July 14, 2003

Talks of border water conflict mark Muluzi-Mkapa meeting

The issue of whether Tanzania's border lies inside Lake Malawi, also known as Lake Nyasa, continues to emerge during meetings of leaders of Malawi and Tanzania. At a recent meeting between Presidents Bakili Muluzi and Benjamin Mkapa of Malawi and Tanzania respectively, the two were at pains to deny existence of problems associated with use of the waters of the lake and of River Songwe on the border between the two countries.

Answering a question at a press conference here on July 7, President Muluzi said the issue about how to use the waters was not a big problem as was being portrayed. "It is not controversial as you put it...It affects our people, but I think, we can talk about it," he maintained. Muluzi explained that there have been several agreements between the two countries on the use of the lake and the river. Commenting on the matter, President Mkapa pointed out that the decision to step up efforts to integrate the economies of Malawi and Tanzania, including utilisation of the common waters, would render the problem redundant.

Lake Malawi, as it is known in Malawi, or Lake Nyasa according to Tanzanians, is seen by Malawians to be wholly situated on their soil, with its northern shores barely touching Tanzania. But Tanzanians maintain that their border with Malawi is somewhere inside the lake.

River Songwe, which largely runs along the border between the two countries, but has had its waters changing course and causing confusion among communities residing along its banks, has become another controversial water body between the two states. In a joint communiqué released at the end of the meeting, the two leaders expressed desire to co-operate closely also on Songwe river stabilisation project. (African Church Information Service)

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