Monday, June 3, 2013

Tanzania condemns Malawi over border dispute

Tanzania has brushed off claims by the Malawian government that it has been intervening works being undertaken by former SADC Heads of State in their efforts to resolve border conflict between the two States. Speaking to reporters recently in Dar es Salaam, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Bernad Membe said the Tanzania government has recalled its officer Dr John Tesha, whom the Malawian government claims, has been leaking information to Tanzania government. Membe has also called on the Malawian government to respect the agreement the two governments put forward in their last meeting held in Dar es Salaam on 17th November last year whereby, the two parties had decided to take their matter to former Heads of government of SADC region. The decision was reached after having held a series of four meetings to amicably resolve the matter which the two states had agreed and or disagreed. At the end of the meeting it was decided to forward the matter to the respective former heads of governments of SADC region committee members led by Joachim Chisano for resolution. As the committee is yet to give out the outcome of the dispute, Malawian government has put many claims as to how they have lost confidence with the arbitration committee members on the grounds that, one member Dr. John Tesha has been leaking the information to Tanzania government. However, Minister Membe has dismissed such claims saying as baseless and that do not bear any truth in it, and in view of this has urged the Malawian government to honour the agreement which they had arrived at in their last meeting held in mid of November last year. The November agreement made clear that, in case one State would not be satisfied by the decision passed by the committee members of SADC heads of States, then it would be allowed to make an appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for further judgment. After having realized contradiction in between is emerging from Malawians, Membe noted that, the government had sent a request to remove Dr. Tesha among the list and be replaced by former Mozambican Foreign Minister Leonard Simao which has been done.  “This is the second time the Malawian government raises claims that Tanzania is doing secret plans in order to be favoured by members of the Arbitration committee” he said adding that, earlier the Malawian government had claimed that, Tanzania had changed the map that shows the demarcation of its Southern Highland region which ironically was not a factor that was meant to disengage evidences. This is not the first time Malawi has made such claims, which are baseless much as they are outrageous as all world maps and the fact on the ground shows that the lake transcends the common border and each country has got an equal right to it. Residents in parts of Mbinga District in Ruvuma Region, which are of course very much inside Tanzania, have always depended on the lake for their water (with its various uses) and fish needs. It has also been a tourist attraction with visitors arriving to sample its beauty. In view of the current situation, the government has issued its five stances over the continued dispute which is not yet resolved and among the most important point it has dismissed claims by Malawian government that, Tanzania receives back information from its committee member. The government has openly said that, it has a confidence with Chisano’s committee members as it has drawn people of high calibre who include former Botswana’s President Festus Mogoe, former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki and himself Joachim Chisano former Mozambican President. Others are lawyers who are experts in conflict resolutions which is consists of 7 people drawn from different African countries. These include Judge Raymond Ranjeva a retired judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Professor George Kanyeihamba, a retired judge of the Ugandan High Court. Others are Judge Baney Afako a legal consultant for Africa Union in issues related with Sudan border conflict, Dr. Gbanga Oduntun a law Professor and a member of the crisis commission of the border dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon. Others are Professor Martin Pratt, the Director of the Geographical research activities on issues related with border disputes, Dr. Dire David Tladi, a member of the law commission from the United Nations, and of issues, and Miguel Chisano head of the institute which is primarily concerned with the border disputes in the sea and in dry land. Membe also noted that, the government is worried to see that, instead of Malawian government to keep waiting for the outcome to be released by the Chisano’s committee, it has been speculating rumours through media organs purporting the truth about the matter. In view of this, however, he has asked the government of Malawi to stop intermediating by forwarding their claims to western media organs such as in US,UK and EU and instead it should wait to see what Chisano’s committee would decide and contrary to that, then it would appeal to ICJ if not satisfied as earlier agreed in last November meeting. He also noted that, on Thursday this week, he received a letter from the Chairman of the former SADC leaders Joachim Chisano ensuring him that, the committee members is still going on with the mediation activities though are late to submit their decision since the submission of their request that had to be worked for three months’ time. However, Chisano noted in his letter that, he was busy with the recent Kenya elections and that he had not yet had enough professional members in matters related to border conflict resolutions that he took time to look for. However, he has promised to submit their report sooner. As the Chisano’s committee is still working on the issue, Tanzania government has asked the Malawian government not to tamper with the status core of the area in dispute. Minister Membe noted that, the Malawian people are still doing the exploration activities in the area which they vividly know is against once such an area is still in conflict and the owner has not yet been declared. He queried in disgust and wanted the message to reach the Malawian government. Meanwhile, many Tanzanians will remember the year 2012 as yet another point in time when the Lake Nyasa border dispute became a thorny issue. The historical mix-up on the legal border line had created panic and fear as dialogues between Tanzania and Malawi came to a deadlock. The origin of the current crisis between Tanzania and Malawi is an agreement made between the British and the Germans on July 1, 1890. The agreement known as the Treaty of Heligoland (The Anglo-Germany Heligoland Treaty) was signed in Berlin, Germany, between the British and the Germans. In the case of Lake Nyasa, the British and the Germans agreed that the border should be on Tanzania's shores and the whole lake was declared to be on Malawi's side. In the sixth section (Article VI) of the Convention, the colonists agreed to make border adjustments if necessary, depending on the circumstances and situation of the place. From such a background, Malawi's argument is based on the 1890's agreement but Tanzania bases on the 1982 UN Convention on Law of the Sea that stipulates that in case nations are bordered by a water body (sea or lake), the border of the two nations will always be on the middle of the water body. Several meetings between the ministers of foreign affairs of both countries and other representatives have been held in a quest to find a lasting solution amicably but every part stood firm to defend its position on the matter to the extent that the dialogues reached a deadlock.

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