12 October, 2013

The SADC Holds a Peaceful Solution to the Malawi-Tanzania Boundary Dispute

by Ackson M. Kanduza

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has at least two approaches to re-enforce assertions of Malawi and Tanzania that there will be no war between them in resolving injustice of a boundary established by the Anglo-German Treaty of July 1890. The first of these approaches is that contained in a document from research of Professor Jon Martin Trondalen and SADC published in 2011. The document advocates promoting peace in the SADC region through cooperation in managing transboundary water resources. That model applies to management of other resources, besides water. It should be acknowledged that this is a contentious point in the light of the fact that the northern part of Lake Malawi is entirely in Malawi. This is despite Tanzania’s long history of rejecting this fact by sustaining the name Lake Nyasa. SADC began to develop the second approach in 1995, and became a formal policy for integration and building peace in 2006 and developing regional integration. This is the Corridor Development strategy. This approach facilitates cooperation among neighbouring states in developing and utilising resources along territorial boundaries. While Tanzania does not own any part of Lake Malawi according to the Anglo-Germany Treaty of 1890, Tanzania is a riparian state that deserves to benefit from the resources of Lake Malawi. Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania, argued strongly at the end of August 2012 that on grounds and traditions of equity, Tanzanians living east of the shoreline boundary of the two countries deserved to benefit from resources and future developments on Lake Malawi. The livelihoods of Tanzanians along Lake Malawi are intricately connected to the Lake. In recognition of this, and with all what SADC and pan-Africanism have achieved in post-colonial Africa, the Malawian President, Joyce Banda, echoed the assertion of her Tanzanian counterpart that no single bullet would be fired in making peace and promoting equitable use of resources in the northern part of Lake Malawi. This seeming rapprochement would be easy to understand from a brief historical account of the sources of divergent and conflicting views on the boundary between Malawi and Tanzania.

Photo by Oil in Uganda

The boundary dispute between Malawi and Tanzania resurfaced in July 2012 after a lull since 1968. In October 1969 the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, settled the dispute in a reply to President Julius Nyerere. Using documented evidence from The British National Archives, Wilson informed Nyerere that the Anglo-Germany Treaty of 1st July 1890 determined the boundary between Germany East Africa (Tanzania since April 1964) and the British Central African Protectorate (Malawi since July 1964).The mandate given to Britain by the League of Nations following the defeat of Germany at the end of the First World War consolidated the legal boundary and pragmatic experiences because, as a single colonial power in Malawi and Tanzania, it was easy for Britain to administer the shoreline on the eastern side of Lake Malawi as the boundary. Yet, Britain blundered in 1953 when creating the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland by putting a boundary between the Nyasaland Protectorate and Tanganyika on the Lake Malawi Thlaweg as shown in the map above. The error was corrected in 1959; the eastern shoreline was affirmed again as the boundary between colonial Malawi and colonial Tanzania. The protocol establishing the Organisation for African Union (that became African Union in 2004) in May 1963, declared that boundaries African countries inherited at the end of colonial rule would be accepted and respected by all independent African countries. When Julius Nyerere understood and accepted these historical changes, he informed the Tanzanian Parliament that not a single drop of water in Lake Malawi (officially Lake Nyasa in Tanzania) belonged to Tanzania.

These historical developments constitute the basis of the assertion of President Kikwete that only consideration of equitable use of boundary resources gives Tanzania moral claims to resources in Lake Malawi. The justification through equity includes oil that is anticipated to be found by the British firm, Surestream. Kikwete was a voice of thousands, if not millions, of ordinary Tanzanians who have depended on Lake Malawi for a long time. Yet, Tanzania can neither defend the current socio-economic interests nor secure future ambitions of ordinary Tanzanians along the lake. What is required is good leadership in Malawi, Tanzania and beyond. SADC has an opportunity to show collective leadership through implementation of values of cooperation on transboundary resources. There is no doubt that private-public partnerships and key players such as China and the European Union will not miss opportunities of globalisation. SADC has the experience and means to build peace that will benefit ordinary Malawians and Tanzanians.

Ackson M. Kanduza is a professor at Zambian Open University, Lusaka, Zambia. Email makanduza@yahoo.com

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