Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)- As debate rages on whether government should proceed with oil exploration in Lake Malawi, Tanzania this week came out clearly that it wants shares of the exercise proceeds.

This vindicates Tanzanians earlier accession of its interest in the Lake’s oil exploration since 2012 when the northern neighbor started claiming that it owns half of the eastern part of the Lake Malawi.
The past week Tanzania’s High Commissioner Victoria Mwakasega, in an interview with The Nation newspaper, that her country wants to benefit from oil resources in the Lake.
Mwakasenga however, disputed misinterpretation of the published new map which shows that half of the northern part of Lake Malawi belongs to Tanzania.
The envoy said that her country’s position remain unchanged, that the common border with Malawi passes through in the middle of the Lake.
She added that the new maps does not touch on international boarders and said its latest geographical location aimed at aligning to her country’s new regions and districts that had been created, hence necessary to show the boundaries.
“It is not a secret that Malawi has started exploring oil on the Lake. In as far as we are concerned, we would also want to benefit from the same resources. That’s the way things should be. But we need to find a solution to deal with these matters, and the talks will give us direction on the way forward on the issue.
“The issue about Tanzania publishing a new map, was heavily misinterpreted. Our position on the Lake has never changed, because we have always maintained that our common boarder is in the middle of that Lake,” Mwakasenga said.
Malawi Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Francis Kasaila, disclosed that the Malawi Government was still waiting for the determination from the SADC-led mediation team to chart the way forward.
Kasaila assured the nation that mediation talks will bear fruits, with the second-round of talks slated for next month.
Last month, the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change, strongly denounced Malawi Government’s decision on oil exploration in Lake Malawi, and argued that the country has outdated laws to safeguard all stakeholders during the exercise. The Committee observed that the absence of a national petroleum policy and its outdated Act, will not be safe for Malawi to go ahead with the process.
The Committee’s stand comes barely a month after President Mutharika assured the public of the Lake’s safety upon the start of the exploration exercise to completion, and that on-shore clean technology equipment will be used.
But earlier to this, the country’s civil society organizations such as Natural Resources Justice Network (NRJN) and Publish What You Pay (PWYP) also expressed concerns over the negotiation team plans to submit an addendum to the 30-year agreements, for Mutharika to approve and the commencement of oil exploration to begin.
The two environmental watchdogs observed that if oil exploration is successful, the agreements could be in place for thirty years covering exploration, extraction, and closure, with the likelihood of Malawi not benefiting from its proceeds.
The CSOs therefore called for further investigations on how Malawi conducted the oil contracts, and signed them despite the Solicitor-General’s (SG) request for more time to investigate the matter.
A few months ago, Malawi Government officials resumed negotiations with RAK Gas and Pacific Oil. The commencement of the negotiations is happening despite the SG’s explicit advice that the agreement should not be signed, and asked more time.
President Mutharika however, told the nation in March this year, saying “Let’s all take care of the Lake. This is our Lake, and when I say our Lake, I mean the whole of it. Let nobody make a mistake to try to change this ownership, which has been there for the past 124 years”.
This past week, President Mutharika took these concerns of ownership in his flagship address at the Pan-African Parliament in South Africa, quoting the 18990 Heligolabd Treaty (between Germany and Great Britain – current U.K.), and the 1964 Organization of African Unity treaty that called on emerging independent nation-states on the continent to respect colonial borders they inherited from the colonial rulers. President Mutharika said African countries have respected this treaty and called on his counterparts, not to allow border disputes bring disunity on the continent.
On the other hand, Malawi is in the verge of being blacklisted for failing to meet United Nations Education Scientific Commission (UNESCO)’s World Heritage Centre (WHC) deadline submission of the Lake Malawi status report, which was slated for February 1, 2017. The World Heritage Centre insists in  to protect aquatic life, there should be no oil and gas exploration on Lake Malawi.
Malawi is a signatory to the 1972 World Heritage Convention, that seeks to ensure an appropriate and equitable balance between conservation, sustainability and development.
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