Tanzania on Monday ordered all Malawi licensed companies that search for oil and gas along the disputed borders of Lake Nyasa to stop with immediate effect.
As the tension grew between Tanzania and Malawi over their border at Lake Nyasa, the government talked tough, declaring that it will protect its people at any cost.
The Minister for Foreign affairs and international cooperation Bernard Membe told the Parliament that both governments are still in discussions over the border conflict and recently agreed to stop all activities which may be perceived as affecting the interests of either country.
According to Mr Membe, the government received credible information from Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation that Malawi has already divided some plots along the shores of the lake on the Tanzanian side to some oil and gas prospecting firms.
“The government orders such firms to stop their activities from today (Monday) and we hope our colleagues from Malawi have understood. We want to assure Tanzanians that our country will remain safe from any vivid and secret threat,” emphasised Mr Membe when tabling his ministry’s estimates for this financial year.
“This may threaten security of our country. We urge our counterpart Malawi to respect agreements and remove all aircrafts that are landing on the lake,” he added.
Tanzania and Malawi are feuding over the ownership of Lake Nyasa that borders the two countries. Tanzania seeks 50 per cent ownership of Lake Nyasa, but Malawi is claiming it all.
Malawi is citing the Anglo-German Agreement signed July 1, 1890 as the contract that grants it full ownership.
Tanzania, on the other hand, uses the same Anglo-German agreement which confirms the presence of "illogical borders" and allows the involved parties to meet and adjust the borders through Border Commissions.
Mr Membe also said Tanzania has a map drawn by Britain (who then ruled Tanganyika and Nyasaland) indicating that they agreed to review the border and put it at the centre of the lake as in the case of the border between Malawi and Mozambique.
Way back, the then Malawi’s President Mr Bingu wa Mutharika wrote to his Tanzanian counterpart Benjamin Mkapa asking him to form a joint committee that would work on the conflict.
Under the fourth phase of Tanzania’s political regime, a committee of ministers of foreign affairs was formed and met for the first time in 2010.
On July 27, 2012, the ministers for foreign affairs and borders and security experts met in Dar es Salaam as directed by the presidents of the two countries and both parties agreed to stop activities which may interfere with the interests of the involved countries.
However, while the negotiations are still going on, it was reported recently that Tanzania’s security machinery spotted some aircraft said to belong to oil and gas prospecting companies licensed by Malawi flying in Tanzania’s airspace without permission from the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority.
The situation was worsened by a statement issued by the Permanent Secretary in Malawi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Patrick Kabambe, who declared that the entire Lake Nyasa was under Malawi, a statement which prompted Tanzania to say it was ready for any form of provocation.