Managing Inter-State Border Disputes: Experience from the Malawi-Tanzania Border Wrangle

James Zotto


For decades, Malawi has been in a border dispute with Tanzania. Efforts to manage the dispute have been made. This paper highlights the border dispute management initiatives taken by Malawi and Tanzania. Specifically, it examines the reasons why the management of the dispute has not been successful. The paper begins by clarifying certain conceptual issues. It then describes the management of border disputes in Africa in order to establish how the disputes have been managed on the continent as a whole. This helps to establish the success or failure of the border dispute management initiatives on the continent. Then, the paper examines the management of the border dispute involving Nyasaland and Tanganyika during the colonial period, specifically during the late British colonial period. Finally, it analyses the border dispute management initiatives taken by Malawi and Tanzania during the post-colonial period. Data for this paper are drawn from multiple sources, including documentary information and oral interviews. The argument is that the colonial governments of Nyasaland and Tanganyika and, later, the post-colonial governments of Malawi and Tanzania, attempted to manage the border dispute under consideration but in vain because of the various socio-economic and political circumstances that influenced the process which consequently retarded the efforts to manage the dispute. In this regard, the paper has found that the colonising power did not put considerable effort in managing the dispute because it was not their priority and because it did not affect them in any way. The early post-colonial governments of Malawi and Tanzania did not make a great effort to manage the dispute either, since they were preoccupied with other pressing issues such as building their national economies and repositioning themselves in the new, post-colonial context.

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