Who owns Lake Nyasa? A tourism attraction center of a dispute
Rich with pristine beaches and clear tropical water, Lake Nyasa on the Tanzanian and Malawian territorial borders is up again in fresh political dispute over its ownership, after the Malawian Presiden
Rich with pristine beaches and clear tropical water, Lake Nyasa on the Tanzanian and Malawian territorial borders is up again in fresh political dispute over its ownership, after the Malawian President claimed his country’s rights over total control of the entire lake.
A political row over the ownership and equal shares of Lake Nyasa water and its resources erupted two years ago when former Malawian President Joyce Banda took a podium to express her country’s interests over the total ownership of Lake Nyasa’s northern border, shared with Tanzania.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete visited Malawi and made several discussions with the former Malawian President, which cooled down the situation that had once threatened tourists and safari investors on both sides of the Lake, over possible territorial clashes.
The Lake which is the leading tourist investment zone and the visitor hot-spot in Malawi has been attracting international tourists from America, Europe and the rest of Africa, mostly South, which is on top among the leading tourist markets for Malawi.
But, the situation over the ownership of the lake changed recently after the new Malawian President Peter Mutharika maintained his position that the entire lake belongs to his country and that not even an inch belongs to Tanzania.
President Mutharika, a current law professor and who taught at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, said his country’s position was clear that the whole lake belongs to Malawi on its northern zone.
“My position has not changed,” President Mutharika told a meeting that included former President of Mozambique Joacquim Chissano and former President of Botswana Festus Mogae, who are members of the Forum of Former African Heads of State and Government mediating in the Lake Malawi border dispute with Tanzania.
“I informed the two leaders that to us there is no conflict between Malawi and Tanzania. I have stated that the issue about Lake Malawi is not negotiable and my position has not changed,” the Malawi President was quoted as saying.
He pointed out, however, that this position does not mean Malawi is ready to go to war with Tanzania.
“Our case on this matter is very clear according to the Helgoland Treaty of 1896 and the Organization of the African Unity (OAU) Resolution of 1985,” said President Mutharika.
The border between Malawi and Tanzania was defined in the Helgoland Treaty signed by Germany and Britain on July 1, 1890. The Treaty defined the border between the two countries as being the edge of the waters on the eastern shore of Lake Malawi.
But Tanzania’s Foreign Minister, Bernard Membe, once said the conflict started in the early 1960s, when the first Malawian President, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, claimed that Lake Nyasa and a part of Southern Tanzania were part of Malawi using the 1890-Heligoland treaty.
Lake Nyasa has pristine beaches with clear water through which tourists can see many colorful fishes swimming. The lake lies on the basin which is controlled by faults from the East African Rift Valley system.
It is famous for an endemic fish, Aulonocara steveni, which belongs to the Aulonocara stuartgranti group of fish.
Its shores are marked with soft sands and pristine scenery. It is the third largest inland water body in Africa after Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika, measuring 550 kilometers in length and 75 kilometers in width, and covering an area more than 11,400 square kilometers in size. In some parts, the lake is as deep as 700 meters.
Also known as Lake Malawi, the Tanzanian side of the lake borders Livingstone Mountains then extends out towards to Malawi and Mozambique. It has 14 inlet rivers, and the only one river which flows out is River Shire which outflows to the Indian Ocean through Mozambique.