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‘Magufuli’s visit lost opportunity’

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By Chimwemwe Mangazi:

Social and political commentators have described Tanzania President John Magufuli’s visit to Malawi as a lost opportunity for President Peter Mutharika to clear the mist on Lake Malawi border dispute between the two countries.

Magufuli arrived in Malawi on Wednesday morning and held bilateral talks with Mutharika on the same day in the afternoon before being treated to a banquet at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe in the evening.

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Thursday, the two presidents launched the tobacco-selling season at Lilongwe Auction Floors and, later, addressed a crowd that gathered at a ground near the market.

However, the leaders did not touch on the issue of lake-border dispute. Tanzania claims ownership of part of the lake but Malawi disputes this.

During the rally, Mutharika kept rumbling about how friendly Tanzanians are, describing Magufuli’s visit as a symbol of a strong relationship between Malawi and Tanzania.

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“We are glad that Malawi is the first country you decided to visit in the Sadc region. This represents the great spirit of the Tanzanian people,” Mutharika said.

Magufuli spoke about the tobacco market and agriculture in general, stressing that challenges faced in the industry in Malawi were similar to those of Tanzania.

Political and social commentator Humphreys Mvula said Mutharika lost an opportunity ahead of the May 21 Tripartite Elections, as resolving the lake dispute was one of his campaign promises in 2014.

“It is a contentious issue that can be better dealt with by the two leaders in a private meeting and coming from that meeting with something to tell the people for both countries. They would have removed the tension and brought hope for both countries,” Mvula said.

However, Chancellor College-based political analyst, Mustapha Hussein, said the two leaders might have discussed the matter behind closed doors.

“We are not sure about what they discussed behind doors, knowing that this is a sensitive and contentious issue that was also referred to mediators; so, we cannot conclude that it is a lost opportunity. However, it would have been better if issues to do with the lake were made public if they discussed it. If not, they should have spoken about the way forward,” Hussein said.

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