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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Membe talks to Wananchi on Lake Nyasa border dispute

 Hon. Bernard K. Membe (MP) talks to Wananchi of Mbamba Bay Ward in Ruvuma Region.

Membe talks to Wananchi
on Lake Nyasa border dispute


A Government delegation led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Hon. Bernard K. Membe (MP) was in Ruvuma Region for a two-day mission aimed at briefing the locals in the Lake Nyasa area on the ongoing negotiations over the border dispute with Malawi.
The delegation that also included members of the Tanzania People’s Defense Forces (TPDF), the President’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development and the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports visited and talked to Wananchi in Mbamba Bay, Liuli, Lituhi Wards in the New Nyasa District and Songea District.
On arrival at Ruiko Airport in Songea yesterday, the delegation was received by the Ruvuma Regional Commissioner, Hon. Said Mwambungu and other senior regional officials.  Hon. Membe thanked the Regional Commissioner for the warm reception and hospitality accorded to himself and his delegation. 
Introducing members of his delegations, the Minister said “we are here for two objectives, brief the Wananchi on the ongoing bilateral talks, get the oral tradition and local knowledge from elders around Lake Nyasa,” assuring Wananchi security and normalcy in their daily activities. 
Tanzania and Malawi have been in border dispute over the Lake Nyasa since the attainment of each country’s independence.  Malawi claims right to the whole Lake Nyasa, while Tanzania claims ownership to half of the Lake.
“We stand firm that the border runs in the middle of the Lake and that even if we go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), we will be ready to justify that,” said the Minister. 
The Minister said that the Government has been working diligently on resolving the dispute diplomatically, and if all other efforts fail, then the ICJ will likely be the final course to take.     
The mission started in Mbamba Bay Ward, where the Minister spoke with the elders.  One of them was Mr. Gideon Liganga Ndembeka (85), who articulated a detailed history of Lake Nyasa, stating that the frontier or borderline of the two countries was and still is in the middle of the Lake. 
He demonstrated that fact with the help of historical books written by the British Colonial Government, whereby the frontier between Tanzania and Malawi was located in the middle.  Mr. Ndembeka provided the said books to Hon. Membe, to assist the Government in building its case.  

Mr. Ndembeka (above) is a fourth generation after the Germany rule and descendant of the first councilor of Tanganyika origin. Behind is Ambassador Irene Kasyanju, Director for Legal Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation.  

Moreover, one of the prominent fishermen in Mbamba Bay strongly raised an observation of the fact that the frontier is in the middle and not otherwise.  This is supported by regular practice of Ship Captains of either side who observe the change of flag rule, when entering each others’ waters.
“This change of flags always takes place at the median point of the Lake Nyasa where the water demarcates itself in a form of a ridge or edge shape,” he said, adding that they usually call it an upper point. 

This point was supported by other elders, who asserted that when entering the Tanzanian waters at the upper point, Malawian ships will lower and replace their flags with Tanzania flags, an exercise which Tanzanian ships do when entering Malawian waters at the upper point.   
On his visit to Liuli Ward, Hon. Membe met with various elders aging between 60 to 98 years of age, who most of them expressed their agony over the Lake Nyasa border dispute.  One of them, Ms. Mariam Chiundu said “this is not a man-made Lake, and therefore one cannot claim sovereignty over it.   It is a natural feature from God, and it ought to be shared.”  Her argument was centered at the fact that God is not discriminative.
During the mission, Hon. Membe also stopped by Lituhi Ward and Songea District where the sentiments were overwhelmingly similar to those expressed in other visited Wards.  However, in Lituhi, the elders unanimously said that River Songwe naturally demarcates the River into two halves, and all the way to the Shire River towards the Mozambique side.  This observation supports the claim provided by the elders in Liuli and Mbamba Bay Wards that the upper point marks the median line of the Lake between the two countries.
For Songea District, where the two-day tour ended, the Minister was told about the school, church, cemeteries, farm yards and a village which were all submerged in the Lake as a result of drifting and expansion of the water mass towards the land. To their dismay, that would mean that if the border was set in the shore at 1890 where could it be today? 
In his closing statement, Hon. Membe assured the Wananchi of Songea District, and all who are living around the Lake Nyasa area, of their security and properties, and that the Government wants them to continue with their daily activities without any worries.


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