The planned talks between President Peter Mutharika and Tanzania’s John Magufuli over the contentious Lake Malawi border dispute have failed to take place in New York, United States of America (USA).
The collapse of the meeting follows Magufuli’s 11th-hour cancellation of his trip to USA following his country’s earthquake disaster in Kagera Region that claimed 19 lives and injured over 200 others last weekend.
Mutharika, currently in USA for the 71st United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), had planned to meet his Tanzanian counterpart on the sidelines of the assembly to discuss the border dispute, among other issues.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Francis Kasaila, also in USA for the general assembly, confirmed yesterday that the meeting had been rescheduled following Magufuli’s failure to travel to USA.
Kasaila said Mutharika has since assigned TanzanianMinister of Foreign Affairs, East African, Regional and International Cooperation and him to arrange for another meeting between the two presidents soon.
He said: “It’s true that President Magufuli is not here. Our President, as he was walking to the venue of one of the meetings, met the minister of foreign affairs of Tanzania and we have been tasked to set a meeting for the two presidents at the earliest opportune time.”
The minister said he would be following up the issue of arranging a fresh meeting with Tanzania after returning from the UN meeting.
Commenting on the matter, political and social commentator Rafik Hajat backed government’s approach to the issue, saying despite Malawi being the complainant, its diplomatic attitude was the appropriate way to settle the dispute.
“The diplomatic approach of the issue is commendable. Aggression cannot solve the issue because, let us be honest, Tanzania is a much bigger country and has a powerful and developed military and if they want to take part of the lake by force there is nothing we can do about it.
“So, I think the approach to discuss these issues while ensuring compliance to international laws and agreements and treaties that have been accepted in the past is the right way of handling the dispute,” said Hajat, who is the executive director of Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI.
This would have been Mutharika’s first encounter with Magufuli to discuss the issue since ascending to power in May 2014. Magufuli won the Tanzanian presidency in October 2015.