Malawi says the boundary dispute with Tanzania remains a legal matter that has to be determined by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Mganda Chiume said this last week in reaction to the Surveyors Institute of Malawi (SIM) observation that the disagreement over Lake Malawi boundaries can be interpreted by surveyors after studying the colonial map of 1890.

SIM president Downs Theka argued in an interview on Tuesday that it is unfortunate politics has dominated the border talks when it is supposed to be technocrats at the centre-stage.

But Chiume later said it is not true that experts have not been involved in the discussions, as surveyor-generals from the two countries have been at the centre of the talks.

The minister said considering recommendations from technical experts and a committee of senior officials, the matter at hand is legal in nature and that surveyors can only be engaged after the boundary has been determined and a need for beacons has arisen.

Said Chiume: “Malawi’s position is that we resolve this matter as expeditiously as possible and that is why we are saying let us go to the International Court of Justice rather than spending time going to a mediator.”

The minister said Malawi is ready to respect any determination of the court because it appreciates the fact that the boundary drawn by the 1890 Anglo-German Agreement might not be exactly the same after this long time.

Said Chiume: “So, it is not true that this is a simple and straightforward matter as the president of surveyors put it. It is a very complex matter and legal in nature which can only be determined by the ICJ.

“As a country, we are saying we should not waste more time going to mediators because we have examples such as Botswana and Namibia who tried a mediator to resolve the boundary issue but it did not work until the matter went to the ICJ.”

‘Treaty erroneous’

Meanwhile, Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete has argued the Anglo-German Treaty of 1890 that gave Malawi the sole ownership of Lake Malawi was flawed and Tanzania has every reason to demand this be corrected.

Kikwete, in his end-of-the-month-address to his country, said the Heligoland Treaty—an agreement between then colonial powers Germany and Britain—denies Tanzanians living on the shores of Lake Malawi “their given right to utilise proximate water and marine resources to earn their daily living”.

Kikwete, according to a report in The Citizen newspaper of Tanzania published on Sunday, 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 access.

Kikwete said the treaty is erroneous because it contravenes international law that requires states to share adjoining water resources.

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