Maputo — Former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano is being approached to mediate in the border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania.
According to Malawian Foreign Minister Ephraim Chiume, speaking to a Radio Mozambique correspondent in Blantyre, representatives of the two countries will deliver the formal invitation to Chissano in Maputo on Thursday.
The invitation should have been delivered two weeks ago, but Chiume said that had not been possible, because the Tanzanian side had not concluded its part on time.
Chiume added that Chissano will head a team of former heads of state of SADC (Southern African Development Community) that will mediate the dispute on how the northern part of Lake Niassa should be divided between Tanzania and Malawi.
Since the two countries had failed to resolve the matter between themselves, they had decided to call for assistance from former southern African presidents. Should this mediation fail, said Chiume, the matter will be remitted to the International Court of Justice.
Malawi is claiming all of the northern part of the lake, based on the Heligoland Treaty of 1890 between Britain and Germany – at the time Malawi was under British rule, and Tanganyika was a German colony. Tanzania, however, wants a dividing line drawn through the middle of the lake, which is how boundaries between countries who share lakes are normally dealt with.
Malawi hopes the matter can be resolved by the end of 2013. It has become urgent due to the reserves of oil and natural gas that are believed to lie under the lake. Indeed, it was Malawi’s decision to give exploration rights in the whole lake to a British company, Surestream, that led to the current situation.
Both sides have declared that they will solve the problem through diplomacy, and will not resort to war over the lake.