LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)- Barely weeks after Tanzania come out clearly that it wants shares of the oil exploration proceeds in Lake Malawi, the latter has gone further and postponed the negotiation talks, which were slated for May 8-9, 2017 in Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa.
This means that the negotiation talks between Malawi and Tanzania, over the ownership of the Lake, will not be resolved soon as anticipated.
The development has disappointed the Malawi Government, considering resolve President Peter Muthalika and his Tanzania counterpart John Pombe Magufuli, made for the resumption of the mediation talks. This was when the two leaders met on January 30, this year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The two leaders resolved that the Mediation Process on the Lake Malawi boundary dispute, be revived after a prolonged break since March 2014.
However, Malawi Government received communication on the postponement of the meeting from the High Level Mediation Team (HLMT) Chairperson, Joaquim Chissano, who is former President of the Republic of Mozambique.
The meeting’s postponement coincides with earlier accessions by Tanzania of its interest in oil exploration since 2012. At this time, Malawi’s north eastern border neighbor started claiming that it owns half of the eastern part of Lake Malawi.
In a press statement issued on Sunday, and made available to The Maravi Post, Malawi Foreign and International Cooperation minister, Francis Kasaila expressed concerns over the duration and the pace of talks, arguing that by now both nations could have known their real fate on the matter.
Kasaila said that Malawi Government intends to resolve the issue as soon as possible, consideration there are a number of development projects that are to take place on the Lake, including the oil exploration.
The Foreign Minister said Malawi Government position remains that the boundary is the shoreline of Lake Malawi, as established by Article 1(2) of the 1890 Anglo-German Treaty, therefore Lake Malawi belongs to Malawi in its entirety. This is despite Tanzania claims that the boundary is the median line of the Lake, based on principles of customary international law.
“The Government of Malawi is also astounded with the recent statement attributed to Her Excellency Victoria Mwakasege, High Commissioner of the United Republic of Tanzania to Malawi, in the media that her Government wants to have a share of the oil resources, as this has never been Tanzania’s position from the beginning.
“The Government of Malawi continues to be committed to the mediation process, and peaceful resolution of the dispute, through contact and dialogue. Malawi believes that the HLMT has the capacity to decisively make a determination on the dispute, in a logical and timely manner, and on the basis of long established principles,” said Kasaila.
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.
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.
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 Heligoland 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 these 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