Mediating the Lake Nyasa border dispute between Tanzania and Malawi

Kenneth, Agnes Neema
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The study seeks to examine and provide an understanding of the processes of mediation of a border dispute on Lake Nyasa between Tanzania and Malawi. Border disputes in Africa are sometimes difficult to resolve peacefully and in a sustainable manner. The outcome of adjudication on border issues is normally not predictable, and in most cases, political leaders are not willing to accept the risks of losing their territory. Mediation, which is non-binding arbitration, provides a more flexible and balanced way to reach a satisfactory outcome, but the final results of mediated settlements sometimes makes politicians uncomfortable. This research sketches a conceptual framework of mediation by examining the Lake Nyasa dispute between Tanzania and Malawi. Most of the literature on border conflicts does not adequately address the attempts by African institutions to resolve these conflicts. This research uses the contingency theory to examine the roles of mediators and their impacts in attempting to resolve the dispute. The research finds that border disputes often flare-up when they are connected to important economic or social interests such as valuable mineral reserves, oil and gas, water source, and access to the sea. The findings reveal that the discovery of oil and gas deposits on Lake Nyasa led to the resurgence of claims and counter-claims between Malawi and Tanzania. In turn, these countries asked the African Forum to mediate the border dispute. In addition to analysis of the mediation role of the African Forum in this conflict, the report also examines the obstacles that have contributed to the stalemate in these efforts. The research recommends that for the mediation to be successful, the mediators should strive to understand and get knowledge about the source and basis of the dispute; knowledge on internal and external context of the disputants; level of resources-human and material at their disposal and the use the correct strategy to influence the parties in dispute. Also the countries in dispute may consider involving other local and regional mediators, neutral groups, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
A Research Report Submitted to the School of Social Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in the International Relations, 2016.
Kenneth, Agnes Neema (2016) Mediating the Lake Nyasa border dispute between Tanzania and Malawi, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <>