Muli bwanji Friends in Malawi, Yes, it is possible to avert war between our countries

August 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Below is my personal response to an article on http://www.nyasatimes.com/malawi/2012/08/15/tanzania-war-threats-on-lake-malawi-the-folly-of-human-wisdom/

I personally take your concern positively. The challenge here is who started pinching the other. Both countries from day one of their independence knew that the border between them is problematic. As we all read from various documents and history the border question between the two countries is an overdue challenge which calls for an immediate solution, the existing ambiguity has been there for too long.  In a good neighborliness spirit therefore Neither Malawi nor Tanzania can take a unanimous decision to use the resources in the lake without prior consultations.

Tanzania through its Petroleum development agency discovered that Malawi have fully allocated Lake Malawi/Lake Nyasa to blocks for oil exploration. I am pretty sure Malawi government understands the contention around this border issue, it could have been therefore wise to consult Tanzania and seek an amicable solution prior to engaging foreign companies to explore resources in such a contested area. UK and Germany pretty know well about this.  It is sad that a UK-based company Surestream Petroleum (http://www.surestream-petroleum.com/our_activities) has been awarded contract by Malawi to conduct oil exploration and did not take due diligence to understand political surroundings of the lake.

Lake Nyasa/Malawi is a direct shared resources to three countries, Mozambique have some stake also in the same. The lake is also an eco-habitat of rare species of marine life, to preserve this God given treasure any major economic undertaking in the water should be thoroughly interrogated to the level that all three countries agree for such activity to be carried out and that both are coordinated to respond in case of any ensuing crisis potential to threatening the ecosystem of the lake.

My understanding, perhaps I am wrong, Malawi government officials stubbornly decided to go ahead with the exploration activities in a full knowledge that they will provoke the other side.  This did not sound good to Tanzania. It implied, in  a way that Malawi is prepared for any eventuality and it won’t halt activities even in the contested area in whatever manner Tanzania would react.

The history betrays both countries. Both countries know the relationship between the two were acrimonious in the 60 and 70s. The border and the fact that Malawi sided with the minority rule in South Africa at a time Tanzania supported armed struggle against the minority rules in the region, were principle issues separating the two countries. And both countries understood it wasn’t the right time to sit on a negotiating table. During Mkapa’s and Mluzi’s era in Tanzania and Malawi respectively two countries had a golden window of opportunity to resolve the border issue but for reasons unknown to me it did not happen! We lost it.

It is still not too late to sit down and talk and hopefully resolve bilaterally. If Malawi and Tanzania focus on the interest of their people especially those who naturally, and since historical times to date, continue to benefit out of this resource, can resolve the stalemate easily. But guess what, if both countries don’t employ wisdom and calmness and restraint from further provocative exchange of words and Malawi continue to carry on assumed whole ownership of the lake and with the activities coded as acts of aggression by Tanzania, we may both be bracing for difficult times ahead. After all If both countries stick to their guns it is difficult to control who will pull the trigger first!

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