Tanzania, Malawi presidents meet to smooth diplomatic tensions

Tuesday January 31 2017

Fishermen in Lake Malawi have been caught in the middle of the Tanzania-Malawi border dispute. FILE PHOTO | XINHUA

Tanzanian President John Magufuli and his Malawian counterpart Peter Mutharika held talks on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa on Monday as part of efforts to diffuse escalating tension between the two countries.

A statement from Tanzania’s Directorate of Presidential Communications Unit said the two leaders agreed to forge stronger bilateral ties and iron out their diplomatic differences amicably.

The two neighbours have been tussling over a lake border since 1967. Known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lake Malawi in Lilongwe, it has been the centre of a new dispute after Dar began oil and gas exploration in the lake.

The diplomatic tension was further aggravated after Malawi recently arrested eight Tanzanians it accused of spying on its uranium mine.

READ: Malawi charges eight Tanzanian 'spies'

ALSO READ: Tanzania to negotiate release of suspects


“The presidents appreciated the efforts by a panel of mediators charged with the task of resolving the border conflict and rallied it to continue with its work,” reads in part the State House statement.

The panel is led by former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano, who was appointed to lead the talks by the Southern African Development Community, of which both are members.

READ: Tanzania, Malawi to revisit talks on ‘spies’ and border dispute

In strengthening bilateral ties, the two presidents direct their transport ministers to work towards introducing direct flights between Dar es Salaam and Lilongwe, the statement read.

The presidents emerged from the meeting holding hands and applauding each other; “Malawi oyee” Magufuli said, “Tanzania oyee” Mutharika responded.

Tanzanian and Malawian government officials are expect to hold a joint sitting this week, from February 3rd to 5th, to deliberate on the way forward regarding the disputes.