Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

2 September 2012

Tanzania: Kikwete Favours Diplomacy on Lake Nyasa Border Dispute

Photo: Daily News
Lake Nyasa, called Lake Malawi by that country.

PRESIDENT Jakaya Kikwete said diplomatic negotiations over the border dispute between Tanzania and Malawi were still in progress and reiterated his stand against use of military to solve the dispute.

In his monthly address to the nation, the president also urged the media and sections of politicians to avoid making inflammatory statements which might jeopardize the on-going talks between the two countries."I would like to assure my fellow Tanzanians that we are not in any way in a state of war with Malawi and under no circumstances are we preparing for war with our neighbours, because of the on-going border dispute.

"Get rid of fear of war and you should continue with all your activities in the development of your nation as you have always been doing," he reiterated.

President Kikwete also said that he had assured the Malawian President, Ms Joyce Banda, when they held talks in Maputo, Mozambique, last month that Tanzania has no plans to engage into war with Malawi.

The government and all its leaders deemed it important to seize the opportunity now to sit down with Malawi to look for an amicable solution over this issue, which benefits both sides, the President stressed.He explained that the International Law stipulates that where there are natural water catchments between any countries, the border should be in the middle and nowhere else.

He said that more efforts should be focused on supporting peace talks between the two countries and promised that the government would make efforts to update its citizens of all the developments on the talks.He said when Tanzania attained independence in 1961, the debate on the border on Tanganyika and Malawi was brought to Parliament, where it was argued that some effort should be made to establish and maintain dialogue to solve the border dispute for the benefit of all citizens who live along the lake.

According to the president, it was decided that Tanzania should wait until Malawi attains independence so that talks will be done between two independent countries. "Unfortunately it was not that way and things turned out to be complicated and hostile. Three years after the independence of Malawi (1964), on January 3, 1967, the Government of Tanzania wrote a letter to the government of Malawi to explain the border issues and recommend our two countries should talk and come up with a solution," he said.

He said that fortunately on 24 January 1967, the Government of Malawi replied and acknowledged receiving the letter and promised that they will provide the answers in a short while. However, he said on June 27, 1967, President Kamuzu Banda while addressing the National Assembly of Malawi, refused Tanzania's request, saying that Tanzania's claim was not genuine and that historically Songea, Njombe and Mbeya was part of Malawi, thus, negotiations came to a halt.

"Tanzania did not give up. When Bakili Muluzi was elected, new efforts were made but they did not pay off. On June 9, 2005, Malawi's third president, Bingu Wa Mutharika, who is now dead, wrote a letter to former Tanzanian president, Benjamin William Mkapa and advised him that our two countries should negotiate on the border of Lake Nyasa," the president said.

The president said so far three meetings of the Joint Commission took place, the first was held on September 8 to 10, 2010, the second on July 27 - 28, 2012 in Dar es Salaam and the third was held in Mzuzu and Lilongwe on August 20 to 27, 2012.He said several steps have been taken towards reaching consensus, but nothing has been agreed upon Tanzania's claims of wanting the border to be at the centre of the lake and Malawi's insistence that the border should be along the shores.

The origin of the current crisis between our two countries is an agreement between the British and the Germans on the border between our countries made on July 1, 1890. The agreement known as the Treaty of Heligoland (The Anglo-Germany Heligoland Treaty) was signed in Berlin, Germany, between the British and the Germans.

In the case of Lake Nyasa, the British and the Germans agreed that the border should be on Tanzania's shores and the whole lake was declared to be on Malawi's side and on the case of River Songwe, they declared that the border should be on the shores of Malawi and the river became part of Tanzania.

In the sixth section (Article VI) of the Convention, the colonists agreed to make border adjustments if necessary, depending on the circumstances and situation of the place. In order to enforce these requirements in 1898, the Boundaries Commission was created.

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