Governments of Malawi and Tanzania yesterday signed a Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation (JPCC) agreement amid the long-standing wrangle over the ownership of Lake Malawi.
Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Augustine Mahiga emphasised in an interview after the signing ceremony held in Lilongwe that the pact does not end the existing battle over the lake.
He said: “This issue [lake dispute] is now under revived discussion under the auspices of the three-member committee led by the former president of Mozambique Joachim Chissano and former presidents of South Africa Thabo Mbeki and Botswana Festus Mogae.”
And responding to a question on whether it was necessary for the two countries to sign the pact when they are failing to amicably resolve their differences without involving a third party, Mahiga said the lake issue cannot necessitate the halting of cooperation between Malawi and Tanzania.
“But no reason that cooperation between the two countries should be halted and taken hostage to this issue because the other issues are probably even more important.
“Because this [will] highlight the fact that the areas of cooperation between us is not just the issue of the lake. There are other equally important, maybe even more important, areas of cooperation, which invariably have to be addressed by the two neighbouring countries,” he explained.
Mahiga further expressed hope that the cooperation will create a congenial atmosphere for the mediators to be able to work and resolve the lake wrangle within the most convenient time possible.
“For us where we have these other outstanding issues, it is a positive input in creating a congenial atmosphere for these mediators to be able to work. And it brings together not only the governments, but also the people.
“So, this must be seen against this background that it is an exercise in confidence building and trust-building between us,” he said.
The Tanzanian minister further stated that the cooperation between Malawi and Tanzania will go a long way in injecting positive messages and positive impulses in addressing “this other issue” (lake dispute).
Asked if he does not envisage a scenario where Malawi and Tanzania will be at pains to work together amid an important and yet unresolved lake wrangle, Mahiga said it is for this reason that his government is calling upon the mediators to expedite the process of resolving the lake issue.
“You cannot leave this issue between two neighbours and you cannot move the neighbours, which are permanently neighbours. That’s why it is important that we discuss and resolve this issue,” he said.
In his remarks, Malawi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Francis Kasaila said Malawi and Tanzania are not merely neighbours, but also strong partners in various matters of interest in the region and across the globe.
He said the meeting provided the two countries an opportunity to sign, for the first time, the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Political and Diplomatic Consultation through which the two countries will cooperate on matters of foreign relations. n