Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo could be angling for a mediation role in the Lake Nyasa border conflict between Tanzania and Malawi. Mr Obasanjo is reported to have gone to Lilongwe in early June to meet President Joyce Banda.
According to the latest issue of the influential Africa Energy Intelligence Report, talks between Ms Banda and Mr Obasanjo were dominated by the Lake Nyasa dispute. The newsletter said the former president, who ruled Nigeria between 1976 and 1979 and between 1999 and 2007, also intended to visit President Jakaya Kikwete before the end of July to secure a diplomatic solution.
But the reports noted that Mr Obasanjo, who played mediator in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009 at the request of the United Nations, has intervened in Malawi in a strictly private capacity. Tanzanian officials were unavailable for comment yesterday.
Diplomatic tension has mounted between the two countries over the border of the lake, with Malawi laying claim to all of it. The lake is called ‘Nyasa’ or ‘Malawi’ in that country and it has reportedly signed oil exploration agreements in the waters.
Several mediation efforts are ongoing, including one led by former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano.
Africa Energy Intelligence Report says that President Banda appeared somewhat discouraged by the developments. She is reported to have said that talks with Tanzania had bogged down and the chances of avoiding international arbitration were fast dwindling.
The newsletter said, however, that the former Nigerian leader has been known to mix international mediation and business.
“This was the case, for instance, when he backed energy exploration firm Chevron in its bid to build a gas pipeline between Cabinda’s offshore and Soyo in Angola by way of a section passing through DRC waters. Obasanjo introduced Chevron Angola’s boss, Alan Kleier, to DRC President Joseph Kabila to settle the issue,” said the report.
In 2011, Malawi awarded the Franco-British company Surestream an exploration contract on blocks 2 and 3 in the northern section of the lake, prompting Tanzania’s protest.