Kikwete Beats War Drums

web geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 115%;”>Last Thursday’s speech came as Tanzania’s relations with Malawi over the ownership of Lake Nyasa, online which is known as Lake Malawi in the neighboring country, clinic continued to deteriorate.

Tanzania has also not been at good terms with Rwanda over allegations that Kikwete’s government supports the DRC-based FDLR militia, a group that draws its fighters and leaders from perpetrators of the 1994 genocide.

Kikwete made the remarks during the country’s heroes’ day celebrations. He laid a wreath on the monument built to remember soldiers who died in the 1978/9 war that toppled the regime of Idi Amin in Uganda.

Backed by several exiled Ugandan fighters, Tanzania under then President Julius Nyerere managed to cross Kagera before seizing Kampala.

Since then, Tanzania has not participated in any major military operation, with observers questioning its ability to confront and defeat war-experienced countries such as Rwanda.

Rwanda fought for several years in DRC and actively participated in the toppling of President Mobutu.

It also hunted down and decimated over 90 percent of FDLR militia which attempted a comeback through Northern Rwanda. The country’s forces have also participated in peacekeeping missions in Darfur, Haiti among other countries.

But Kikwete appears determined to raise hopes among his countrymen that Tanzanian forces can take on Malawi and even Rwanda in case of any eventuality.

“Anyone who tries to provoke our country will face consequences … Our country is safe and the army is strong and ready to defend our country,” said Kikwete without directly mentioning Malawi or Rwanda.

“We will not allow anyone to mess with our country, or try to take away our territory. We will deal with them just as we dealt with [former Ugandan ruler Idi] Amin,” he added.

Kikwete’s warmongering came against the backdrop of Malawian President Joyce Banda’s speech early this month that her government was not ready for any interim deal on the border dispute until the wrangle over sovereignty is amicably settled.

She further clearly stated that her government would not accept any deal of the Lake’s usage until the matter is resolved.

Malawi and Rwanda are yet to respond to Kikwete’s remarks.

Lake Malawi dispute

The geographic name of the lake is disputed. Malawi claims that it is named “Lake Malawi”, whereas other countries bordering on the lake, such as Mozambique and Tanzania, claim that the name is “Lake Nyasa”. The origin of the dispute over the name has its background in geopolitical disputes that began before the independence of Malawi was achieved in 1964, when the territory had been known as “Nyasaland”.

Further complications emerged for political reasons during the 1960s, when President Hastings Banda of Malawi became the only African leader to establish diplomatic relations with the white-ruled country of South Africa.

This recognition of the South African regime was fiercely repudiated by almost all other African leaders, including President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.

This contrasting in policies toward South Africa gave some more impetus to disputes between Malawi and Tanzania, especially concerning the name of the lake itself — the water boundary between the two countries.

The partition of the lake’s surface area between Malawi and Tanzania is under dispute. Tanzania claims that the international border runs through the middle of the lake.

On the other hand, Malawi claims the whole of the surface of this lake that is not in Mozambique, including the waters that are next to the shoreline of Tanzania.

Both sides cite the Heligoland Treaty of 1890 between Great Britain and Germany concerning the border. A wrinkle in this dispute occurred when the British colonial government, just after they had captured Tanganyika from Germany, placed all of the waters of the lake under a single jurisdiction, that of the territory of Nyasaland, without a separate administration for the Tanganyika portion of the surface. Later in colonial times two jurisdictions were established.

In 1954 an agreement was signed between the British and the Portuguese making the middle of the lake their boundary with the exception of Chisamulo Island and Lokoma Island which were kept by the British and are now part of Malawi.

The dispute came to a head in 1967 when Tanzania officially protested to Malawi, however nothing was settled.

Occasional flare-ups of conflict occurred during the 1990s, and also sometimes in the 21st century, have impacted fishing rights, particularly those of Tanzanian fishermen who reside on the lakeshore, and who have occasionally been accused of fishing in Malawian waters. In 2012, Malawi’s oil exploration initiative brought the issue to the fore, with Tanzania demanding that exploration cease until the dispute was settled.


Header advertisement
To Top