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Thu Oct 30 20:17:22 SAST 2014

Malawi, Tanzania look to Chissano for mediation over lake dispute

Sapa-AFP | 18 December, 2012 15:42
Mozambique's former president Joachim Chissano. File photo.
Image by: FETHI BELAID / AFP

Malawi and Tanzania will ask Mozambique's former president Joachim Chissano to mediate a border dispute over Lake Malawi amid oil exploration, a Malawian minister said Tuesday.

"A delegation of Tanzanian and Malawian officials will travel to Mozambique on December 20 to deliver the request," Foreign Minister Ephraim Chiume told a news conference.

"Having failed to reach a consensus, we are leaving the matter in the hands of the former heads of state of SADC (Southern African Development Community) countries to help mediate," Chiume said.

Tanzania and Malawi co-wrote the letter, he added.

The two countries are at odds over their frontier on the southern African lake where each of the poor nations hopes to discover valuable natural resources.

Based on an 1890 colonial agreement, Malawi claims ownership of the whole of Lake Malawi.

Tanzania insists that half the lake falls within its borders and is already eyeing it for natural gas exploration.

The contentious part is a largely undeveloped swathe of the lake, where Malawi has awarded a licence to British firm Surestream to explore for oil in the northeastern waters near Tanzania.

The 29 600-square-kilometre (11 000-square-mile) body of water is Africa's third-largest freshwater lake and lies in the Great Lakes system stretching along the East African Rift.

It is a major tourism attraction in Malawi and straddles one third of the country's territory.

Tanzania calls it Lake Nyasa, taken from Malawi's colonial name.

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