The Malawi Government has expressed concern over sudden cancellation of the mediation talks on the Lake Malawi boundary dispute with Tanzania which were scheduled to take place in South Africa, on 8th and 9th May, 2017.
According to a statement released by government, the postponement further protracts the conclusion of the matter on the resumption of the mediation process which emanated from the meeting President Peter Mutharika had with his counterpart President John Pombe Magufuli on the sidelines of the African Union Assembly Ethiopia, on 30th January.
“During the meeting, the two leaders resolved that the mediation process on the Lake Malawi boundary dispute be revived after a prolonged break since March 2014.
“Consequently, former Joaquim Chissano, former President of the Republic of Mozambique and the Chairperson of the High Level Mediation Team (HLMT) invited Malawi and Tanzania to resume the mediation talks which were scheduled to take place from 8th to 9th May, 2017.
“Malawi confirmed its participation after consultations with Tanzania. However, on 4th May, 2017, the Government of Malawi received communication on the postponement of the meeting by the Chairperson of the HLMT at the instance of the Government of Tanzania,” says the statement.
According to the statement, at the meeting the mediation team was expected to advise the two on the next course of action.
“The HLMT was of the view that through the benefits accrued in the process, the boundary dispute would eventually be resolved but both Malawi and Tanzania delegations did not agree with the HLMT on the proposal and reaffirmed that the boundary issue be resolved first.
“The HLMT, therefore, promised to proceed on the basis of submissions by the two countries and advise on the next course of action at the subsequent meeting,” says the statement.
Malawi and Tanzania have been fighting over the ownership of part of the lake since 2012.
Malawi maintains that the boundary is the shoreline of Lake Malawi as established by Article 1(2) of the 1890 Anglo-German Treaty hence the lake belongs to Malawi in its entirety.
On the other hand, Government of Tanzania claims that the boundary is the median line of the lake based on principles of customary international law. It even produced a new map showing the disputed portion of the lake as part of Tanzania.
Recently, High Commissioner of Tanzania to Malawi Victoria Mwakasege told the media that her government wants to have a share of the oil which Malawi plans to drill.
But Malawi has expressed concern over the remarks saying this has never been Tanzania’s position from the beginning.
The Lake Malawi dispute started way back in the 1960s but the current wrangle began after Malawi awarded licences to various companies to search for oil and gas on the lake.