Tanzania and Malawi plan to seek mediation from former heads of state in Southern Africa to help resolve a long-running border dispute over Lake Malawi. The lake is believed to have rich oil and gas reserves.
Foreign ministers of the two countries are scheduled to meet former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, chairman of the forum, on Friday as part of a regional effort to resolve the border impasse.
“We have reached a point where we said that we cannot solve the problem of dispute between the two of us,” said Patrick Kabambe, permanent secretary at Malawi’s foreign affairs ministry. “So, we had agreed to involve a third party and the third party identified was the forum for former presidents of Southern Africa.”
“The two foreign ministers will put in a request today for the forum to mediate the dispute between the two countries,” he added.
Malawi claims jurisdiction over the entire lake, while Tanzania contends it is entitled to half of the lake.
“Tanzania stood by their belief that the border lies in the middle of the lake and Malawi still goes by the 1890 treaty between the Germans and the British, which puts the border at the shores of the lake,” said Kabambe.
A recent meeting between Malawi President Joyce Banda and Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete was unable to resolve the dispute.
Analysts say the border disagreement could sour diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Kabambe says there is a possibility the two countries could seek international arbitration if they are not satisfied with a solution proposed by the forum of former leaders in the region.
“Our agreement is we expect it to be done between January and March, but of course subject to what the forum says,” continued Kabambe. “But in the event that we don’t agree that the forum is able to resolve the matter, we have agreed to go jointly [to] the International Court of Justice, to make a final determination on the issue.”
Kabambe however noted that both of the governments have confidence in the ability of the forum to resolve the dispute.
“We will like to resolve the matter as peacefully as possible. This is the reason why we have spent a lot of hours on the negotiation table because we realize that if we don’t talk, indeed it may lead to violence,” said Kabambe.
“We have gone out way out to appeal to Malawians not to mistreat Tanzanians [and] we’ve been informed that Tanzanians have also saying the same to the people in Tanzania,” he concluded.