Malawi, Tanzania dispute lake borders

2013-06-03 19:23
Freshwater diving in lake Malawi

Freshwater diving in lake Malawi

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Blantyre - Malawi has complained to neighbouring Tanzania about its reported plans to launch passenger ships on Lake Malawi, which is at the heart of a border dispute recently reignited over prospects of finding oil.

Malawi's foreign ministry said in a statement seen by AFP Monday that it "found these developments unfortunate".

The protest came after Tanzanian Transport Minister Harris Mwakayembe reportedly told parliament last month of plans to purchase six new passenger ships to boost marine transport, with two of them assigned to Lake Malawi.

Malawi urged "Tanzania to desist from launching vessels or indeed undertaking any acts on the disputed territory, as this will jeopardise the current mediation process," the statement said.

Malawi last month reopened fresh talks with Tanzania aimed at resolving the border dispute on the lake after earlier attempts had stalled.

If Tanzania pursues its plan it would be the first time it has introduced passenger vessels on the lake, which is a major tourism attraction for Malawi.

Malawi had previously operated a passenger ship which called at three ports on the Tanzania side of Lake Malawi but stopped several years ago.

A senior official of Tanzania's ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Adulrahman Kinana, also reportedly confirmed the plans at a recent political rally to have the vessels operating on the lake before the next general election due in 2015.

The two countries have long been at loggerheads over their frontier on the lake where each of the impoverished nations hopes to find oil.

Malawi claims ownership of the entire northern part of the lake under an 1890 agreement, while Tanzania disputes this, insisting part of the lake falls within its borders.

The contentious part is a largely undeveloped swathe of the lake, where Malawi has awarded a licence to British firm Surestream to explore for oil in the northeastern waters near Tanzania.

The 29 600km² body of water is Africa's third-largest freshwater lake and lies in the Great Lakes system stretching along the East African Rift.

Read more on:    tanzania  |  malawi  |  southern africa

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