Tanzania and Malawi yesterday agreed to appoint an international mediator to resolve a long-running border dispute over Lake Malawi, thought to rest on abundant oil and gas reserves.
The dispute has been ongoing for over 50 years but was escalated when Malawi issued exploration blocks on the lake. In 2011, Malawi, awarded oil exploration licences to UK-based Surestream Petroleum to explore for oil in Lake Malawi. Tanzania requested Surestream not to start drilling until the dispute had been resolved.
Malawi claims total sovereignty over the lake, the third largest in the world, while Tanzania claims 50% of the lake.
The stakes have been raised with eastern Africa showing the potential of being the last Oil and Gas frontier. with recent recoverable discoveries of gas in Tanzania & Mozambique, and oil in South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya. With high possibilities of further discoveries in Ethiopia and Somalia.
Last month Malawi pulled out of talks with Tanzania after it accused its neighbor of intimidating Malawi fishermen, an accusation denied by the Tanzanian government. Malawi also wants Tanzania to withdraw a map that shows the border line passing in the middle of the disputed lake.
The countries have decided to go to the African Forum of Former Presidents, which deals with conflict management and resolution in the SADC region. If mediation is not successful, the two countries would take their case to the International Court of Justice. A point to note is these two countries are some of the most stable countries on the continent of Africa, but oil and gas could bring them to conflict.