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  • Christine Chumbler
    Sep 11, 2000
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      Malawi tries to lure
      oil companies

      AFP, Blantyre | Monday

      THE tiny and impoverished nation of Malawi is hoping to cash in
      on rising world oil prices by enticing petroleum giants to explore
      the nation's landmark lake - problem is, it isn't sure if there is any
      oil at the bottom of Lake Malawi.
      North Carolina's Duke University determined in 1981 that rocks on
      the lakebed had thick sediments of hydrocarbons which are
      potential hosts for oil. Since then, Malawi has been hard-pressed
      to find someone to do any drilling.
      "All we are trying to do is to sell the idea to the international world
      that we have potential for oil exploration," said Charles Kamphiyo,
      director of Malawi's geological survey.
      "We are not saying come here and drill for oil. There is a lot of
      exploration work to be done, especially to drill a few holes to
      enable us to know what is down there."
      Lake Malawi covers one-third of the country's surface area,
      winding 560km between Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and
      Mozambique, though it is only 80km wide.
      The lake's sheer depth has turned away some potential drillers.
      At its deepest point, the lake bottom is 722m deep.
      Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell was granted a license to explore
      for oil in 1981. But when the company failed to find any deposits
      onshore or in shallow waters, they shelved further exploration
      plans, Kamphiyo said.
      Another oil company, Hunt's International, received a license to
      explore the lower Shire valley, but that effort never gained much
      steam and the company quietly pulled out a short time later.
      Mobil began negotiating for an exploration license, but they lost
      interest by early 1989, before the agreement was put in force.
      Since 1989, no one has ventured into Lake Malawi.
      "The only way to determine if there are hydrocarbons under Lake
      Malawi's bed is to sink an exploratory drill hole to penetrate the
      strata," Kamphiyo said.
      Malawi has to import all of its oil needs, a bill that's increasingly
      stiff for a nation where 60% of its 11 million people live in poverty.
      "We will keep on promoting the lake for oil exploration,"
      Kamphiyo said.

      *****

      Malawi plans anti-HIV
      law

      Southern Africa is hard hit by the Aids crisis
      Malawi's Law Commission is to review the
      country's penal code to make the deliberate
      spreading of HIV a criminal offence.

      Malawi is one of countries hardest hit by Aids
      in Southern Africa, with at least 14% of
      Malawi's population of just over 10m people
      infected with the HIV virus, according to the
      National Aids Control Programme.

      The new law would criminalise unprotected sex
      by people who know they have the virus, and
      what is described as "reckless sexual
      behaviour".

      The proposed law has been welcomed by
      women's groups although they caution that
      proving such offences could be a legal
      nightmare.

      The Executive Director
      of the Gender Support
      Programme, Cecilia
      Mussa, said that in
      Malawi the new law
      could affect many
      husbands who contract
      the virus through
      extra-marital affairs
      and then infect their
      spouses.

      President Bakili Muluzi
      has described the
      spread of Aids as a
      crisis and called for stringent measures to
      contain it.

      He recently ordered commercial sex workers
      and their clients to be arrested on sight as one
      way of slowing down the rate of infection.

      He says Malawi's health system cannot cope
      with the Aids crisis and Malawians should discourage the kind of behaviour that helps the
      spread of the disease.
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