As the fight over Lake Malawi between Lilongwe and Dar es Salaam rages on, one of the country’s law experts Edge Kanyongolo has advised Malawian authorities to stay put and not to be moved by the new map being promoted by Tanzania, which shows the north-east part of the lake as belonging to her territory.
Kanyongolo’s remarks come at a time when President Peter Mutharika is scheduled to meet his Tanzanian counterpart, John Magufuli, at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) currently underway in New York where among other things they are expected to discuss the border dispute.
Speaking in a telephone interview the Zomba based Chancellor College Law Lecture, said the new map is illegal and Malawi should not be bothered by it.
Said Kanyongolo: “With regard to the map, I think the (new) map can be ignored, because just a map has no legal significance. You cannot change the boundaries of a country or indeed of a garden in your house by simply saying I have a new map.”
The law expert further said, as a country, Malawi should not be stressed up with an issue that has no legal consequence.
“Malawi should disregard what Tanzania is saying because it has no legal consequence, meaning that it has no impact at all. Drawing of a map has nothing and I think as a country we are getting a little too paranoid about it. If somebody draws a map which has no legal significance you basically just ignore it,” Kanyongolo said.
Tanzania has of late taken interest in the lake after oil was discovered near its shores.
Soon after the new map was released, the government of Malawi issued an alert to all government ministries, departments and agencies to reject it (new map) and be on the lookout.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Francis Kasaila recently told the local media that Malawi had asked Tanzanian authorities to facilitate the meeting of President Peter Mutharika and President John Magufuli at the UNGA to discuss the issue that has disrupted the good relationship between the two nations.
However, Kanyongolo said he sees no need for the two heads of states to meet over this saying it is a straightforward legal issue.
“This is a legal issue and I think if ultimately it is going to be resolved that is the route through which it will be resolved not through the drawing of map or not even through presidents having a chat in the corridors of the United Nations,” he said.
Kanyongolo therefore advised the president and the citizenry to reject the new map and move forward.
The lake dispute dates back to the colonial era where it was ruled that the whole lake belongs to Malawi.
It only resurfaced in 2011 after revelations that the lake has crude oil under it.
In 2012, former presidents from the Southern African region led by former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano were tasked to mediate over the issue after the two disputing sides failed to reach an agreement.