Malawian President Joyce Banda said on Wednesday her country will not “go to war” with Tanzania over a border dispute in Lake Malawi, now poised to become a new oil and gas frontier.
“Even if the diplomatic route fails, it does not necessarily mean we will go to war with our brothers and sisters in Tanzania because we can resort to other channels to solve the matter,” Banda told reporters in her first public reaction to the issue.
Tanzania wants an halt to oil exploration in the northeast part of the lake to pave way for talks to resolve the dispute.
The border dispute erupted after Malawi last year issued a licence to British firm Surestream Petroleum to prospect for hydrocarbons.
Banda came to power in April after the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika, whose administration awarded the licence.
“Much as it is a well-known fact that the lake belongs to Malawi, we will engage our Tanzanian counterparts and resolve our differences diplomatically and amicably,” she said.
The Malawi leader said she was going to hold talks with her counterpart Jakaya Kikwete in Mozambique during the the two-day summit of the Southern African Development Community, which begins Friday.
Tanzania claims a portion of the 29 600 square kilometre lake.
Malawi claims a colonial-era agreement dating from 1890 that stipulates the border between the two countries lies along the Tanzanian shore of the lake.
Surestream has been conducting an environmental impact assessment on the lake.
The two nations are set to hold talks on the disputed border in the northern Malawian town of Mzuzu on August 20, two days after the Maputo summit.