The Islands of Chagos: when Britain will lose its last colony

Острова Чагос: когда Британия потеряет свою последнюю колонию

Part of the UK lies in the Indian ocean – the Chagos archipelago is still a colony, its inhabitants forcibly relocated. UN demands from London to return the Islands to Mauritius.In the voice of Olivier Bankata heard undisguised anger. According to him, the actions of the British government lacks goodwill – the dispute about the future of the Chagos archipelago in the Indian ocean is delayed too long already. “We will continue to put pressure (on the London. – Ed.). We will hold a demonstration of protest against the disrespect by the British authorities of the UN General Assembly resolution,” – said in an interview with DW Bankalt.

As a child, he was among the inhabitants of the Chagos archipelago (seven atolls with more than 60 Islands), which were forcibly resettled from the archipelago. Now Olivier Bancoult lives in Mauritius, which formerly belonged to the Chagos, and as a lawyer for many years fighting for the return of the native indigenous inhabitants and their descendants.

Mauritius gained independence in 1968, but before that the British colonial authorities were torn away from him, a group of Islands in Chagos and still retain control over the archipelago. Between 1968 and 1973, about 2,000 inhabitants of the Chagos archipelago were forcibly were relocated to Mauritius, Seychelles and the UK – to on Diego Garcia (the main island of the archipelago) was built a military base.

Chagos is a strategically important archipelago in the Indian ocean

Base leased to the United States until 2036. With Diego Garcia started us air force planes during the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. “We lived in peace and harmony for as long as Britain gave one of the largest Islands in this military base. Since then we suffer from being unable to live at home, says DW Bankalt. We strongly advocate for an end to illegal British occupation.”

On 25 February the international court of justice in the Hague ruled that, in accordance with international law, the Chagos archipelago belongs to Mauritius. According to the court, the United Kingdom illegally annexed the island from its former colony of Mauritius – and now have to return them.

The British government rejected the verdict of the court. “We have no doubts about our sovereignty over the Chagos archipelago,” – said in a statement on the matter, the then British foreign Secretary, Alan Duncan. However, London made a commitment in the long term to transfer to the Mauritius sovereignty over Cahoon if the territory will no longer be required for defence purposes. “That is our position,” it said in a statement.

People from the Chagos archipelago: “We will not surrender”

The UN General Assembly in may this year with majority of votes adopted a resolution in support of the decision of the International court of justice, which also called on Britain to hand over control of the Islands of Chagos to Mauritius. November 22 ended the period prescribed for the implementation of the resolution. However, under international law, the UN General Assembly resolution is not binding. And there is no indication that London will meet contained in the document call.

“We will not surrender,” – emphasizes Bankalt with solid conviction in his voice. On 22 November he organized in front of the British Consulate General in Mauritius, a demonstration of the former inhabitants of the Chagos archipelago: “We want to show the world that Britain has committed against us.”

The strategic value and the use of military archipelago complicates the decision of problems of his transfer to Mauritius. Of course, there will be negotiations between the United States, Britain and Mauritius, I am sure the British lawyer Philippe Sands, who advises the government of Mauritius regarding the issue of the Chagos archipelago. “And Mauritius has made it clear that the military base could stay on the island,” – said Sands in an interview with DW.

London holds its last colony in Africa

The lawyer believes that the hesitant behaviour of London is connected with his position in the new world balance of power. “The political influence of great Britain as a power is now severely limited, against it adopted a number of resolutions of the United Nations. I think she needs time to admit it. But in the end London will accept the decision of the UN”, – predicts the Sands. As he put it, the question is not whether this will happen and exactly when it will happen.

According to Sands, the British government is currently faced with many serious problems related to the prolonged “Broksita” and its possible consequences. And because the authorities in London in this situation, “they want to retain the last colony in Africa”. According to the lawyer, the UK is a country which is still “to cope with the demise of its colonial Empire, which you need time.”

It would be a crime against humanity if the government in London and after November 22 will continue to deny to the natives of the Chagos archipelago in return, specifies the Sands ‘ – because it is impossible “always interfere with the operation of rules of international law”.

Slim hopes for the success of the labour party in the elections

According to Philippe Sands, the UN specialized agencies have already altered geographical map, depicting the new version of the group of Islands of Chagos as part of Mauritius. When the nationality of the Chagos archipelago will be permanently enshrined, Mauritius will be able to dispose of fish stocks in the archipelago and the rights to fly over its air space. That, says Sands, will become for Britain a dramatic and radical change.

Now Philippe Sands, like Olivier Bancoult, hope for early elections to the House of Commons of the British Parliament. To be exact – to win are now in opposition the labour party. The fact that the labour party and their leader Jeremy Corbyn has already expressed a desire to recognize the decision of the International court of justice.

Here only these hopes, it seems, will not come true – yet polls indicate the confidence the leadership of the ruling Conservative party, which at the moment is clearly more likely to retain power.

Meanwhile, Olivier Bancoult, 596 more have been deported from the Chagos archipelago and their descendants – a total of about 9,800 people – consider themselves the legitimate owners of the archipelago. Mankato difficult to live with the feeling that his last years he spends away from home. “Most of us want to die at home,” he says the same words that many members of his generation.

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