REPORTS that President Jakaya Kikwete and his Malawian counterpart, Madame Joyce Banda, have assured nationals of the two countries that no bullet will be fired over the border dispute along Lake Nyasa is indeed a relief to citizens of both countries.
Citizens of the two countries can now breath a sign of relief following the announcement by the Malawian Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Patric Kabambe, sometimes last month (July) that the entire Lake Nyasa (named Lake Malawi by their country) belongs to Malawi and that Tanzanians must be very clear about it.
The statement by the Malawian PS, as well as what followed afterwards in both countries, drew international media attention. It was the legislator from Mbozi, Mr Godfrey Zambi, who drew the attention of the National Assembly that just concluded its budget business in Dodoma that the government of Tanzania must give stand on the media reports citing information that Tanzanians residing in the border region of Mbeya were no longer actively involved in development activities because they were worried about their lives.
It was at this stage that the then Acting Prime Minister and Leader of the Government Business in the House, Mr Samwel Sitta, after being cleared by the leader of the House of the day, to issue a government position on the alleged standoff between Malawi and Tanzania. It is natural for a leader to be seen to stand by and defend his citizens, even if it means going to war, if it needs be. And this is what the Tanzanian leaders assured their citizens.
The statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe, in the august House was precise and clear, that our neighbours should stop any activities, including the research on possible oil and gas on the Lake until the border issue was amicably resolved.
In his words, all diplomatic avenues had to be exhaustively applied before other means were sought. A committee comprising representatives of both countries are scheduled to meet at Mzuzu and Lilongwe for further diplomatic negotiations and come up with workable solutions.
Therefore Tanzanians, and hopefully Malawians, were waiting to see what follows, particularly taking into consideration that citizens surrounding the lake on both countries depend so much on Lake Nyasa for their livelihood.
It is also understood fishing is the main preoccupation of the people in the area and they had been doing so since time immemorial. We are made to believe that even the citizens in this area are not aware of the existence of the border, reported to be marked by German colonialists in the 18th century, which separates the two countries because they had been doing that for generations without any bother.
It is also on record that the founding President of Malawi, Kamuzu Banda, had in the 1960s, also claimed that the entire Lake and part of the then Tanganyika soil, belonged to Malawi but this was amicably resolved by the strong leadership of the Father of the Tanzanian Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, only to resurface again through the statement by the Malawian government PS.
It should be remembered that historically, nationals of the two countries have so much in common, including cultures of the people living along borderlines. For example, it is very difficult to differentiate a person originating from Kyela (on the Tanzanian side) and a Malawian from the northern part of the country in Mzuzu.
Therefore the statement by the two Presidents, who seized time out of their tight schedule on the Southern Africa Conference Community (SADC) Summit on peace and security in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, to clear the air on the alleged standoff between Malawi and Tanzania came at the right time. We hail the Heads of state for the positive gesture that really confirms we are a family and brothers and sisters.
As assured by Presidents of the two countries, Tanzania and Malawi have better things to do to help alleviate poverty among the people by engaging in economically viable development projects for the betterment of the people of the two countries. The leaders have said it all, these are peace loving countries and therefore there is no need to fire bullets against each other. After all, we are brothers and sisters.