April 19, 2014
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Lilongwe, Charles Mkula –  In the midst of stalled territorial dispute negotiations over ownership of part of the north eastern part of Lake Malawi between Malawi and its neighbour Tanzania, German Ambassador to Malawi Dr. Peter Woeste has named a newly constructed youth centre in the Malawian northern mountainous district of Rumphi bordering Lake Malawi after the first German explorer to discover Lake Malawi, Albrecht Roscher.

Dr Peter Woeste – German Ambassador

The 23 year old German scientist came to Malawi two months after British explorer and missionary David Livingstone in 1859.

Woeste said Roscher came to Nyasaland under the Hamburg Trade Company and became the first German to discover Lake Malawi on his mission to establish trade links with Africa before he was murdered in Tanzania.

“Roscher travelled from Mombasa into Malawi, then Nyasaland through the north and went as far as Nkhota kota before returning to Tanganyika (Tanzania) where he was murdered,” Said Woeste pointing out the discovery of the lake was made before the Heligoland Treaty was signed by British and German colonial powers who occupied the Malawi and Tanzania respectively.

The German top diplomat said he named the centre as an honour to the fallen youthful explorer as well as to instil a sense of self confidence and responsibility to Malawian youth in their pursuit for national development.

The Roscher Youth Development Centre comprising of office and conference rooms has been handed to the Rumphi Young Politicians Union who have been receiving financial support from the German Government since 2008.

German is one of Malawi’s traditional donor partners and has provided 900 million EUR in bilateral aid to Malawi. In the period 2011 / 2012 it spent EUR 61.2 million.

The European country’s’ budget support to Malawi is EUR 20 million, out of which EUR 15 million have not yet been released.

Malawi and Tanzania are in a protracted border dispute talks following Tanzania’s claim to half of the portion on the lake when Malawi position is that the whole lake is its own.

Tanzania argues that the Anglo-German Treaty (Heligoland Treaty) of 1890 that gave Malawi sole ownership of the lake was flawed.

Tanzanian President Jikaya Kikwete was quoted in a state of the nation address in Tanzania in August as saying his country wanted the anomaly to be corrected. He said the treaty denied Tanzanians living on the shores of Lake Malawi “their given right to utilize proximate water and marine resources.

Lake Malawi, also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Niassa in Mozambique, is an African Great Lake in the East African Rift Valley system. It is Africa’s third largest lake and the world’s eighth largest located between Malawi (formerly Nyasaland), Mozambique and Tanzania. It is the second deepest lake in Africa and reportedly the habitat of more species of fish than those of any other body of freshwater on earth, including more than 1000 fish species.

Tanzania claims that the international border runs through the middle of the lake. On the other hand, Malawi claims the whole of the surface of this lake that is not in Mozambique, including the waters that are next to the shoreline of Tanzania.

Both sides cite the Heligoland Treaty between Great Britain and Germany who colonized Malawi and Tanzania respectively.

However during discussions held in August in Malawi, the Tanzanian delegation based their argument on Section 6 of the Anglo-Germany Treaty which gives room for corrections and countries to renegotiate their territorial borderies.

In 1954 another agreement was signed between the British and the Portuguese making the middle of the lake their boundary with the exception of the only two inhabited islets, Chizumulu Island and Likoma Island, which were kept by the British and are now part of Malawi.

Immediately after Malawi and Tanzania became independent the dispute resurfaced but was quailed after Malawi President late Dr. Hasting Kamuzu Banda threatened to declare war on Tanzania.

However, the issue has re-appeared after Malawi granted an oil exploration license to British firm Surestream to explore oil and natural gases. Tanzania has demanded that exploration be halted until the dispute was settled.

Malawi President Joyce Banda held talks over the issue on the sidelines of a Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) summit in Maputo, Mozambique, where the latter assured her the issue would be resolved amicably.

Unfortunately the negotiations hit a snag leading Malawi President Joyce Banda to order her negotiating team to withdraw from the talks on her return from the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, where she also briefed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the stand-off.

Banda said following the drawing of a map giving part of the lake to Tanzania by the northern neighbor, alleged harassment of Malawian fishermen by Tanzanian authorities including patrolling of the disputed area, Malawi had decided look for other options of resolving the dispute which included taking the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Malawi minister of forien affairs and international cooperation Empraim Mganda Chiume earlier defended the need to approach ICJ saying the matter was a complex legal issue.

Meanwhile, Tanzania has preferred taking the issue to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) or the African Union for mediation.

However Chiume is on record as saying that instead of wasting time with mediation it was better to approach the ICJ saying as “Malawi was prepared to respect any determination by the court”.

He intimated situations were where Botswana and Namibia tried to use a mediator over a border dispute until the matter went to the international court “President Banda would like this issue to be resolved peacefully and diplomatically,” said Chiume.

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Charles Mkula is Newstime Africa's Southern Africa Editor

Charles Mkula
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