Tanzania Daily News/allAfrica

ELDERS of three Tanzanian settlements on Lake Nyasa shoreline have strongly refuted claims by the Malawi government of a shoreline border, stating categorically that the boundary has always been in the middle with the water freely and equally shared by the riparian communities.

The elders were talking to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Mr Bernard Membe who visited Mbamba Bay, Liuli and Lituhi communities in Nyasa district over the weekend to get their views on a brewing border dispute, in which Malawi claims one hundred per cent ownership of the lake, basing its case on some aspects of the 1890 Heligoland Treaty.

“Malawi government officials are liars. We have never ever been part of Malawi. Our fathers were under the Germans and paid taxes to the German government and they told us that the border was in the middle of the lake,” said Mzee Gideon Ndembeka (85), a grandson of the man first installed by the Germans as the chief of Mbamba Bay, which is just across Nkata Bay in Malawi.

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Mzee Ndembeka gave Mr Membe two books published by the University’s Missionary Society to Central Africa (UMSCA) in London in 1962, a year after Tanzania gained independence, which clearly showed the border was in the middle of the lake. Malawi gained its independence in 1964.

“We, all the elders are ready to die here but we shall never cede even an inch of our land to Malawi,” said Shaib Ahmed Ngalipa, who was born at Liuli and went to school there but was never told that they were at any one time, a part of Malawi.

Adding her voice to the highly charged and emotional chorus of rejecting Malawi’s claims, Mariam Chilundu (60) of Liuli said: “What our fellow woman (President Joyce Banda) wants to do is not true. This is not a man made pond but a God given mass of sweet water. The border between our two countries runs in the middle and has never ever been on our beaches.

“What I want to say is simply that the water is ours. Period,” said Cresensia Mayani (80), a hard line stance also taken by Michael Nyirenda (78) who said: “Actually we have no time to waste discussing this topic but we are happy that the matter is going to the United Nations.”

Mzee Daudi Haule Kitanji (88), said the Malawians were liars and “we are ready to testify before the International Court of Justice (ICJ),” as Mzee Conrad Chale intoned: “If she doesn’t want to talk, then let us get engaged,” meaning the people were ready for any eventuality, including military confrontation. Read more…