Tanzania wants foreign mediation in oil dispute with Malawi

08 October 2012, Sweetcrude, DAR ES SALAAM – TANZANIA says it would want international mediator to resolve a long-standing border dispute with Malawi, conceding the latest talks over territorial rights to Lake Malawi and its potential reserves of oil and gas had failed.

Malawi recently accused neighbours Tanzania of intimidating its citizens, halting talks with Tanzania over the ownership of the lake, Reuters stated.

“It is clear now, that we cannot resolve the issue between us,” Reuters quoted Tanzanian foreign affairs minister Bernard Membe saying at a news conference.

“We will go ahead and propose a mediator, even if Malawi does not return to the negotiations.”

Lake Malawi, known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania, is Africa’s third largest lake and it is thought to sit over highly coveted oil and gas reserves.

Gas finds off Tanzania and Mozambique have led to predictions the region could become the world’s third largest exporter of natural gas.

Malawi claims sovereignty over the entirety of the lake while Tanzania says it is entitled to half of it.

Tanzania wanted an international mediator to be appointed from among former African presidents from the 15-nation trade bloc Southern African Development Community, SADC. Tanzania and Malawi are both members of SADC.

Malawian officials made it clear they would not continue with talks until Tanzania stopped intimidating Malawi fishermen, an accusation which was denied by Dar Es Saalam, according to Reuters.

Membe denied Malawi’s claims that Tanzania had deployed military vessels on the lake.

Malawi also wanted Tanzania to withdraw a map showing the border line passing in the middle of the disputed lake.

However, Membe said the map was needed for administrative purposes and reflected the “actual boundary”.

The territorial row, which dates back half a century, could worsen if significant oil and gas discoveries are made.

Last year Malawi, an impoverished southern African country, awarded oil exploration licences to UK-based Surestream Petroleum to search for oil in Lake Malawi, as it hoped to join the regional oil and gas bonanza.

In July, Tanzanian authorities asked Surestream Petroleum to postpone any planned drilling on the lake. The company has not yet started to drill.

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  • The Tanzanian position is a predisposition to amicable settlement. We believe that this should be encoruaged and given all the necessary support.