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Malawi, Tanzania lake dispute: Mbeki, Chissano and Mogae roped in to mediate

Three former presidents from the Sadc region, including South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki, are expected to form a panel to mediate in the Lake Malawi border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania Nation Online has learnt.

The revelation has come barely one week after Tanzania submitted its position on the dispute to the Forum of Former African Heads of State and Governments, which is currently being chaired by former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano.

In an interview on Monday, Malawi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Principal Secretary Patrick Kabambe said the forum proposed that the mediation process would be done by a panel of three former presidents comprising Chissano, Mbeki and Botswana’s Festus Mogae.

Kabambe, who also confirmed that Malawi has been informed that Tanzania has made its submission, said following the submissions, the two countries will now be waiting to hear from the forum on the way forward.

He said the agreement was that after the submissions the process should start before the end of February.

Tanzanian High Commissioner Patrick Tsere also confirmed that his country has submitted the documents, but also said the process is now ‘entirely’ in the hands of the mediators for a way forward.

Tanzania and Malawi submitted letters of application to Chissano in December requesting the forum to mediate the border dispute, after the two countries failed to reach a consensus.

Malawi submitted its position on the disputed Lake Malawi at the end of January, 2013, meeting the deadline of January 31.

The forum is made up of retired presidents from the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) region.

In the dispute, Malawi is claiming ownership of the entire northern part of Lake Malawi, citing the Heligoland Treaty of 1890 between Britain and Germany. Malawi was then under British rule while Tanganyika was a German colony.

On the other hand, Tanzania wants a partition drawn in the middle of the lake, stressing that this is the practice among countries which share water bodies. The dispute, which is said to be historical, was re-ignited recently, apparently following the revelation that the lake is rich with minerals, including oil.

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