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Peter Mutharika talks tough at African Parliament

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President Peter Mutharika on Monday challenged fellow African Heads of State to respect national borders which colonialists left.

Mutharika’s speech, which he delivered at the opening of the 14th Ordinary Session of Pan-African Parliament in South Africa, was a veiled reference to the border row between Malawi and Tanzania over ownership of Lake Malawi—which is called Lake Nyasa in the eastern African country— with Tanzania claiming part of the lake.

The dispute is being handled by former presidents of South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique, Thabo Mbeki, Festus Mogae and Joaquim Chissano, respectively.

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In his speech, Mutharika recalled that during Ghana’s 40th independence celebrations on March 6, 1997 in Accra, Tanzania’s founding president, Julius Nyerere, said countries must continue respecting the borders they found after colonialism because “without unity, there is no future for Africa”.

“In Resolution 17(1) of the First Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU, all member states solemnly pledged and declared “to respect the borders existing on their achievement of national independence.

“The most outstanding of those forefathers was Julius Nyerere who sponsored the resolution and led Tanzania in playing an active role in respecting the territorial integrity we inherited from colonialism,” Mutharika said.

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He further recalled that from the 1890 Heligoland Treaty to the 1964 Resolution on Border Disputes among African States by the OAU, there has never been a reason for disrespecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations.

“Africa did not come to be what it is by mistake. It is then wise to remember that we co-exist peacefully because our forefathers who founded the countries we govern today valued unity in spite of our boundaries,” he said.

At the opening of the meeting, Mutharika spoke on behalf of English-speaking African countries while President Roch Marc Kabore of Burkina Faso spoke on behalf of Francophone Africa.

He stressed that unity should be Africa’s key guiding principle in everything so that the continent can realise its potential.

“It is impossible for this parliament to achieve anything if we cannot share a common goal. Let us be guided by the wisdom of our people, who in one proverb say to us: ‘he who does not know where he is going will never know whether he has arrived’.

“As Africans, we can best share a sense of a common destiny when we cultivate a shared critical consciousness of our history,” he said.

The Pan African Parliament was established as an organ of the African Union (AU) in order to ensure full participation of Africans in development and economic integration of the continent.

The current session is running from May 8 to 19.

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