Britain is still an imperialist and the top United Nations Court, the International Court of Justice has held that it should relinquish control of its last colony in Africa - the Chagos Islands. The decision is not binding as it is just an advisory ruling but with sufficient international pressure, there is hope for the archipelago of Chagos.
The History of British Brutality in the Chagos Islands
In April 1965, Mr. Anthony Greenwood, the British Foreign Secretary, visited Mauritius and held secret talks with Chief Minister Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. The United Kingdom brokered a deal with Mauritius that enabled the colonial power to take over the Chagos Islands for a paltry 3 million pounds. In November 1965, the British Indian Ocean Territories were created. This marked the beginning of horror after horror for Chagossians.
According to John Pilger, an award-winning journalist, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Britain expelled the native population of the Chagos Islands to make way for an American military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island. The idea was to use Diego Garcia to monitor Soviet activity. Pilger says the expulsions began in 1965 and, "People were herded into the hold of a rusting ship, the women and children forced to sleep on a cargo of bird fertiliser. They were dumped in the Seychelles, where they were held in prison cells, and then shipped onto Mauritius, where they were taken to a derelict housing estate with no water or electricity." The first group of expelled Chagossians is said to have arrived on the Seychelles on the cargo ship - Nordvaer on Thursday 30th September 1971. Others had been forced out by conditions which were designed to kick them out. Americans had gone so rogue as to round up pet dogs and kill them just to show intent.
Nine Chagossians killed themselves. Twenty-six families died in poverty. Within 10 years, the Chagos Islands were free for Britain and America to use to their fancy. They did not care about the cost. After all, one Foreign Office memo in 1966 had referred to locals as “some few Tarzans and Man Fridays whose origins are obscure.” That comment was in response to another by Sir Paul Gore-Booth that said, "We must surely be very tough about this. The object of the exercise is to get some rocks which will remain ours . . . There will be no indigenous population except seagulls."
Britain has come up with ruse after ruse to keep the Chagossians out. The most blatant was exposed by Wikileaks being the establishment of a marine reserve on the entire archipelago to keep the original inhabitants out. The case of the Chagossians was even heard in the British Supreme Court but their claim was dismissed. America now uses Diego Garcia as its epicenter for its War on terror. The embarrassing irony is the island was forcefully taken through Anglo-American terror. Western terrorists are congregated in land they stole, purporting to fight Eastern terrorists.
The Advisory Ruling
The highest United Nations on the 25th of February held that Britain should end its administration of the Chagos Islands “as rapidly as possible". The ICJ gave the ruling in an advisory opinion which might not have legal force but will surely exert some political influence. The court, therefore, stated that it is up to the United Nations General Assembly to decide how to ensure the completion of the decolonization of Mauritius.
Header Image: Fiona Hanson - PA Images