13 August 2012

Tanzania: Banda Says Ready to Die for

Photo: Paul venter/wikipedia
Lake Malawi (file photo).

JUST a week before a meeting between government officials from Tanzania and Malawi regarding a dispute on the ownership of Lake Nyasa, the President of Malawi, Ms Joyce Banda, has been quoted as saying that she is ready to die for her country.

Press reports from Malawi quoted Ms Banda as making an emotional declaration on Saturday that she shall die for her country, in what was seen as a defiant insinuation to statements made by Tanzanian officials that the country was ready in case of provocation.

The Malawian leader had not commented on the row with Tanzania before but speaking at a Ngoni traditional festival, Ms Banda said emphatically in a move unrelated to the function; "I shall die for the people of Malawi. I shall die for the land of Malawi."

Tanzania and Malawi have of late been at loggerheads over ownership of Lake Nyasa, also known as Lake Malawi in Malawi. At the heart of the controversy is the declaration by Malawi that it (Malawi) owns the entire Lake save for a portion that is in Mozambique. The country went as far as granting oil and gas prospecting licences to Surestream Petroleum of UK.

The dispute over the third-largest fresh water resource in Africa has escalated because Tanzania is demanding that Malawi halt exploration activities granted to the British company which is currently conducting an environmental impact assessment.

Reached for comment, the Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security, Mr Mussa Azzan (Ilala - CCM), said; "We believe discussions will solve the impasse and hence no need for threats."

Mr Azzan, popularly known as Zungu, said he hoped the matter would be solved amicably through negotiations. The MP, however, cited the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol which prevents member countries from engaging in warfare.

"Otherwise, Tanzania can prove its case anywhere in the world. Even the AU (African Union) Charter to which Malawi is a signatory, clearly states that if countries are separated by water bodies then the border would be at the centre," he stated. He argued also that if the entire Lake belonged to Malawi, Tanzania would not have been allowed to construct a port at Mbamba Bay.

Meanwhile, Tanzanians and Malawians have continued to trade verbal abuse on online editions of Malawian newspapers. Others have been calling for a war while a handful of sober citizens from the two countries want the matter to be addressed through negotiations.

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