard that oil exploration means the wholesale death of the national delicacy. Besides, Masauli and his horde of self appointed environmentalists should get a life. Why should it only be Malawi not exploring and utilising its resources at the guise of preserving its chambo and butterflies on Mulanje Mountain when other countries are getting rich by extracting oil and minerals?
Romanticism with the environment is in fashion these days but unfortunately it does not, as they say, bring food on the table.
What Masauli and others should have been urging right now is how we should put in necessary safeguards so that proceeds from these new found riches should not end up lining the pockets of some fat cats in government, but that they should benefit the country in general and communities where these are being extracted, in particular.