Kitwete bluffing! Fed up, Malawi suspends talks with Tanzania as border spat reaches ‘next level’


Pres Banda said she has decided to call off the dialogue because her Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete was bluffing her.

“My brother Kikwete that day on TV assured me (during talks on the sidelines of a Southern Africa Development Community [SADC] summit in Mozambique) that this is not a question to worry about because there was no question of war between Malawi and Tanzania,” she said. “(But) when that statement was made President Kikwete said and I quote: ‘Malawians are denying Tanzanians their right to their lake but at the same time our rivers flow into the lake.'”

Banda said following the Maputo talks with Kikwete she thought the issue could easily be resolved diplomatically but following Tanzania’s actions she saw no point in the talks. She alleged that Malawian fishermen are being caught and harassed when they go to fish on the lake.

She also said she has information that Tanzania has deployed a gun-boat on the lake.

“We have received information that if our boat gets anywhere near the border they are going to blow it up,” she said. “It wasn’t a big issue, now it is. I (have therefore) asked the Foreign Affairs Minister to inform Tanzania that there is no point to continue the dialogue until this matter is resolved because I don’t understand why our fishermen must be harassed and abused on the lake.”

She added: “It’s a very serious matter, now it has gone to the next level.”

Tanzania is claiming the northern part of Lake Malawi which they still call Lake Nyasa owing to its colonial name. The issue first blew up in the 1960s soon after the two countries gained independence but then President Hastings Kamuzu Banda and his Tanzanian counterpart, Julius Nyerere, resolved it. It has just resurfaced after Malawi recently commissioned a British firm to explore the possibility of oil underneath the lake.

Tanzania has demanded a halt in the oil exploration until the issue is resolved. A meeting on the issue between Malawi and Tanzania in the northern Malawi city of Mzuzu in August failed to reach a compromise. A follow up meeting was scheduled in Tanzania for later this month.

But before the scheduled meeting Tanzania launched a new map showing part of Lake Malawi as belonging to Tanzania.

Decades before Hastings Banda and Nyerere sparred over the lake the British, which colonised Malawi (then known as Nyasaland) and Tanzania’s colonialists, the Germans, agreed that the lake belonged to Malawi under the Helgoland Treaty of 1890.

Malawi-Tanzania lake border dispute dangerous says Malawi President Joyce Banda

Among other undertakings in the US, the president signed a Memorandum of Understanding with US former president Bill Clinton for cooperation between the Clinton Global Initiative and the Presidential Initiative on Hunger and Poverty Reduction

She said 75 percent investors are interested in hydro energy and mining, oil and gas, adding that these investors are expected to visit Malawi in the next two months.

Banda also said she’d signed an agreement with two US=based biotech firms TNI Biotech, Inc. and GB Oncology & Imaging Group LLC (GBOIG) to open an outpatient clinic at Queens Elizabeth Central Hospital for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases.

During the same trip the president received awards for being the Africa’s Most Influential Female Leader of the Year and Leadership in women empowerment.

From the US, president Banda went to South Africa for a two-day 6th African Investment Conference where she said she was committed to putting Malawi among top 100 countries that are good for doing business.

She asserted that it is her wish to see Malawi economy get on track again by promoting prudent fiscal management claiming that the slashing down of the salaries both of president and vice president by 30 percent is one of such measures. She however said she couldn’t force cabinet ministers to do the same.

She also concurred with a report by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) which says the number of people in need of food humanitarian aid between October 2012 and March 2013 has jumped from 1.6 million to 1.76 million.

“I feel like there are over 2 million people who need humanitarian assistance. I have already [advises] the vice president to meet with World Food Program officials to chart the way forward,” Banda said.

Raphael Tenthani is Senior Correspondant for the maravipost

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