The diplomatic row brewing between Malawi and Tanzania over the latter’s decision to publish a new map before the two countries have resolved a dispute over the boundaries of the gas and oil-rich Lake Nyasa/Malawi needs to be addressed soberly. Malawi insists that the Heligoland treaty that established colonial States, was the correct interpretation of both international law and general laws governing treaties.
Dilemmas over borders have been commonplace in Africa, a continent that was bequeathed 103 border disputes by its former colonial rulers in 1884 and 1885. It should not be forgotten that the dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over the Bakassi peninsula caused a lot of upheavals in the region. In the Great Lakes area, massive hydrocarbon finds in Lake Albert have caused unease. Somalia has taken Kenya to the International Court of Justice over a disputed maritime border in what analysts predict to be a trend that will rise dramatically, potentially curbing ongoing and impending oil and gas explorations and leading to diplomatic and legal wrangling.
It is urgent that Africa comes up with mechanisms that will address these disputes before they flare up or get out of hand.