Tanzanian government has admitted it is patrolling a section of Lake Malawi, saying it has only been carrying out ‘routine patrols on the Tanzanian side of the lake, that country’s media has reported.

Despite admitting that two Malawians were found illegally fishing on their side of the lake, Tanzanian Foreign minister Bernard Membe has refuted reports that his government has been harassing Malawians, Tanzanian online publication, The Citizen, has reported.

It says Membe told a news conference in Dar es Salaam on Saturday that the exercise has not been targeting Malawians.

“It’s true that several fishermen, including two Malawians, were found fishing illegally on the Tanzanians side of the lake. This, however, does not mean that we have been actively targeting Malawians. We have only been carrying out routine patrols on the Tanzanian side of the lake,” Membe is quoted as saying.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Patrick Kabambe said in an interview yesterday such actions and utterances by the Tanzania government officials were making the situation even more tense.

“We don’t understand why they are doing this. We will look out for the press statement and make proper inquiries on this latest claim. Incidents such as these are not helpful and just makes the situation even more tense,” he said.

Kabambe said Malawi had not closed the door for talks and taking the matter to the International Court of Justice was the better option than arbitration because the matter was legal in nature.

While Tanzania’s position is that the border between the two countries runs in the middle of the northern part of the lake, Malawi argues that the entire portion of the lake is within its borders.

The Citizen says Membe told reporters that the map, which was released last month, was released after the creation of new regions in Tanzania earlier this year and was not meant to provoke Malawi.

The dispute flared up last year after the late president Bingu wa Mutharika granted British company Surestream Petroleum permission to explore the Lake Malawi [known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania] for oil and gas.

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