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Places & Regions
Lake Nyasa or Lake Malawi?
Posted: Sunday November 27, 2005 7:46 PM BT
By Gladys Fahari
And about the lake being called Lake Malawi or Nyasa, Mr. Kami said that the lake is Lake Nyasa and not Lake Malawi. This has raised some concerns and some people think that if we are not careful there might arise the same situation as that during the Kamuzu Banda era..
Bordered by Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique, Lake Malawi covers a total area of 22,490 square kilometers

The people living in the lake-shore areas have always relied on the lake for food (fish), transport, water, recreation, and other daily needs
Are we people serious or what? I'm sure any sane person will agree with me that boundaries to any country are a vital issue. But we seem not to care so much about the boundaries.

For instance, take the case of the machingas - vendors who roam around the streets and worse still in government offices selling wrong maps!
And by wrong, I mean maps indicating that Lake Nyasa is not indeed Lake Nyasa but Lake Malawi and that Lake Malawi is exclusively part of Malawi!
This is interesting considering the fact that Tanzania has also a part of the lake and even the colonial maps clearly show the boundary. What these maps are telling us is that Tanzania does not have a part in Lake Nyasa - or is it Lake Malawi?

But-what action do we take? None, at least so far. And people continue to import these maps, for use them in public offices and in schools.
With 2006 just but a month and a half away and I'm. perfectly sure that most of the 2006 office diaries will have the same wrong maps. I can actually bet my life on that, because if at all this is supposed to send a warning, it would be but too late as the diaries must be printed by now, and stacked somewhere awaiting to be sold.

Our investigations can reveal that some top private and public institutions even have the controversial maps printed on their diaries. With a few exceptions, such as diaries printed for the Tanzania People's Defence Forces (TPDF) that are okay, many other institutions have the wrong map on their memoirs and walls!
Those diaries have wrong maps on them include the National Bank of Commerce, the Tanzania Investment Bank, Tanesco, the Dar es Salaarn City Council, and the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) to mention but some.

This new development means Malawi has achieved a diplomatic coup over Tanzania in the longstanding dispute - on paper.
However, the Communication Officer at the Ministry of Lands and Human Settlements. Development, Mr Jayson Kami, insists that there is no current dispute between Tanzania and Malawi over the said lake. According to him, the boundaries are quite clear and Lake Nyasa is the name of the lake and not Lake Malawi, as Malawians want to refer to it.

"There is no existing dispute between Tanzania and Malawi over Lake Nyasa, There is a clear boundary that shows which part of the Lake is Tanzania!! territory and which is not. We know our boundary and Malawians know their boundary," he said.
And about the lake being called Lake Malawi or Nyasa, Mr Kami said that the lake is Lake Nyasa and not Lake Malawi. This has raised some concerns and some people think that if we are not careful there might arise the same situation as that during the Kamuzu Banda era.

In Tanzania, the disputed water body famous for its sardines is known as Lake Nyasa, while the neighbouring country conveniently refers to the same natural resource as Lake Malawi.

Some time back Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, then President of Malawi, claimed that Lake Nyasa and the whole of Njombe area in Tanzania was part of Malawi. But this was a far-fetched idea as even the colonial maps clearly indicate the boundary between Tanzania and Malawi to be somewhat cross-cutting in the middle. And that is exactly when the dispute arose.

But Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere was too strict with boundaries. A committee was appointed by both countries to solve the dispute. And Mwalimu took a stand and said that he did not care if the name was Lake Nyasa, Malawi, Banda or Kamuzu 'borders were not negotiable'.

What transpired in the meeting is still unknown. No one knows whether it was agreed for the lake to remain as Lake Nyasa or Lake Malawi or if it was given another name all together.
Efforts to verify this issue has hit a wall. An official with city-based company, who are one of the major sources of office diaries, confirmed to be aware of the anomaly but pushed the buck to the suppliers (name withheld).

"We don't know who are the manufacturers of these maps, and in fact many of our customers have rung to complain. But it is too late now to do anything", the official said, adding that they have made note to ensure that diaries for 2006 cany the proper map.

"The government should ban the sale of wrong maps. It should be very strict on maps, as facts will always remain facts. Sooner or later, the coming generation will be misled", veteran journalist Reginald Mhango advises.

Mhango says that the OAU charter was God-sent as it clearly stipulates that all independent countries should respect the borders inherited from colonial powers. "Without this charter, a lot of conflicts might have arisen with boundaries.
It is good that things be left as they were found at independence so as to avoid conflicts",

The machingas, who vend these maps, are unaware of the mistake. To them nothing matters as long as they earn their daily bread.
"What do I care if the maps are all wrong. Let the government solve this issue. As long as I get what I deserve for toiling all day long in the heat, who cares? Besides, if I stopped selling these maps, where would I get the right ones?" one map seller contested.

Fortunately, Tanzania and Malawi enjoy a sound good neighbourliness relationship and efforts to settle the border dispute that have been in place for year
record to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding in February 2004, as the first step towards finding a lasting solution.

They have also met a number of times to discuss not only the Lake Nyasa issue but also the implementation of a proposed joint venture to tame the perennially shifting Songwe river border.

Thankfully, plans are under way to construct some 10 dams along the Songwe river to stop the border between Tanzania and Malawi from shifting or alternating its course.
The border dispute has been on since the 1970s, when some Tanzanians and Malawians living on the river banks found themselves alternating belonging to the "wrong" country because of changed river course after flooding.

Internationally, when a river forms the boundary between two countries, the boundary is demarcated along the deepest end of the river.
Floods have always forced new water flows in the lowlands of Kyela District on the Tanzania side.

Cases of Tanzanian villagers finding themselves in Malawi, and vice versa, happens mostly after the frequent downpours in the mountainous Rungwe District to the north.

Under the boundary project, the river dams would be used for irrigation and fishing, apart from controlling floods.
The dams would stretch along the river that traverses two districts of Ileje and Kyela-both on the border to Malawi, and Karonga District in Malawi.

 
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