TANZANIA has submitted a document to the Forum of Former African Heads of State and Governments stating the country's position on the Lake Nyasa's dispute.
The move comes hardly a month after Tanzania and Malawi submitted letters of application to the Forum's Chairman, Mr Joaquim Chissano, in December, requesting the Forum to mediate the border dispute, after the two countries failed to reach a consensus.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Mr John Haule, told the 'Daily News' that the forum was now making a review of the submitted documents. "We have submitted a document explaining our position on the matter.
The forum is now reviewing the document and will thereafter seek consultation if it is needed, but we expect that they will be able to conclude the matter in three months," he said. In late December, last year, Mr Chissano, who is also former President of Mozambique, received the letters from foreign affairs ministers of the two countries in Maputo. The ministers were accompanied by their Attorneys General.
The African forum is made up of retired democratically- elected presidents from Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. The Tanzanian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Mr Bernard Membe, was quoted as saying that former presidents from countries in the dispute (Tanzania, Malawi and Zanzibar) will not be involved in the mediation process.
Mr Membe who was accompanied by Attorney General, Judge Frederick Werema stressed that Tanzania was confident that the matter would be ruled in its favour. "History speaks in our favour in the disputes. "The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has always ruled in favour of the median line border, as guided by the Customary International Law which states that when water bodies lie between two or three countries, the median line forms the boundary," he said.
He also said Tanzania has a firm trust in the SADC, saying its leaders are well informed about the nature of the dispute. "We are not worried at all. Even Mr Chissano himself comes from a country which had a similar problem, but was solved amicably in 1953. "The 1890 treaty which gives opportunity for two countries to meet and decide on the suitable borderline was cited," he said.
Unfortunately, by the time Mozambique was negotiating the matter, Tanganyika which was Trustee under the British government, could not, as Malawi was also under the same colonial ruler, whereas the agreement provides for negotiation between two states with a different leadership, he said.
Neighbouring Malawi is claiming all of the Lake Nyasa, citing the Heligoland Treaty of 1890 between Britain and Germany. Malawi was then under British rule while Tanganyika was a German colony. Tanzania wants a partition drawn in the middle of the lake, stressing that this is the practice among countries which share water bodies. Malawi's decision to give whole exploration rights to a British company, Surestream, ignited the current dispute.