By Ronald Musoke
The Forum for former African Heads of State and Government has co-opted Prof George W. Kanyeihamba to support a high level team mandated by the African Union to mediate in the border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania.
The forum led by the former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano is mediating the Lake Malawi ownership question that saw the two countries threaten war against each other last year.
The ownership of Lake Malawi or Lake Nyasa has flared up on several occasions in the past between the two countries for decades but the unresolved dispute was back on the international agenda in 2011 when Malawi went ahead to award an oil and gas exploration licence to a UK firm called Surestream Petroleum to prospect for hydro carbons in Africa’s third largest lake which Malawi claims to wholly own.
The decision did not go well with Tanzania’s government but Malawi refused to backtrack on their decision.
“We have categorically told Tanzania that as far as we are concerned, the entire lake belongs to us and therefore we cannot stop exploration activities,” Malawi’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ephraim Chiume told Malawi’s local press last August.
Tanzania claims 50% of the lake which forms part of its natural border with Malawi to the South.
Tanzania insist Malawi’s claims are ‘baseless and outrageous’ as all world maps and other facts on the ground show that the lake transcends the common border and each country has equal rights over the lake which is also home to at least 2000 marine species.
According to the letter sent to Prof Kanyeihamba, Malawi and Tanzania had both requested that the team be supported by eminent jurists and internationally recognized experts from Africa but preferably from the Southern Africa Development Cooperation (SADC).
“However, although the team finds the request reasonable and appropriate, jurists from outside the sub-region are welcome provided that they have internationally recognized expertise and competence in relevant matters.
“On the basis of the criteria, you were nominated and I am glad to appoint you as a member for the distinguished team to assist in the matter,” Chissano’s letter reads in part.