Malawi media on offensive over border

Malawi President Joyce Banda. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

A section of the Malawian media has intensified a war of words on a border dispute, accusing Tanzania of manipulating the international community's opinion.

In a series of reportage, a section of the media also accused Tanzania's Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister Bernard Membe of contravening a mediation agreement by talking to the home media on the dispute.

The online Nyasa Times; published a ‘special editorial’ last Thursday calling on Malawians to stand up to ‘defend Lake Malawi from Tanzanians’.

Arguing for the respect of the Anglo-German Heligoland Treaty of 1890 that placed the lake under Malawian territory, as well as other OAU and AU treaties that argued for the respect of colonial borders, the media platform chided Tanzania for depending on ‘Riparian Rights’ to cling to the ownership of part of the lake.

Speaking to The Citizen Monday, a senior official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said both the OAU/AU treaty was clear that disputed borders had to be resolved and new demarcation made.

Tanzania has been engaging its neighbours in solving disputes on borders with the recent new demarcation being with Uganda. The media platform also accused Tanzania of lobbying and bribing foreign governments as well as oil multinationals of supporting its case in the dispute.

“As we speak, big oil conglomerates are in Dar es Salaam negotiating oil deals to do with our part of the lake, a development that is a slap on our face given that Tanzania never wanted us to even prospect for oil,” said the Nyassa Times editorial.

It claimed: “Tanzania’s envoys all over the world are palm-oiling decision makers to make sure that the outcome of the Lake Malawi mediation is decided in its favour.”

The editorial urges Malawi authorities to withdraw from the negotiations under the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), gather information on what Tanzania has been doing to sabotage and then proceed to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

Dirty tactics

In another article last Thursday, the media platform accused the Malawi Government of mishandling the Lake Nyasa dispute, saying by agreeing to go for mediation, in the first place, the government was ceding to Tanzania’s demands that there was indeed a dispute on the border.

The article accused the Malawi Government of inefficiency, and sleeping on the job while Tanzania was applying dirty tactics and bullying the country over the dispute.

The media platform also accused Malawi President Joyce Banda of engaging in petty issues like looking for people who wrote fake letters, saying she had resigned, while big issues like those involving defending the country’s borders were mishandled.

The article also cast doubts on the impartiality of former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, who is one of the mediators in the dispute under the auspices of the SADC Former Heads of State and Government Forum.

The article said Mr Chissano had Tanzania as his second home because of the latter’s contribution in the liberation of Mozambique, in which Mr Chissano actively participated.

In another article posted on Saturday, the media platform claimed that Malawi Foreign minister Ephraim Chiume accused Mr Membe of giving statements that contravened media agreements.

It said Mr Chiume told reporters in Lilongwe that Mr Membe’s statement implied that Mr Chissano and his team would ultimately resolve the issue.

This is despite an agreement reached between the two parties saying that if SADC failed to resolve the issue, then the two countries could proceed to other authorities such as the ICJ.

A correspondent with The Citizen based in Lilongwe, who attended the said meeting, confirmed that Mr Chiume talked about the border dispute, but never mentioned Mr Membe.

“Mr Chiume complained the fact that Tanzania has not yet submitted its argument on the dispute to SADC. Mr Membe was never accused of anything,” the correspondent said.

Efforts to contact both Mr Membe and Mr Chiume proved futile. But the deputy minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,  Mr Mahadhi Maalimu, told The Citizen’s sister Kiswahili newspaper, Mwananchi, that the government had not yet received any complaints from Malawi on Mr Membe’s statements.

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