Churches too late to negotiate Lake Dispute

Following the submission of an application by the Tanzanian and Malawian governments to the Africa Forum of former African Heads of State and Government for assistance in the dispute over Lake Malawi/Nyasa, the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) approached the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) with a request  to “advise as to how best they (the two councils) can engage mediation pastoral role to ensure a peaceful end to the matter at hand”.

The MCC wrote a letter to the CCT in which MCC’s General Secretary Reverend Dr. Osborne Joda-Mbewe expressed that

The Council holds that Malawi and Tanzania have been good neighbours for decades, and that their peoples have been one in Christ Jesus. The council was mindful that both governments are committed to resolving the matter peacefully, but feel disturbed about the seeming loggerhead that has started to characterize the discussions.

Our worry and concern is that should the SADC ex-heads fail to resolve the matter, it may blow out of proportion and lives of innocent people in the two neighbouring countries may be brought to danger. The current development calls for churches to pray asking God to timely intervene for a peaceful solution.

However, Tanzania’s Minster of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Membe, clarified that it is not  possible for the church to lead dialogue at this stage following the two countries’ request to Mozambique’s former president, Joaquim Chissano, as the current chairperson of the Forum of Former Head of States and Governments, to mediate the dispute.

This submission of joint letters means that the chapter for internal mediation dialogues between the two countries is closed and all the hopes are now on the Forum to decide on the matter.

Update 31 January 2013: It appears that Malawi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has engaged religious leaders in preparation of talks with Tanzania in order to collect necessary information. The Principal Secretary for the Ministry, Patrick Kabambe, said in the second week of January that in addition to collection information engagement will also

help government in a way that once the mediations begin, we will build a stronger case to present. We started the exercise last week on Friday, and we met a number of groups such as the Civil Society, the Churches including Muslims and we will still be seeking ideas from many others. We understand that these groups have a very big role to play in the society and this is one of the reasons we thought of engaging them.

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