- Published on Monday, 06 August 2012 09:32
- Written by STAFF WRITER
- Hits: 1783
THE on and off Malawi and Tanzania border ‘dispute’ is on again. If anything, it is Malawi who are the provocateurs.
In parliament last week, East African Cooperation Minister and then Acting Prime Minister, Mr Samuel Sitta, warned that Tanzania will not hesitate to respond to any military provocation from our southern neighbours over their claims that Lake Nyasa, which they have preferred to call Lake Malawi belongs to them.
Mr Sitta’s statement in the House was prompted by a recent statement made by a senior Malawian official, a principal secretary (our equivalent of a permanent secretary) who said that the neighbouring country will not hesitate to use military force to defend ‘their lake’.
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.
First to make such outrageous claim was Malawi’s first president, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who repeatedly in the 1960s and 1970s claimed ‘full ownership’ of the lake and at some stage even deployed military boats to patrol its waters’ expanse, which was a pure act of provocation against Tanzania.
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.
The fact, as we all know it and as the world knows it, is that Lake Nyasa, one of the largest lakes in the Great African Rift Valley area, is bordered by three African countries of Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.
It is the third largest lake in Africa after Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika. It even gave Malawi its pre-independence era name, Nyasaland.
Located in the southwest of Tanzania, the lake is spread over an area of 11,400 square kilometers. The depth of the lake also reaches to 700 meters in certain places. Lake Nyasa has some special features, which make the lake very attractive. Fourteen rivers flow into this large lake, but only River Shire flows out from Lake Nyasa to the sea.
Encompassed by the Livingstone Mountains and the Nyika Plateau, a splendid view of the lake can be seen from the top. Those that are advocating for war do not know what they are talking about. Both Tanzania and Malawi have good points to make. Both countries have genuine reasons to claim what they currently claim.
It’s a question of advising them wisely so they may conclude their discussions amicably and peacefully.
The source of the border dispute between the two nations has nothing to do with Malawi or Tanzania. It is purely one of those colonialists-made disputes. Malawi’s argument is based on an agreement of 1890 between former colonial powers that stipulates the border between the two countries as lying along the Tanzanian shore of the lake.
On the other hand, Tanzania’s argument is based 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.
Going by these two international conventions, one would argue that both nations have genuine reasons to claim what they currently claim and it is only peaceful negotiations that will help the two countries to arrive at a meaningful decision.
Above all, both Tanzania and Malawi are poor nations and none can claim to have any military might than the other. In view of this, war between the two friendly neighbours will only exacerbate poverty between the two nations as both of them will channel a good chunk of their meagre revenues to purchasing useless weapons at the expense of investment in social services. Again, the winner here will be the imperialists who manufacture and sell these weapons.
In the same vein, if oil resources were anything to bring a lasting economic prosperity, then the Nigeria’s Niger Delta wouldn’t have been one of the poorest places on earth. Why? It is because oil is not drilled for the good of Africa. It is meant to enrich a white man somewhere in one of the first-world countries.
Inquire from Malawian authorities and you will understand how much will the country be getting when oil is finally found and compare this with what the white guy who is exploring for oil will be going home with. You should definitely laugh at the bones that Malawi will be receiving and thus you will regard yourself as a foolish fellow if you were one of those advocating for war.
Tanzania also gives another good example of how Africa’s resources are swindled. The country is the third largest producer of gold in Africa after South Africa and Ghana but Tanzania gets less than 10 per centof gold revenues.
Besides, both nations have something to depend from one another. In the present-day Malawi, Kiswahili is almost their third language, thanks to the increasing number of Swahili/Taifa (Tanzanian) traders in Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Blantyre, Nkhata-Bay, etc.
By one account, the number of Tanzanians living in Malawi (legally and illegally) goes beyond 100,000 and a number of them have crossed the same lake and are engaging in fishing even in rural areas of Malawi. On the other hand, Tanzania is home to thousands of Malawians, some of whom entered the country in such of jobs during the colonial time.
Some of them were even incorporated in the systems of the two countries, especially in Tanzania where they worked as teachers, doctors in addition to undertaking such low-profile jobs as domestic workers. Some of them have permanently settled in Tanzania, taking up the country’s citizenship.
In most cases, any war between two African nations (God Forbid) will translate into a war between the two First World countries that have vested interests in the warring nations. Let all parties see the folly of disunity and border conflict and strive to sit down together and iron out issues in the true good neighbourliness spirit.