Monday, 10 September 2012

Jakaya Kikwete :Why we own part of Lake Nyasa

Why we own part of Lake Nyasa Send By Songa wa Songa, The Citizen
Dar es Salaam. The Anglo-German Treaty of 1890 that gave Malawi
sole ownership of Lake Nyasa was flawed and Tanzania has every reason to demand
it be corrected, says President Jakaya Kikwete.
In his month-end address to the nation, the head of state said the Heligoland
Treaty – an agreement between then-colonial powers Germany and Britain –denies
Tanzanians living on the shores of Lake Nyasa their given right to utilize
proximate water and marine resources to earn their daily living.
The President argued the colonial treaty set an unfortunate precedent for
Tanzanians while on the border between Malawi and Mozambique boundaries were
duly readjusted to give citizens of those countries equal rights of
He said the treaty is erroneous because it contravenes international
law that requires riparian states to share adjoining water resources.
According to him, in cases where lakes and rivers are at the border of two or
more nations the boundaries are set right in the middle. This is the precedent
set by international law and it is the case all over the world, the President
said. “Why the double standards on the issue of Tanzania’s share of Lake Nyasa?�
he asked.
He asked why the rationale used to readjust the borders between Tanzania and
Malawi so they can share river Songwe – which under the 1891 agreement would
have been wholly-owned by Tanzania – is not being used to resolve the current
disagreement on Lake Nyasa borders.
Kikwete said the boundary commission formed by Britain and Germany in 1898
adjusted the borders around river Songwe and on the Mozambican side of Lake
Nyasa but turned a blind eye on the Tanzanian side.
“If the residents of Mbamba Bay, Liuli, Lituhi, Manda, Ngonga, Matema, Mwaya,
Itungi and other towns and villages along the lake are told that the water body
is no longer theirs they won’t understand (that logic) because for generations,
they have used Lake (Nyasa),� he said.
The President further said Tanzania deserves equal share in Lake Nyasa
because its rivers are some of the largest tributaries emptying into the lake.
He argued it would be illogical to ask citizens to simply give up the lake.
Moreover, the border cannot run along the shores of the lake, because the
shore line keeps shifting with high and low tide, the President said. This, he
said, would make it difficult to determine where the real boundaries would
actually be.
“(The situation) will make our borders uncertain and this is likely to lead
to some boundary-related problems in the future� he warned.
According to President Kikwete, the work of rectifying unjust borders by the
boundary commission was halted during World War I in 1914, which left the
question of the validity of the Heligoland Treaty up in the air.
It is a situation that has sown mistrust between Tanzania and Malawi,
according to the President. Following the war, Tanganyika became a British
protectorate. “Unfortunately for us the Britons who now ruled our two countries
since 1918 did not take any measures to readjust the boundaries before
independence,� he said.
“It is our opinion that our countries do what the Anglo-German boundary
commission did not do. Let’s do it as sovereign states through negotiations,�
said the President.
According to him officials have been making efforts to resolve the situation
since independence without much success. On January 3, 1967, the government of
Tanzania wrote to the government of Malawi and recommended that the two
countries work out a deal, he said.
Despite Malawi writing back an acknowledgement it had received the request
and promising a specific response shortly, nothing ever came of it.
On June 27, 1967 the then president of Malawi Kamuzu Banda, formally rejected
the request in his national address and announced that historically Songea,
Mbeya and Njombe were part of Malawi – a statement that brought any potential
negotiations to a premature ending.
During the tenure of the second president of Malawi the late Mr Bakili
Muluzi, much was not done until the third President Bingu wa Mutharika came to
power. It was him who wrote to then President of Tanzania Mr Benjamin Mkapa on
the need to revive talks. Wa Mutharika’s recommendations resulted in the
formation of joint committees of experts and officials led by ministers who were
supposed to begin negotiations and report back to their respective presidents.
The last meeting of this committee of experts was held in the Malawian city
of Mzuzu from August 20 this year, culminating in last Monday’s meeting between
the minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Bernard Membe and
his Malawian counterpart Ephraim Chiume in Lilongwe.
The Lilongwe meeting ended in a deadlock, with both parties sticking to their
guns and failing to come to mutual agreement.
The next round of talks is scheduled for September 10 to 14 in Dar es Salaam.
The two countries will discuss the option of mediation by a third party with
the possibility that a council of wise men under African Union (AU) would step
in and help broker a settlement.
Should mediation efforts hit the rock, Malawi and Tanzania will have to take
their case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for legal resolution.

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