Last Updated: 2012-08-17
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An NNN-Xinhua News Focus by Cyprian Ndau

LILONGWE, Aug 17 (NNN-XINHUA) -- President Joyce Banda of Malawi has re-assured all Malawians that the wrangle over a border-straddling lake between Malawi and Tanzania will be sorted out peacefully.

President Banda said this at Kamuzu International Airport Thursday before leaving for Mozambique where she is to attend the Summits of Head of State and Government of the Southern African Development Commission (SADC) on Friday and Saturday.

She told reporters that the border dispute between the two countries was not strange, saying the matter arose even during the leadership of two of her predecessors, presidents Kamuzu Banda and Bakili Muluzi, and that it was sorted out peacefully on both occasions "so there was no reason why the matter could not be solved peacefully this time".

The Malawi president said she spoke with President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania over the telephone on Wednesday and she said her counterpart had expressed commitment to have the matter resolved peacefully. President Banda is expected to engage President Kikwete in Maputo on the matter during the SADC Summit.

On Wednesday, President Banda engaged opposition party leaders, the academia and the clergy in a roundtable discussion to find the way forward on the Malawi-Tanzania border issue.

Without revealing the outcome of the meeting, she told reporters Wednesday that she was going to consider all contributions from Malawians, the opposition, the academia and religious leaders when deciding Malawi's position on the matter.

Tanzania recently ordered the Malawi government to stop exploration of the northeastern side of Lake Malawi for oil and gas, claiming that the side of the lake in question belongs to the former German colony.

However, the Malawi government's stand on the matter is that Lake Malawi entirely belongs to the country as stipulated in the 1890 Heligoland Treaty, also known as Anglo-German Treaty, signed by Britain, Ireland and Germany concerning territorial interests in Africa.

According to the Malawi government, the Heligoland Treaty was also reinforced by both the 1963 Treaty and Agreement of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and its successor, the African Union (AU) in 2002 and 2007 that "member states should recognize and accept the borders that were inherited at the time of independence".

Besides the Banda-Kikwete talks in Maputo, the two neighbouring countries are scheduled to hold further talks on the border dispute on Aug 20 in Malawi's northern city of Mzuzu. Since Tanzania demanded that oil and gas exploration on the lake be stopped, there have been speculations in the media about the two countries planning to go to war over the matter.

But the two sides have made public statements of their intention to solve the matter peacefully as evidenced by separate remarks made by foreign ministers from the two countries quoted by the media.