26 December 2012

Tanzania: Churches Cannot Solve Border Dispute - Minister

Photo: Paul venter/wikipedia
Lake Malawi.

THE Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe, has ruled out the possibilities of mediation on the Lake Nyasa dispute within the interested countries (Tanzania and Malawi).

Mr Membe said this over the weekend as Tanzania and Malawi submitted letters of application to the Chairperson of the Forum of Former African Heads of State and Governments, Mr Joaquim Chissano, requesting the Forum to mediate the Lake Nyasa border dispute, after the two countries failed to reach a consensus.

"This submission of joint letters means that the chapter for internal mediation dialogues between the two countries is closed and all the hopes are now on the Forum to decide on the matter," he said. He said that had there been any avenue to seek the solution to the row internally, that would be the way to go but the decision which was reached in November by both countries to move forward to the Forum means that internal avenues have been exhausted.

Mr Membe's statement shows that current intention by the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) and its counterpart the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) to intervene and mediate the dispute is belated as the matter has already gone beyond the two countries.

The MCC and CCT are said to have made the agreement following a clear stalemate which has forced the two countries to approach the Forum 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 deadlock of the dialogue between the two countries.

Mr Chissano, who is also a Former President of Mozambique, received the joint letters of application to mediate on the matter on Friday 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.

Receiving the applications, Mr Chissano said he was humbled by the trust the two countries have put in the forum and that he would make sure a solution is worked out. "We (the forum) have happily accepted the task. We know that it is not easy but we will make sure we find a solution," he said.

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