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The Malawi—Tanzania Boundary Dispute

  • James Mayall

Since Malawi became independent on 6 July 1964 diplomatic relations with her eastern neighbour, Tanzania, have been almost permanently strained. Differences between the two states have focused on three sets of issues: contrasting attitudes and policies towards the white minority régimes to the South, President Banda's suspicion that Tanzania was aiding and abetting the attempts by certain prominent Malawi exiles to subvert his régime,1 and a dispute over the de-limitation of the boundary between the two states along Lake Malawi (Nyasa).

These issues are not easily separable: for if it had not been for Banda's outspoken policy towards the white South (which led him alone amongst African statesmen to establish diplomatic relations with South Africa), there would have been no compelling grounds for Tanzania, which opposed this policy, to offer asylum and support to his political opponents; and if it had not been for Tanzania's confrontation, not only with South Africa but also with the Portuguese authorities in Mozambique (with whom Malawi also maintained close relations), it is doubtful whether President Nyerere would have been provoked during May 1967 into bringing the Lake dispute into the open. There is no doubt also that Malawi exiles in Dar es Salaam were actively campaigning against Banda's régime, at this time, over the whole range of his policies, including the question of the Lake.

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Page 611 note 1 In September 1964 Dr Banda dismissed three of his cabinet colleagues, and three others resigned in sympathy. Following this crisis the dismissed ministers, and a number of their supporters, crossed as political refugees into Tanzania and Zambia.

Page 611 note 2 See Mayall, James, ‘Malawi's Foreign Policy’, in The World Today (London), 10 1970, pp. 435–45.

Page 612 note 1 Tanganyika Legislative Council. Official Report (Dar es Salaam), 26 05 1959.

Page 612 note 2 Ibid. 15 December 1959.

Page 615 note 1 For the full debate, see ibid. 12 October 1960.

Page 615 note 2 Cf. also Seaton, E. E. and Maliti, S. T. M., ‘Treaties and Succession of States and Governments in Tanzania’, African Conference on International Law and African Problems, Lagos, 03 1967, pp. 7698.

Page 616 note 1 Tanganyika National Assembly. Official Report (Dar es Salaam), II June 1962. Kawawa had earlier succeeded Nyerere as Prime Minister on the latter's resignation to devote himself to the reorganisation of the ruling party, T.A.N.U.

Page 616 note 2 Cf Mayall, loc. cit. pp. 438–9.

Page 616 note 3 It is uncertain, however, whether this decision was solely dictated by the requirements of Malawi's security policy. Earlier the Geographer in the U.S. State Department had noted that ‘the recent rise in the water level of Lake Nyasa has tended to disrupt services between the two states’. International Boundary Study, No. 37. Malawi-Tanganyika and Zanzibar Boundary (Washington, 1964), p. 4.

Page 617 note 1 The Standard (Dar es Salaam), 3 08 1966.

Page 617 note 2 B.B.C. Summary of World Broadcasts (London), ME/2508, 5 July 1967, B/I.

Page 617 note 3 The Nationalist (Dar es Salaam), I June 1967.

Page 618 note 1 B.B.C. Summary of World Broadcasts, ME/509, 6 July 1967, B/I.

Page 618 note 2 Malawi News (Blantyre), 30 June 1967.

Page 619 note 1 The Times (London), 1 07 1967.

Page 619 note 2 The Standard, 10 September 1968.

Page 619 note 3 The Nationalist, 13 September 1968.

Page 620 note 1 Malawi News, 24 September 1968.

Page 620 note 2 The Nationalist, 20 September 1968.

Page 620 note 3 The Standard, 27 September 1968.

Page 620 note 4 Ibid. 20 December 1968.

Page 621 note 1 See Brownlie, Ian (ed.), Basic Documents on African Affairs (Oxford, 1971), p. 361.

Page 621 note 2 Brownlie, Ian, ‘A Provisional View of the Dispute Concerning Sovereignty on Lake Malawi/Nyasa’, in The Eastern Africa Law Review (Dar es Salaam), I, 3, 12 1968, pp. 258–73. For the legal background to the dispute, see also McEwan, A. C., International Boundaries in East Africa (Oxford, 1971), pp. 178206.

Page 622 note 1 Hertzlet, E., Map of Africa by Treaty (London, 1909 edn.), p. 899.

Page 622 note 2 Ibid. p. 295.

Page 622 note 3 Brownlie, loc. cit. p. 259.

Page 622 note 4 Seaton and Maliti, op. cit. pp. 81–2.

Page 623 note 1 Cf Brownlie, loc. cit. pp. 260 and 263.

Page 623 note 2 Ibid. pp. 263–6.

Page 624 note 1 This article, probably written by Henry Chipenbere or Kenyame Chiume, entitled ‘Background to the Lake Squabble’, appeared in The Standard, November 1968. The same interpretation of the dispute was given to the author by Chiume in an interview in Dar es Salaam in August 1969.

Page 624 note 2 In 1950 the Nyasaland Department of Surveys commissioned Messrs. Sir William Halcrow & Partners to undertake the preliminary survey work at an estimated cost of £300,000.

Page 625 note 1 Exchange of Notes between Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Portuguese Government providing for participation in the Shiré Valley Project (London, 1953), Cmd. 8855.

Page 625 note 2 Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland (acting on their own behalf and on behalf of the Government of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland) and the Government of Portugal regarding the Nyasaland Mozambique Frontier (London, 1962), Cmd. 1866. For the exchange of notes of 6 May 1920, see Treaty Series, No. 16 (London, 1920), Cmd. 1000.

Page 625 note 3 Tanganyika Legislatice Council. Official Report, 12 October 1960.

Page 625 note 4 ‘The inhabitants of Nyasaland and the inhabitants of Mozambique shall have the right to use all the waters of Lake Nyasa for fishing and other legitimate purposes, provided that the methods of fishing which may be employed shall be only those which are agreed upon by the Government of Nyasaland and the Government of Mozambique’. Cmd. 1866.

Page 626 note 1 Cf Keatley, Patrick, The Politics of Partnership (Harmondsworth, 1963), pp. 136–8.

Page 626 note 2 Cf. Pike, John G., Malawi: a political and economic history (London, 1969), pp. 1114.

Page 626 note 3 Nyasaland Protectorate. Report for the Tear, 1956 (London, 1957), p. 13.

Page 626 note 4 Cf. Touval, Saadia, The Boundary Politics of Independent Africa (Cambridge, Mass., 1972), especially ch. 5 ‘The Use of Force’.

Page 627 note 1 Legum, Colin (ed), Africa Contemporary Record: annual survey and documents, 1971–72 (London, 1972), B452.

2 The East African Standard (Nairobi), 24 01 1973.

Page 627 note 3 Cf McEwan, op. cit. p. 194.

Page 628 note 1 Africa (London), 14, 10 1972, and 16, 12 1972.

Page 628 note 2 Alternatively, Tanzania might purchase a share of the Lake, as Portugal was to have purchased her share in 1954, by paying Malawi a proportion of the cost of the Shiré valley project. See McEwan, op. cit. p. 205.

* Lecturer in International Relations, The London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London.

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