Over two million families solely depend on Lake Malawi for their livlihoods. The 29,000-square-kilometre tranquil lake is a tourist spot, source of revenue and food for local populations. But since July 2012, it was discovered that the lake could potentially be a lucrative oil and gas source, and it rekindled a border dispute between the southern African neighbours over who owns the lake. Malawi claims sovereignty over the entirety of the lake that straddles the borders of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Meanwhile, Tanzania says 50 percent is part of its territory. In October 2011 Malawi’s late President Bingu wa Mutharika, awarded a contract to British Surestream Petroleum to start gas and oil exploration on the eastern part of the lake, and then a second exploration licence in December 2012 to a subsidiary of South African firm SacOil.
Richard Kilumbo, a resident from Kyela district, which borders Lake Nyasa, told IPS that he could not understand the reasons for the dispute explained “We have relatives from Mzuzu, Malawi and were going to attend a wedding (there last year). We are shocked and panicked to find we are making preparations of war against our neighbours. We do not know why this is such big thing amongst our leaders. We heard people were talking, we thought we were free to walk and enjoy life...There really is no trouble on the ground, none at all. Fishermen from Tanzania are carrying on as usual, and although we know it’s in the news, we’ve no idea why,”
“There’s no border dispute among the local community, it is a dispute among politicians, a political performance at higher levels, eying elections in Malawi in 2014 and Tanzania in 2015. Unfortunately, the local communities are pawns. They lack access to information and education to understand the implications and seriousness of this,” local environmental journalist who has followed the story for many years, and writes regularly on it for Swahili newspapers Felix Mwakyembe, told IPS. “This lake should be used to improve the lot and livelihoods of local people, on both sides. The lake is a resource – instead it’s being used as part of a political game to further political careers,”