The former presidents of South Africa and Botswana, Thabo Mbeki and Festus Mogae, have joined a team from the Forum for Former African Heads of State and Government (the Africa Forum) that is mediating in the Lake Niassa border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania.

According to “Radio Mozambique” this was announced in Dar es Salaam by Tanzania’s Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Membe, who reiterated his confidence that a solution to the disagreement could be found by the Africa Forum’s mediation team headed by former President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano.

The introduction of these senior political figures follows the decision of Malawi in early April to publicly state that it doubted the credibility of the mediation team. In particular Malawi alleged that the Executive Secretary of the Africa Forum, John Tesha, leaked sensitive information to the Tanzanian government.

Malawian President Joyce Banda said that the team has been compromised and that her country was considering taking the border issue to arbitration at the International Court of Justice.

However, Malawian Foreign Minister Ephraim Chiume has now agreed to continue with the mediation process after John Tesha was replaced as Executive Secretary by a Mozambican. AIM was unable to get the name of the new Executive Secretary because the Africa Forum telephone number was out of service and there was no reply to a request sent by email.

The newly strengthened mediation team will now press ahead with looking for a technical and political solution to the issue.

Malawi is claiming all of the northern part of Lake Nyasa, based on the Heligoland Treaty of 1890 between Britain and Germany – at the time Malawi was under British rule and Tanganyika was a German colony.
Tanzania, however, wants a dividing line drawn through the middle of the lake, which is how boundaries between countries who share lakes are normally dealt with.

The dispute had been dormant for many years, but was reignited in 2011 when the Malawian government awarded an exploration licence to British company Surestream to explore for oil and gas. A second exploration licence was awarded in December 2012 to South African company SacOil.

Tanzania is continuing to strongly support the mediation efforts and has pointed out that it has not ratified the ICJ protocol meaning that any decision taken there would not be binding.

The Africa Forum was established on 11 January 2006 in the Mozambican capital Maputo.

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