The border dispute between Tanzania and Malawi (see TA 103) has taken a new twist, prompting the contending parties to seek mediation before retired eminent persons of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, Bernard Membe, told journalists that this latest move was reached to avert a looming stalemate over the exact ownership of Lake Nyasa. Membe said the two sides had now officially agreed that there were two fundamental issues – Malawi maintains that the Lake north of Mozambique belongs to Malawi in keeping with the 1890 treaty signed between the German Government for Tanganyika and the British Government for Nyasaland, while Tanzania maintains that her border passes straight through the middle of the Lake – splitting the northern part of the water body roughly into two equal parts – as an international border.
Given such fundamental differences, both sides had seen the need to find a mediator to lead the next processes of the negotiations, with a view to finding a lasting solution to the dispute. It was therefore proposed that they should send a letter to the SADC mediation committee, chaired by former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano, early in December. The letter will request the former Mozambican leader to form a team of professional lawyers and other experts from across the African continent that would help sort out the legal aspects. The committee would have three months to tender its recommendations i.e. by late March 2013.
The minister added that should a decision mutually acceptable to the contending parties elude this committee, the matter would then be taken before “the highest levels of international arbitration”, such as the International Court of Justice, for further mediation. Membe said an appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would be made in accordance with the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969), which could provide the framework for a speedy solution. He explained that the meeting had been called specifically to discuss the various options available for resolving the boundary issue which had been recommended by the joint committee of officials from both countries who had met on November 18.
Malawian Foreign Affairs Minister Ephraim Chiume expressed optimism and thanked President Jakaya Kikwete and President Joyce Banda for the steps they had taken to ensure the matter would be resolved amicably.