News / Africa

Malawi, Tanzania Lock Horns Over Lake

A fisherman prepares fish beside Lake Malawi, 120 km (75 miles) east of the capital Lilongwe, Malawi, April 3, 2009.
A fisherman prepares fish beside Lake Malawi, 120 km (75 miles) east of the capital Lilongwe, Malawi, April 3, 2009.
Lameck Masina
BLANTYRE, Malawi — Malawi and Tanzania are expected to hold a high level meeting August 20 on their standoff over oil and gas exploration in and ownership of Lake Malawi. The body of water - also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania - is the third-largest fresh water resource in Africa. 

The dispute escalated last year when Malawi’s late president Bingu wa Mutharika granted British company Surestream Petroleum rights to explore the lake for oil and gas. Surestream is currently conducting an environmental impact assessment.

The move infuriated Tanzania - which claims 50 percent of the lake. The government in Arusha is demanding a halt to all exploration activities until the question of ownership is resolved.

Malawi sources its ownership of the entire lake to an 1890 treaty between former colonial powers Britain and Germany and says it was later reaffirmed by the Organization of African Unity as Malawi was gaining its independence in the early 1960s.  

Malawi also says the treaty known as Heligoland was further reinforced and adopted by resolutions of the African Union in 2002 and 2007.

Simburashe Mungoshi is a history and political science lecturer at the Malawi Polytechnic.

“By this treaty it is clearly stated that the eastern boundary of Malawi and Tanzania is on the shores of Lake Malawi. However the treaty allowed the Tanganyika [now Tanzania] territory to use the waters for fishing and even for transportation," said Mungoshi. "Otherwise they recognize that the shores were the boundary and then there was the Organization of African Union which said upon independence the existing boundaries should be respected.”

Tanzania rejects colonial era agreements as permanent and argues most international law supports sharing common bodies of water by bordering nations.

The dispute goes back almost 50 years after both countries became independent.

Mungoshi suggests the dispute can only be resolved by compromise.

“When these boundaries were agreed upon by the British and Germans it was a give and take game," said the lecturer. "The British had to give up claims in some territories in Tanganyika area. Needless to say the Germans had also to give up. So in which case, if Tanzania wants a change in boundaries it would be a give and take. If they want something they must give something. Malawi is a land locked country; we need access to the sea. May be they could give us an equivalent piece of land to take us to the sea.”

However there is no indication that such a trade would be possible.

Chairperson of Tanzania’s Parliamentary Committee for Defense, Security and Foreign Affairs, Edward Lowassa, is quoted in a Tanzania online publication The Citizen  as telling reporters this month that the country is ready to wage war against Malawi if the issue “reaches the war stage.”

The statement has ignited fear among Malawians living in the border districts of Chitipa and Karonga.

Malawi’s Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Uladi Mussa told a local radio Zodiak Broadcasting Station that Malawians have nothing to fear as discussions are underway to resolve the issue.  

“I would like to assure people in Chitipa and Karonga as well as all Malawians in this country, that issues of boundaries between Malawi and Tanzania are amicably being resolved. They are at discussion level. So they should not be living in fear at all. Legally Lake Malawi belongs to Malawi government,” said the minister.

But he maintains that the whole lake belongs to Malawi and there is no way the country can halt oil and gas exploration.

A home to about 1,000 endemic species of fish Lake Malawi is located at the junction of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. It sustains nearly 10 million people in these three countries.

You May Like

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid