Blantyre, Malawi, Oct. 2 (Newstime Africa) – Malawi President Joyce Banda has announced that Malawi was suspending dialogue with its northern neighbour Tanzania over the border dispute because the issue has gone “to the next level”. ”It’s now a big issue,” Banda told a news conference Tuesday on arrival in Lilongwe from New York where she made her maiden appearance at the United nations.”We wrote a letter to Tanzania protesting while at the United Nations.”
President Banda said she has decided to call off the dialogue because her Tanzanian counterpart Jokaya Kikwete was bluffing her. ”My brother Kikwete that day on TV assured me (during talks on the sidelines of a Southern Africa Development Community [SADC] summit in Mozambique) that this is not a question to worry about because there was no question of war between Malawi and Tanzania,” she said. “(But) when that statement was made.
President Kikwete said and I quote: ‘Malawians are denying Tanzanians their right to their lake but at the same time our rivers flow into the lake.’”
Banda said following the Maputo talks with Kikwete she thought the issue could easily be resolved diplomatically but following Tanzania’s actions she saw no
point in the talks. She alleged that Malawian fishermen are being caught and harassed when they go to fish on the lake.
She also said she has information that Tanzania has deployed a gun-boat on the lake.
“We have received information that if our boat gets anywhere near the border they are going to blow it up,” she said. “It wasn’t a big issue, now it is. I
(have therefore) asked the Foreign Affairs Minister to inform Tanzania that there is no point to continue the dialogue until this matter is resolved because
I don’t understand why our fishermen must be harassed and abused on the lake.”
She added: “It’s a very serious matter, now it has gone to the next level.”
Tanzania is claiming the northern part of Lake Malawi which they still call Lake Nyasa owing to its colonial name. The issue first blew up in the 1960s soon
after the two countries gained independence but then President Hastings Kamuzu Banda and his Tanzanian counterpart, Julius Nyerere, resolved it. It has just
resurfaced after Malawi recently commissioned a British firm to explore the possibility of oil underneath the lake.
Tanzania has demanded a halt in the oil exploration until the issue is resolved. A meeting on the issue between Malawi and Tanzania in the northern Malawi
city of Mzuzu in August failed to reach a compromise. A follow up meeting was scheduled in Tanzania for later this month.
But before the scheduled meeting Tanzania launched a new map showing part of Lake Malawi as belonging to Tanzania.
Decades before Hastings Banda and Nyerere sparred over the lake the British, which colonised Malawi (then known as Nyasaland) and Tanzania’s colonialists,
the Germans, agreed that the lake belonged to Malawi under the Helgoland Treaty of 1890.(rt)
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