Ten chiefs and over 50 group village heads from Karonga and Chitipa districts yesterday unanimously endorsed oil exploration on Lake Malawi but demanded that oil refinery works be done right here in the country for the benefit of the people.
Led by Paramount Chief Kyungu, the chiefs also agreed to form a think-thank that would determine how much the two districts have in terms of natural resources.
The meeting also agreed to work with the Forum for Oil and Gas and warned the grouping to be representatives of everybody and avoid advancing personal goals as was the case with some civil society organisations in the fight for Kayerekela uranium.
All the five chiefs in Karonga: Kyungu, Wasambo, Mwakaboko, Mwilang’ombe and Kilupula attended. Also in attendance were the five chiefs from Chitipa namely Kameme, Mwenemisuku, Mwaulambia, Mwenewenya and Nthalire.
“This was a meeting for the people of Chitipa and Karonga with regards to the natural resources that the two districts have to have common approach so that what we speak in Karonga is also spoken in Chitipa,” said Kyungu in an interview after the meeting.
He also said the decision from the chiefs was unanimous.
“Everybody is in agreement. We have to move together and speak with one voice and that the natural resources that are available in the two districts must benefit the people of Chitipa and Karonga unlike in the past when Paladin and coal miners just came and exploited our people, plundered our resources and off they went,” said Kyungu.
The Paramount Chief said the traditional leaders also agreed to form a think-tank early next year as a matter of progress.
Asked whether civil society organisations were welcome to represent the people again in the oil exploration after observations that they allegedly ripped off citizens, Kyungu said: “they always play their role. We cannot stop them but they must work in tandem with the chiefs. They cannot negate on what we the chiefs have agreed. Democracy is not anarchy. They should [not] be criticizing for the sake of criticizing.”
Kyungu said oil miners coming to Karonga and Chitipa should provide tangible development projects and offer scholarships to sons and daughters from the two districts.
Senior Chief Mwenewenya from Chitipa said the meeting was successful because the chiefs from the two districts came to an agreement to endorse oil exploration and mining in the land.
Chairperson for Forum for Oil and Gas, John Phiri, said after the chiefs’ endorsement of the oil exploration, their next step is to conduct awareness campaigns among the people along the lake from Chitimba to Songwe.
He described the chiefs’ agreement as a positive development.
“We need them to get fully involved. They will be advisers of the communities,” said Phiri.
Four companies Rak Gas, the Surestream-Hamra Oil Holdings Venture, Pacific Oil and SacOil hold the exploration licenses on the lake.