Tanzania hopes former leaders of SADC to resolve Lake Malawi dispute

2013-02-24 20:13:39 GMT2013-02-25 04:13:39(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

DAR ES SALAAM, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- Tanzanian authorities said on Sunday they are confident that a decision by three former leaders from the member states of Southern African Development Community (SADC), who would form a panel to mediate the Lake Malawi border dispute, will resolve the conflict once and for all.

Former Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and Festus Mogae of Botswana said on Monday that they would form a panel to mediate the border dispute.

"We are ready to be open and to assist the panel in whatever form they want us to do, including providing information, documents and physical presence of ourselves to testify before the panel," the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Bernard Membe said in an interview on Sunday.

The revelation came barely one week after Tanzania submitted its position on the dispute to the Forum of Former African Heads of State and Government, which is currently being chaired by former Mozambican President Chissano.

Malawi's Principal Secretary of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Patrick Kabambe said the forum proposed that the mediation process would be done by a panel of the three former presidents.

Kabambe, who confirmed that Malawi was informed that Tanzania has made its submission, said following the submissions, the two countries will now be waiting to hear from the forum on the way forward.

He said the process would start before the end of February.

Tanzanian High Commissioner to Malawi Patrick Tsere said that the process is now "entirely" in the hands of the mediators.

Reacting to the latest developments, Membe said the fact that former leaders of SADC were willing to mediate the dispute showed that the matter could be resolved within the SADC region.

"This panel is our destination because we are putting trust on it...and it is not a transit to the International Court of Justice, " he said in reference to earlier proposals that the matter should referred to the ICJ for arbitration.

"It is fair and pride for SADC if this matter can be resolved by SADC leaders," said Membe when reached by phone.

Malawi submitted its position on the disputed Lake Malawi at the end of January, meeting the deadline of Jan. 31.

In the dispute, Malawi is claiming ownership of the entire northern part of Lake Malawi, citing the Heligoland Treaty of 1890 between Britain and Germany. Malawi was then under British rule while Tanganyika was a German colony.

On the other hand, Tanzania wants a partition drawn in the middle of the lake, stressing that this is the practice among countries which share water bodies.

The dispute, which is said to be historical, was re-ignited recently, apparently following the revelation that the lake is rich with minerals, including oil.

Mid last month, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and the chairman of the African Union, Benin President Boni Yayi, discussed the Malawi border dispute during their meeting in Dar es Salaam.

Yayi commended Kikwete for pursuing diplomatic means in resolving the Lake Malawi border dispute that had persisted for decades.

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