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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

`Yes` to diplomacy with Malawi, but

8th August 2012
Chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Edward Lowasa address a news conference in Dodoma yesterday on a dispute over Lake Nyasa boundary between Tanzania and Malawi.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee for Defence, Security and Foreign Affairs has said the defence and security forces are well prepared for any operation to safeguard the country's borders against Malawi’s claims, but advised the government to use diplomacy to resolve the conflict.

The Committee Chairman Edward Lowasa told reporters here yesterday that the Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) was alerted on the matter and was ready to respond to any threat.

The committee’s statement came following unfloding tensions with the Malawian government which has claimed ownership of Lake Nyasa, deploying oil and gas companies to undertake exploration activities beyond its territorial borders.

Addressing a press conference here yesterday which was also attended by a team of TPDF officers, Lowasa said it was the wish of the committee to see the two governments resolve their disputes diplomatically.

“The committee discussed the current relationship between Malawi and Tanzania. Our military officers say they are fully prepared against any attack,” he said, adding that it was better for the two countries to settle the differences through diplomacy.

Citing the war between Tanzania and Uganda, the committee chairperson said it cost the country as some people survived injuries and it affected the economic progress.

“Principally we’re technically good with experience gained Uganda and other resolution wars our soldiers have attended…we cannot leave our political boundaries be mistreated by any country…we would fight back if necessary to do so,” he said.

On Monday, Membe called on Malawi and companies carrying out oil and gas exploration in the eastern part of Lake Nyasa to stop, until the two governments had agreed and resolve border disparity.

According to him, the Tanzanian government was committed to ensure its people are protected “at any cost”.

He said while diplomacy was working on the matter, going on with those activities in the disputed lake would jeopardise the current negotiations and pose a security threat.

Lives of more than 600,000 people rely on the lake, which borders Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi.

He assured Tanzanians living along the lake shores to continue with their daily activities, without fear as the government was working on the crisis.

The minister also said that Tanzania’s security authorities have also spotted some aircraft alleged to belong to the oil and gas exploration companies from Malawi flying in the Tanzanian airspace without clearance from the Tanzania Aviation Authority.

Meanwhile the Civic United Front has warned the Tanzanian government to avoid engaging the country into the war with Malawi.

CUF statement availed yesterday to the Guardian said: “We agree that we should protect our country’s borders by any means only if diplomacy and wisdom has been used effectively and failed.”

In 2011 the government of Malawi awarded gas and oil exploration contract to the UK based Surestream Petroleum Company and is currently conducting Environmental Impact Assessment in Lake Nyasa.

The company which is an independent, UK-based oil exploration company, founded in September 2004, has offices in Reading (UK), Paris (France), Dubai (UAE), Kinshasa and Muanda (Democratic Republic of Congo), Bujumbura (Burundi) and Lilongwe (Malawi).

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