Mutharika, Magufuli hold talks today

President Peter Mutharika is this afternoon scheduled to hold bilateral talks with his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli in Lilongwe amid an unresolved Lake Malawi border dispute between the two countries.

In a statement outlining Magufuli’s schedule, which includes opening of the 2019 Tobacco Marketing Season at Lilongwe Floors this Thursday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said Mutharika and Magufuli will have bilateral talks and later a private discussion after the Tanzanian leader lays a wreath at the statue of former president Bingu wa Mutharika at Parliament Building.

Magufuli (L) and Mutharika during a previous engagement

Reads the statement in part: “The two Heads of State and Government will lead in the bilateral talks between Malawi and Tanzania on thematic areas aimed at strengthening the cordial relations between the two countries.”

In 2016, the two leaders failed to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (Unga) in New York, United States of America (USA), as Magufuli cut short his trip at the eleventh hour following an earthquake that killed 19 and injured over 200 people in Tanzania.

In 2017, a High Level Mediation Team (HLMT) on the border dispute also proposed a meeting between the two leaders. But the meeting did not materialise.

The programme released yesterday did not indicate whether the two will discuss the long-standing dispute.

And in a telephone interview yesterday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Principal Secretary Ben Botolo described Magufuli’s visit as “a simple State visit” which did not include the Lake Malawi border dispute on the agenda.

He said: “If it [the border dispute issue] may come out during their private discussions, then it remains a private discussion. We cannot say at this time that this is a mission to discuss this issue. That wouldn’t be right at the moment.”

Magufuli, who is visiting Malawi for the first time since he became Tanzania’s president in 2015, will be hosted to a State banquet at Kamuzu Palace later in the evening.

In the four years he has been at the helm in Tanzania, Magufuli has made headlines for his tough stance in fighting corruption and abuse of public resources. He has also dismissed errant Cabinet ministers, among other radical actions.

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