Update 19 December 2013: The Malawian national newspaper The Nation has picked up this story and contacted Ephraim Chiume, Malawi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, for a comment on Malawi’s contribution to the team mediating the Lake Malawi boundary dispute. According to Chiume, Malawi has contributed USD 100,000, which is double the amount Tanzanian parliamentarians stated Malawi had put forward to date (see story below), and money is paid as requested by the Forum of Former African Heads of State and Government. Chiume asserted that the initial budget was USD 1.5 million but it was reduced:
The budget is around $1 million. UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] contributed $250 000 towards the process and each country was supposed to contribute 50 percent of the remainder. We have already paid $ 100 000. We are committed to paying our part.
The Nation also included commentary on the Malawian government’s reticence in passing on information to the public about the ongoing dispute, which notes the absence of an Access to Information Bill in Malawi. This is not the only information Malawians are struggling to get hold of.
If it were not for a ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) member of Parliament [Tanzania], Malawians were not going to know the full cost of the border dispute because our government has been keeping some vital information under wraps. Understandably, this is a sensitive and potentially explosive matter, but there is no threat in revealing the price that the taxpayer is paying as the dispute rumbles on.
Malawi and Tanzania are expected to contribute USD 1.52 million to the mediation team working on the border over Lake Malawi (or Lake Nyasa as the body of water is known in Tanzania).
The Tanzanian MP Edward Lowassa, who is also chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, revealed that each country has to contribute over USD 760,000 to the mediation team’s budget. The report tabled on Lowassa’s behalf by MP Juma Nkamia shows that Tanzania has contributed USD 387,333 so far, while Malawi has only contributed USD 50,000 of the total amount.
Tanzania reaffirmed its commitment to providing the mediation team, made up of former southern African presidents and led by former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano, with enough time and resources to complete its work.
In contrast, Nkamia suggested that Malawi is determined to take the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). According to the Tanzanian IBN TV (reported in Swahili), Nkamia remarked when presenting the Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation’s report to parliament that
Uchambuzi zaidi wa kamati ulibaini kuwa Tanzania imechangia kiasi ambacho ni karibu mara nane ya kiasi cha mchango kilichotolewa na Malawi. [Further analysis of the committee noted that Tanzania has contributed an amount that is almost eight times the amount of the contribution given by Malawi.]
Zaidi ya hivyo, nchi ya Malawi imeendelea kuonyesha nia yake ya kutaka kuharakisha kuwasilisha suala hili kaitka Mahakama ya Kimataifa. [In addition, the country of Malawi has continued to show its willingness to expedite submission of this issue to the International Court of Justice].
The Tanzanian MP’s statement about Malawi is not surprising as Malawi’s president Joyce Banda expressed in April that the dispute would be taken to the ICJ because she believed the mediation had been compromised. However, a few days after Banda pronounced that waiting for the Forum to make a decision was “a waste of time“, the Government of Malawi through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued a press statement indicating its (re)commitment to the process and mediation team.
Initially, Malawians and Tanzanians expected the verdict on the Lake Malawi border dispute in April, which then shifted to September. Yet only in mid-September did the Africa Forum, responsible for mediating the dispute, ask the countries to submit responses to each other’s position papers. Malawi and Tanzania met and submitted their responses at the end of November. It remains unclear when the mediation team will make a decision.
The Malawian government maintains that the lake falls entirely within the nation’s borders and so it has already awarded several companies with rights to explore for hydrocarbons in the lake bed. The Malawian president Banda also recently announced the purchase of armed patrol vessels for the lake. Tanzania is contesting this territorial arrangement that is based on a colonial Heligoland Agreement from 1890.
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