Lake Malawi dispute: The simplest solution for Tanzania
In the next 50 to 100 years, the most sought after “mineral” resource is not going to be oil and gas but clean and natural water. I can bet countries will go to war because of the precious liquid more than anything else.
Well-endowed nations like ours, hopefully after maintaining our forests for decades shall have water aplenty for export and finally become a “developed nation.” As many nations will be going into “water wars” including our neighbours, my prediction is that, the motherland will be awash with peace.
Looking at the Lake Malawi/Nyasa dispute between Tanzania and Malawi, to me it sounds unwise to go to the International Court of Justice in Rome– where each nation will spend foreign currency in large amounts, to put up its case.
The dispute is not about water, but about possible discoveries of oil/gas under the lake, which is definitely going to have far reaching effects.
Malawi’s claim are backed by legally binding colonial treaties, which were stamped right by our beloved father of the nation, Mwalimu J.K Nyerere when he was fighting hard to stop some “mad” men in Africa from staging wars in the name of reclaiming lost lands.
Mwalimu Nyerere, through this way succeeded in averting bloody border wars across Africa. He must have been aware of the cost Tanzania would pay- like upholding the unfair treaty that Malawi is using to claim the whole lake.
As things are now, the lake wholly belongs to Malawi.... but then, most of its waters come from tributaries in Tanzania. So our President Jakaya Kikwete is also right when he says that the Anglo German treaty (1890) that gave Malawi sole ownership of the lake is flawed.
Malawi’s new President, Joyce Banda is confident in the international court that her country will win and that could as well be the case.
But her Excellency Mama Banda should look for old men and women in her country who know the history of the lake.
The history of the lake shows that, from 1915 to 1935, its water levels were so low, many thought the lake might dry up. So if today it recedes so much deep inside Malawi, according to the international law in question, that says the shoreline is the border, it means Tanzania can claim to own all the parts that will be left dry.
Anyway, are there options left for Tanzania other than the international court and going to war? Methinks there is something better but crazy that we can do to put sense into the Malawi leaders... without going against the law or offending anyone.
They say, (sometimes) that the law does not necessary deliver justice. And in the world of the most successful businesspeople, they say, bend the law as much as possible so long as you don’t break it.
There is something that can politely be done by Tanzania and can be a lesson to Malawi as well. I know it sounds impossible, but it can be done.
River Ruhuhu, which rises in the South of Njombe in Tanzania, is the main tributary that flows and enters Lake Nyasa/ Malawi.
In the name of patriotism, we can artificially change the course of this river, and ensure its waters don’t go to Malawi.
The lake eventually would become so thin, and maybe even run dry. Perhaps, Joyce Banda would then come to Tanzania begging. After all without waters from Tanzania the lake would have no water balance, so it is nonsense to say Tanzania should not have any claim on the lake.
Saumu Jumanne is an Assistant Lecturer, Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE)