12 September 2012

Tanzania: This Lake Nyasa of Ours!

Photo: Paul venter/wikipedia
Tanzania refers to it as Lake Nyasa while Malawi calls it Lake Malawi.


THE front page story we carried in our Tuesday's edition headlined 'Elders rap Malawi over border claims' must have left readers in no further 'doubt' as to the ownership of Lake Nyasa.

In an interview with our correspondent who visited the Tanzania's side of the lake, elders there expressed their disbelief and disgust over the claims by Malawi on an issue that to them seemed 'alien' and a sheer act of provocation.They had been born and brought up in the shores of the lake and have been largely dependent on it for their livelihood. So why all the fuss now, they have been left wondering.

Frankly speaking, no right-thinking Tanzanian or Malawian of this generation has ever expressed doubt on the joint ownership of the lake, Africa's third largest and the world's eighth largest, between Tanzania and Malawi - and to some extent, Mozambique.

Despite the two names for the lake, Malawi preferred and still prefers to call it Lake Malawi while Tanzania stuck to its original name of Nyasa, the joint ownership of the lake has never been in doubt until our southern neighbours started developing 'other ideas.'

Trans-territorial lakes and rivers are a common topographical feature all over the world. Let's take the Danube River, which passes through Romania, Hungary, Serbia, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Ukraine and Moldova, as one example. Take Lake Victoria, which is owned by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, as another, not forgetting River Nile.

Agreed; there could arise some unprecedented disputes over the use of the water bodies' resources by the riparian states from time to time. But as experience has shown, such matters have always been amicably solved to the contentment of all parties concerned.

It is, therefore, rather absurd and at folly's height for our southern neighbours to claim total ownership of the lake contrary to agreement(s). One thing is crystal clear as the waters of the lake itself and that is the oil and other resources' find along the shores and the quest of the whole or larger cake for them!

That is fine, in fact, very fine. But the lake has its borders, with both Tanzania and Malawi having their share. After all, the latter have the bigger share of it! Let them concentrate on their territory and leave us alone.

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