Malawi has agreed with Tanzania to engage former heads of state of Africa in a last ditch attempt to resolve the Lake Malawi border dispute.
After a closed-door meeting between delegations from the two countries Saturday, Malawi’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Principal Secretary Patrick Kabambe told The Sunday Times in a telephone interview from the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam that the two countries reached two different positions on the issue.
“We have agreed to move a step further to find a lasting solution,” said Kabambe who indicated that the two countries will between January and March next year allow the chosen ex-heads of state to mediate the matter.
“In the event that this mediation fails again then we will take the matter before the International Court of Justice (ICJ),” he said.
Kabambe said the mediation teams observed that they require third party mediation owing to different positions that the two countries had taken.
“We will approach a SADC grouping that will have to put together a team of mediators which we proposed to include African gurus on expertise in the international law as the matter has a legal substance,” he said.
He however, said the Saturday agreement in Dar es Salaam is not conclusive because it was by the ministers but now it will be awaiting the endorsement of President Joyce Banda and her Tanzania counterpart Jakaya Kikwete.
The Malawi delegation led by Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Ephraim Chiume also comprised of Justice Minister and the Attorney General Ralph Kasambara and the Principal Secretary for Lands and Housing and other government officials.
Likewise, Tanzania’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister Bernard Membe led that country’s delegation which comprised Tanzania’s Attorney General Frederick Werema, Constitutional and Legal Affairs Minister Mathias Chikawe and other government officials.
Earlier on Saturday, Tanzania had conceded crumble of talks with Malawi but Kabambe insisted that dialogue was still ongoing.
Membe had told reporters after a closed-door meeting with European Union (EU) envoys in Dar es Salaam on Friday that the two countries had agreed to disagree.
Tanzania’s The Citizen online publication quoted Membe saying the two countries have now taken the matter before the ICJ for consideration.
In a telephone interview from Tanzania before reaching the agreement, Malawi’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Patrick Kabambe insisted that the dialogue was still on with their Tanzanian counterparts.
“Talks have not collapsed we will reach an agreement shortly,” insisted Kabambe in a mobile text message after Tanzania media had published stories of the failed talks.
Commenting on the talks, the Public Affairs Committee (Pac) has said unless leaders of the country are not sure of the country’s boundary, there is no need for Malawi to negotiate with Tanzania.
Pac Publicity Secretary Rev. Maurice Munthali says what Tanzania has done by re-demarcating the Malawi/Tanzania boundary is an act of intrusion.
“They have invaded; and we do not negotiate on invasion,” declared Munthali. “May be only if the Malawi authorities are not sure of our boundaries.”
Munthali said instead, Malawi should just ask Tanzania to move out of Malawi’s territory.
“As PAC, we are not promoting violence or war. All what we are saying is that is that our territorial boundaries are fundamental to our security and if anyone or country invades any part of it they are supposed to be told where the boundary is and why they are not supposed to be there,” said Munthali.
The religious umbrella grouping says if Tanzania is adamant and does not want to move out of the Malawi side then the international community and God will be on Malawi’s side when they drive them out by force.
But Kabambe said such talks from the religious grouping are irresponsible.
“It’s wrong to say that we should not dialogue, we should be responsible,” said Kabambe. “The media has to help bring a sense of responsibility on this sensitive issue.”
Tanzania’s Membe said he will hold a news conference with his Malawian counterpart today during which he will reiterate Tanzania’s decision to take the matter to the ICJ.
“There is now a need for this issue to be handled at the highest levels of international arbitration,” he said.
Membe said Tanzania was compiling documentary evidence before the matter was taken to the ICJ.
He said a special team would travel to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa and Germany to compile facts that Tanzania would use to support its case, adding that Tanzania was striving for a diplomatic solution.
“I have told them we are not at all interested in going to war with our neighbours Malawi…we are going to resolve the matter diplomatically,” Membe is quoted as saying.
The first round of talks between the two countries was held in the Malawian border town of Mzuzu from late August, but the discussions collapsed in early September after Malawi said it was aggrieved by “Tanzania’s aggressive behaviour”.
Malawian President Joyce Banda said early last month she had asked the ministry of Foreign Affairs to officially call off the talks between the two countries.