25 December 2012

Malawi: Churches to Intervene On Nyasa Row

Photo: Flickr
The lake which Tanzania calls Lake Nyasa and Malawi calls Lake Malawi.

MALAWI Council of Churches (MCC) and its counterpart the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) have agreed that they should intervene and mediate in the ongoing Lake Malawi/Nyasa border dispute.

MCC and CCT made the agreement following a clear stalemate which has forced the two countries to approach the Southern African Development Community (SADC) former heads of state for assistance.

In a letter, MCC General Secretary Reverend Osborne Joda-Mbewe told his CCT counterpart Reverend Leonard Mtaita that the council in Malawi is deeply concerned about the stalemate that seems to be the order of the day in the ongoing dialogue between the two countries.

Last Friday, Tanzania and Malawi submitted letters of application to the Chairperson of the Forum of Former African Heads of State and Governments, Mr Joaquim Chissano asking the Forum to mediate the Lake Nyasa row after the two countries failed to reach a consensus on the matter.

Mr Chissano, who is also the Former President of Mozambique, received the letters from the ministers of foreign affairs of the countries in question in Maputo. The foreign ministers were accompanied by Attorneys General of both countries.

The forum is made of retired democratically elected Presidents from the countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The Tanzanian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Mr Bernard Membe, told a team of members of press that the Forum was expected to work on the matter within four months from the day of submission.

According to the MCC's letter, the council requests the General Secretary of the Christian Council of Tanzania to advise as to how best they (the two councils) can engage mediation pastoral role to ensure a peaceful end to the matter at hand.

"The Council holds that Malawi and Tanzania have been good neighbours for decades, and that their peoples have been one in Christ Jesus. "The council was mindful that both governments are committed to resolving the matter peacefully, but feel disturbed about the seeming loggerhead that has started to characterize the discussions," reads part of the letter. Added Joda-Mbewe:

"Our worry and concern is that should the SADC ex-heads fail to resolve the matter, it may blow out of proportion and lives of innocent people in the two neighbouring countries may be brought to danger. The current development calls for churches to pray asking God to timely intervene for a peaceful solution."

In the same letter he asked all political and other leaders in the dialogue to "maintain some level of good headedness and soberness, and discuss the issue with a view to normalize the relations since we are neighbours and worship the same one Lord Jesus Christ".

Joda-Mbewe also asked all stakeholders at different levels to exercise great restraint and caution through the dialogue process. 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.

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