The Journal of Modern African Studies


The Malawi—Tanzania Boundary Dispute

James Mayall*

Since Malawi became independent on 6 July 1964 diplomatic relations with her eastern neighbour, Tanzania, have been almost permanently strained. Differences between the two states have focused on three sets of issues: contrasting attitudes and policies towards the white minority régimes to the South, President Banda's suspicion that Tanzania was aiding and abetting the attempts by certain prominent Malawi exiles to subvert his régime,1 and a dispute over the de-limitation of the boundary between the two states along Lake Malawi (Nyasa).

These issues are not easily separable: for if it had not been for Banda's outspoken policy towards the white South (which led him alone amongst African statesmen to establish diplomatic relations with South Africa), there would have been no compelling grounds for Tanzania, which opposed this policy, to offer asylum and support to his political opponents; and if it had not been for Tanzania's confrontation, not only with South Africa but also with the Portuguese authorities in Mozambique (with whom Malawi also maintained close relations), it is doubtful whether President Nyerere would have been provoked during May 1967 into bringing the Lake dispute into the open. There is no doubt also that Malawi exiles in Dar es Salaam were actively campaigning against Banda's régime, at this time, over the whole range of his policies, including the question of the Lake.


* Lecturer in International Relations, The London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London.