Tanzania and Malawi are neighbours whose borders were artificially drawn up by colonial masters as they shared among themselves Africa’s main resource - the land - like a wedding cake.
Had it not been for this act of history, to which the people of the two countries were mere pawns, Tanzania and Malawi would probably have been one country working and struggling to shape the destiny of a people living together for their common good.
But we’re neighbours who must live as neighbours. In the African cultural context, and as the saying goes; one can neither choose nor run away from a neighbour. We must strive to coexist.
It is in view of this we wish to commend the governments of the two countries for the decision to launch a process of implementing a roadmap towards the reaffirmation of the common boundary between the two countries.
Senior officials from the two countries who met in the Malawian city of Lilongwe last week formed a joint committee of experts to search, review and analyze all available legal instruments concerning the common boundary of the two countries.
According to a statement issued at the end of the meeting, the experts have been mandated to submit a report of their findings back to the committee of officials of the two countries by the first week of December, this year.
This is a very encouraging step in resolving the long simmering boundary dispute that at one stage during the first phase government of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and his Malawian counterpart, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda nearly led to war between the two countries.
We believe, as Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda rightly told Parliament early this year during his Question and Answer session, that the cause of the dispute is discussable and can be resolved using existing international procedures.
And indeed, there is no reason whatsoever why the two countries should not strike a deal and resolve the dispute once and for all provided we all strive to capitalize on the existing political will.
This is because the root cause of the silent dispute is not of anyone’s making. Neither Tanzanians nor Malawians have the supernatural powers to tame the unpredictable Songwe River so that it stops shifting its banks thus making it difficult to determine the border separating the two countries.
There are many opportunities that have been lost in resolving the dispute, especially after the death of Malawi’s founding President Dr Banda who could not see eye to eye with Mwalimu Nyerere due to his rubbing shoulders with the racist regime in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and the then apartheid regime of South Africa.
Though we failed to capitalize on the good relations between the two countries during the reign of Bakili Muluzi, we should not fail this time when the incumbent Malawian President is the current chairman of the African Union (AU), the continental body that has proclaimed rationalization of African countries’ common borders a key priority area.
That the Lilongwe meeting was held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere gives us hope for optimism. Let’s grab the opportunity.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN