Chagos Islands: Africas last British colony?
This is the code and in depth look at one new story from Africa every week. But costs from the BBC World Service are supported by advertising. Food Edgy all. Through change when you take somebody out of their home, it's not normal. These people need to be judged. We came here but we didn't know this place who were forced to come here in a boat were being abused were facing difficulties. It's not to normal. It's is something very wrong up. It's often assumed that colonialism is a thing of the past. And the conversation now on offline has shifted to decolonization take, for example, the ongoing movements to decolonize different aspects of life by literature beauty standards. But for some people actual territorial control over the home nation still very real. This is the story of the. Islands known as Africa's last British colony, I'm Kim Chuck Annetta, and this is the cone BBC World Service original podcast. This is the cold. The calm the calm. The cold. This is a story about justice sovereignty identity and the long running battle over a group of tropical islands in the Indian Ocean. It's called for chair goes archipelago made up of more than sixty islands which were home to around one and a half thousand people. Those people that Yugoslavians were also forcibly expelled from the islands nearly fifty years ago and they've been prevented from returning home ever since. I'm talking to the home family. You heard John F for the start of this episode he was born on Diego Garcia the largest island of the archipelago and was a young child at the time of the expulsion. Too Young to really remember. To understand the whom he left behind I need to speak to his mother Lorenza. Rental is in her seventies and has agreed to chat to me over the phone from a house in the Seychelles with the help of an interpreter. High Lorenza. Indie Halloween deal could you tell us about your home in Chico? OSC, could you describe it to us? Q. Roller. Our home was very happy. Their life was fun. My house was touched and I had a well just outside I had work I had food I went fishing was we all my children and hundred animals chickens? Spend the first twenty years of her life and goals. And we she recalls the islands. Now it sounds pretty quick. If you were working round the island. Someone who's never been? What would you see? You would see rays sharks, and on the land you would see a lot of birds and coconut crabs. Then there were the people even there was nobody around in my district could walk to the next district and always find someone bear. By. Of Lorenza misses the way that the community would come together for. A Saturday job I love Utah. Traditional dance where men and women move to the beat of a drum heated on the bonfire. Everybody came from which. Every Saturday until sunrise on Sunday morning. Didn't you on the island with Kreis you'd take flower, you turn it, you steer it, and then you would cook it on a hot rock with fish. You'd get octopus sometimes Rayo total. Phone Days We. Lose. Our life on the island was very happy. For example, I didn't think if today was Wednesday or Thursday the day of the week didn't matter I was just happy every day. More, guys. To Cuba. Lorenzo tells me this. She sat in her house on my island in the Seychelles nearly two thousand kilometers from the whom she's describing. And how did you first hear that you are being affected? Who told you? Not My husband said we are going to leave the island. I told him I'm not going but he said we are all going sushila struggle Sian everyone's going. I ask Him who said his and he said he heard the Mauritians talking about it. What happened after that once they'd heard that these fictions were were happening on. Garrick. Even. Though I wanted to cry I couldn't cry. To hold it inside because I had to take care of my kids clothes. Couldn't even wash them properly. Just them on a line and they have to wear it over. Every day until we left Mr Maxell the islands administrator told me there's no work for me because we're going to leave I ask him where we going he said I don't know. But. The room is abruptly became reality when boats arrived ready to transport the to goes away. How much time did you have? To prepare to pack up and go then. A short amount of time quickly quickly, you have to pick up your rice became your oil all in one day. I, left my bed and my sofa and a cupboard I just didn't have time. These were pieces of furniture that Lorenzo really loved. Family. But in the rush she had to leave behind. A truck came for our belongings but I forgot some stuff and then there was Mike. I used to plan cabbages and chilly how to leave it all behind. What did you say to your Children Lorenzo? I said to them we're going to go children. We said, mom, where are we going? Before they knew it the PM family were on the boat and along with hundreds of they neighbors there were sailing away from the only home had ever known. Array lunar reporters on board call the Noverre under the deck. It was full of people in the end we slept at the top with the horses. Their father was even nearer to the horses and the horses were chewing his hair. He had a lot of hair. Why were you sleeping alongside the horses? Was it just that the poet was to packed and crowded with people leaving the island? The birth was full. There was no space below deck. Now reflecting on what she left behind. Says most upset about the graves of her family members including two of children who passed away before the fiction. I was very sad when I thought about my father's burial site eichweide. Did you understand. Why you would being removed from the island. Over, now, no I didn't know what had happened. What had happened thousands of miles away in London, was the fate of course, islands had become a bargaining chip in negotiations over the independence of Mauritius. The Shakers archipelago was originally an inhabited. The islands were discovered by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century and it wasn't until nearly two hundred years later that the first settlers arrived. By the late nineteen, sixty s when Lorenzo is there with a young family, the islands with part of Mauritius and had been under British control since the nineteenth century. But malicious was seeking independence. And although they said that they wanted to keep the Jayco silence Britain told them that they'll have to give them up all the main under colonial control. After a century and a half of British rule, the Union Jack was being lowered for the last time on the island in the Indian, on nine hundred, Sixty, eight Mauritius was granted independence. This moment they had waited. For the road of the huge crowd magician policemen voice to the. Flag. Avenue. Independent. Mauritian nation. The celebrations fate of the Shakers islands was quietly forgotten island in the sun was now free to decide its own district. Independence. In the next five years, all of the inhabitants of the goes archipelago forcibly removed. But the story didn't finish their. Because Mauritius has been fighting to win back at sovereignty over the islands promising that it would allow the scenes to return. I. Love. How Much Sick Sanders, the lawyer who's represented Mauritius in his battle to win back the occupant. I really really care about this issue they say that the UK. Kept islands in the first place. So, why did they what the UK told the Mauritians back in nineteen sixty, five was they needed the archipelago for communication purposes they did not tell them that they had already concocted a deal with the Americans and they did not tell them that that deal would require him to remove all the inhabitants of the Goshawk Cappella. Go to the four corners of the world. In fact, the UK's deal with the US, allow them to use one of the islands Diego Garcia which was the p home family's home as a military base for defense purposes. and. When Philippe says that the locals were sent to the corners of the world. He's not joking some settled in Seychelles others and Mauritius and other still in the UK. This is essentially about an Anglo American alliance really truly like intensity sensually about the British at a time of decolonisation wanting to hang onto something which they could give to the Americans and in doing that they were willing to sacrifice the local population. And this is a detail that is particularly distressing for many people. All of their dogs gassed we'll if they dogs from dogs were gassed that Yugoslavians that I speak to nine quite a few of them. I, want to go back the ones I know remain distressed. Although, only one island would be used inhabitants of all of the islands of force out we also speak to the UK government, but they refuse to give us an interview they said in a statement successive governments have expressed sincere regrets about the manner in which associations were removed from the British Indian Ocean territory in the late nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventy s on sovereignty over the islands they said, we have no doubts about our sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean territory, which has been under continuous British sovereignty. Since eighteen fourteen, we stand by longstanding commitment to cede sovereignty of the islands timorous when Turtur is no longer required for defense purposes. So they say that they will give up control when the islands on no longer needed for defense but we move that be and what is it about the chain of islands that make them so important to the U K anyway. One man who can definitely help us understand this is James Landale he's the BBC's diplomatic correspondent has been covering the eagles dispute for years. Why is the checkoffs? Go. Sue Important for UK and US strategic interests it's just this extraordinary resource militarily essentially it's sort of unsinkable aircraft carrier for the UK and the United States plunked writes in the middle of the Indian Ocean there's a natural goon for ships to come to be re pads to. Pick up few It's good for submarines does not really long runway. For the Big Long Distance Bomas. The argument that the British government makes is to say look. This is a place that is used to promote British interests to take part in military conflicts that that happened from time to time. They also say it's very useful for intelligence gathering. It has lots of listening posts there. So you know they would say it's a has a role in the fight against terrorism. In recent years, it's used it was used as a base when the British and other countries we're trying to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia and things like that. So that's their argument that it's incredibly useful just to have that strategic base on the other side of the world. Sin. Why do the other islands also have to be uninhabited despite not having basis? Well. That's not entirely clear. There's been discussion about this. Over the years I've heard arguments about you know security that it'd be too difficult to have some island is there but not in other parts of the islands there's also I think the question of sustainability is it possible to live on some of the islands? There's been some debate about two. Miniature questions still want to go back and happy to keep waiting for whatever time the UK finds. The islands are no longer required for defense. One of those campaigning Pierre. Prosper he was born on Peres battles, the second largest island, and is now the chairman of the. Committee. Of Seychelles. We left when I was still baby. My parents actually came from Seychelles in the Wednesday on contracts to one, but they love the place a. Because they got close to the community that any says Tarez. They held identity couch in the attachments into waiting ladies, That's what got me really interested. Many. Really Saad Story. And really got me interested and felt part of this hold off the whole fight because I was born there to the end of the day. P I was actually able to make visit back to Paris battles the island of his birth accompanying a group of journalists in two, thousand and six. He finally saw the House that he was born in. For, me it was very, very, very emotional. To see especially, the things that my parents told me where they're on that specific place where I was born. Outside, you could see some all remnants of things start my parents left behind. US to talk about his big old tree, which is abundant training still of course began. Describing, cows being. And like water tanks and furnaces, even the remnants of a Church Hospital Exactly describe it to me. Actually Wendy left my father wrote or Noel Leaving House for the last time the time to Dayton five of us. That was in seventy three and you go six steel written well, nobody touched it. The UK has said that it will support a program to allow. You to make brief trips like this called heritage visits to the island. But they've previously claimed that permanent resettlement would be impractical. When this government themselves abutted give 'em wasn't for fifteen a detailed sorrel assessment of physically t. came out that it was. By the end of the day, the molly violence out population said it for several decades and he thriving populations. And they have everything state would need the shock with signs hack exactly the same thing as molly violence. Of course, you will need viability end support, and within the current Brady twenty expectations of any population. It's a lot of work. I mean the communities having separatist photos such a long time. To help cohesion between the Mauritian groups, shows Google's in UK. And because that's a racial is not our fault you still have that basis of being defies cushion. Cohen. So, but it starts with ourselves to have that cohesion. Not all. I want to return him Lorenza and her sons say now they've been in the Seychelles for so long they can't imagine starting all over again back in Diego Garcia. But the twenty fifteen independent study commissioned by the British government funded the majority of the in community did want to return and made it clear that temporary visits would not suffice. For Peer and those fighting to return it's never felt like a fair fight. We have to deal with a huge while taller for nations. Totally, ignoring, always finding ways to fos to stop off us to Louis Z. tried a motivation or. Sans off. Season six, sixty ups. There's a strong sense of injustice before. The term was looking for. We've Hod. Em's thing. At one time saved. Sorry. What was? But the sorry is not enough. People are still hurting and that warned, is it open? The only re- 'cause we have is goal. LICO. So we asked them to see us as a people. and. We're not going to stop also every avenue we how we're going to meet in aside and he's GonNa pass onto the people. So that brings us back to the decision by Mauritius to start international legal proceedings in two thousand ten. They went to the International Court of Justice sometimes known as the world court which Judy cates disputes between countries Marissa's base. It's legal case for their Ireland's on claiming that by separating but chambers islands from the rest. Of Mauritius. The you have already allowed nourishes it's full independence. His lawyer for Mauritius Philippe Sands again. The essential question was. Was, the United Kingdom entitled to Dismember Mauritius of which was apart in nineteen sixty five. That was the question that went and it's significant because it is Britain's lost colony in Africa. It took two years. The court's conclusion was unanimous. because. That the decolonisation of Mauritius. Wilson contacted in a manner consistent with the right of peoples to self-determination it follows that the United Kingdom is continue with administration of the archipelago constituted wrong full act according international quarter justice decides that the decolonization of was not lawfully completed because the United Kingdom unlawfully dismembered the archipelago in nineteen, sixty five it coerced the leaders to reach a supposed agreement that agreement has my force and the consequence. Of that said the International Court of Justice is united. Kingdom must leave the archipelago as soon as possible given a deadline with him in May Twenty nineteen the UN General Assembly voted by overwhelming majority. The United Kingdom must leave the Chegos occupant go by the twenty second of November two, thousand and nineteen. It is a complete victory for Africa. It is a complete victory for malicious. It is a complete victory for the CHICA- Sean's. Compete victory. But that wasn't how the UK, sort? Again really wanted to speak to the UK government about this, but they refuse requests for interview. They said, the UK is disappointed that merges took this bilateral dispute to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion as a bilateral dispute this should not have been referred to the ICJ without the consent of both parties. This is an inappropriate use of the ICJ advisory opinion mechanism and sets a dangerous precedent for other bilateral disputes. And answer despite that victory. Nothing happened. While the UN can make legal decisions. It has no way to force countries to obey them is now nearly a year after the deadline and the UK still hasn't left. But is it a victory if the deadline came and went and nothing happened? It's a victory in law. It's not a question of whether the United Kingdom leaves the Chegos archipelago. It's only a question of when the United Kingdom leaves struggles archipelago. So it will change already United Nations is changing its practice. Sleep you take time out of your day to come and talk about this. Why does this case matter to you sandwich? The the. Case of the decolonization of Mauritius really matters to me because. It. Goes to the heart of fundamental right of a community. To be able to decide for itself, the conditions in which it will live. So. Long as the Chew Gosselin community is outside of the Chegos archipelago and some of them want to go back or the descendants wanted to get back. The right of self-determination has not been fulfilled. And her sons have made a new life online. Where they've been for nearly fifty years, but it hasn't been easy. The rest of Lorraine's is family ended up in Mauritius while she followed her husband to the Seychelles. So when her mother-in-law kick them out, she had no one to turn to. The family sought shelter in the forest until they were finally able to buy land and build their own, house? whose son olden still angry at the way they were abandoned without assistance. It's like you've taken a chicken and you put it in a cage and you don't give it food or anything, and is just there how do you want to lay an egg if you don't feed it even after all this time, the feeling of homesickness has never really left and is shared by many of the new generation of. Exile including Lorenzo Sons. And so old and given that you have lived most of your life in the Seychelles is the. Home to you. Know it's not my native homeland. I don't feel like it's the right island. It's not the island I was born on problematical. Jones rousseff where is home for you? From Wall may home for me is Diego. That's where was born. That's my home. That's my place. and. Thanks for listening to this episode of the. If you're already caught up of all the comb episodes. Thanks for being a superfan really appreciate it. If you're still getting to know us, they are plenty of other episodes for you to listen to like a recent one which explored whether artificial intelligence can be racist and how to fix it. Next week we are looking at traveling on an African passport, the good, the bad and the mind boggling that's on our next episode. This episode is produced by Mary Heart the sound design is by Marco Oriental. Pierce Lynch is editor it's presented by me Kim check. knitter. Archive kipps, courtesy of the International Court of Justice and push pathway. Special. Thanks to Carey's fortune who don't sing a filmed choir and caroline top zoo glue for they help with this episode.