MALAWI has expressed its displeasure that the executive secretary of the Forum for Former Heads of State, which is currently mediating the Lake Malawi border dispute with Tanzania, is a Tanzanian national.
Foreign Affairs minister Ephraim Mganda Chiume told reporters in Lilongwe on Saturday that submissions Malawi presented to chairman of the Forum, former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano, that it had observed the presence of a Tanzanian national, Professor John Tesia, as executive secretary of the Forum.
“We expressed the same to the forum. We were also concerned about the security of our submissions considering that the executive secretary is Tanzanian.
As to whether he should remain executive secretary or recuse himself, is a matter for the forum to decide,” Chiume said.
The concern, he said, has also been made to SA ex-president Thabo Mbeki and former Bostwana president Festus Mogae, as Malawi expects to see ‘impartiality, sobriety, neutrality, objectivity in the handling of the matter’.
Chiume said although Tesia heads a secretariat, “he could be compromised”.
“We have expressed those concerns to the chairperson of the forum. Even when I was submitting our position as Malawi to former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano, we actually expressed those concerns and even looking at the security of our submissions considering that Tanzania had not made theirs.
“So we were concerned about the security of the submission considering that the executive secretary of the forum is Tanzanian,” Chiume said.
Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Patrick Kabambe said Malawi would like to see the matter resolved quickly “once and for all”, saying it has taken a long time and was stalling development such as the exploration of oil in the Lake.
Living in fear
“Most Malawians living in Karonga and along the lake are living in fear. They are not sure if there is coming a war. This is the more we want to see this matter dealt with once and for all. We should not be talking about this same matter forever.
“People in those areas should live normal lives without fear. We have to direct our resources at developing the country and not on the dispute with Tanzania. We need to conclude this matter so that we can tap on the resources on the lake,” Kabambe said.
Chiume said Tanzania has assured Malawi it would put on hold issuance of licenses to exploration companies wishing to search for oil on the Tanzania side of the lake in dispute.
Chiume said the spirit of the negotiation is that the ex-presidents’ forum would put together recommendations for consideration by the presidents of Malawi and Tanzania on their own.
“We also agreed that if the forum is unable to achieve a mutually acceptable solution within three months then the matter would be referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ),” he said.
At issue in the 50-year-old dispute is a swathe of the lake where Lilongwe has awarded a licence to a British firm Surestream to explore for oil in northeastern waters near Tanzania,
Malawi claims ownership of the lake under an 1890 agreement, while Tanzania disputes the validity of this claim.