Chagos: London urged by UN to return archipelago to Mauritius

The United Kingdom suffered a devastating setback on Wednesday at the UN General Assembly, where a majority of countries have asked it to surrender under six months in Mauritius the archipelago of Chagos which houses a base strategic British-American.

Initiated by Mauritius, a non-binding but politically significant resolution of this kind has been adopted by 116 countries, six of them against including the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Hungary. 56 states chose forbearance.

African countries voted overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution, with Europeans showing divergent positions, divided between their support for a country of the European Union and respect for international law. Paris, Berlin, Rome and Brussels or Warsaw abstained, Madrid, Athens and Vienna voted for the resolution.

The Chagos are at the heart of a dispute five decades since the British decision to separate in 1965 this archipelago of Mauritius and to install a common military base with the United States on the main island of Diego Garcia.

Mauritius gained independence in 1968. The United Kingdom had expelled about 2,000 Chagossians to Mauritius and Seychelles to make way for the military base. Since 1975, Mauritius has multiplied court proceedings to get the Chagos Islands back into its fold.

"Colonialism can no longer be tolerated," said Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, regretting that London "did not make amends" after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) opinion.

This body declared at the end of February in an advisory opinion that London should "as soon as possible" put an end to its Chagos administration.

This opinion having remained without follow-up, Mauritius had decided to bring the file before the United Nations General Assembly, even if its decisions do not have the force of international law like the decisions of the Security Council.

- "Last British colony" -

British Ambassador to the UN Karen Pierce stressed that this issue was a bilateral issue and insisted on the "vital role" of the military base for the security of the region, "including Mauritius".

In their opinion, the judges of the highest court of the United Nations considered that the United Kingdom had "unlawfully" separated the Chagos archipelago from Mauritius.

In 2017, only fifteen countries including the United Kingdom and the United States had voted against a request by Mauritius to seize the ICJ.

Stuck between their support in London and the need to respect international justice, 65 countries had abstained including Germany, France or Canada, while 94 had voted in favor of Mauritius' request for legal advice international.

Pravind Jugnauth had already estimated in February that "the time had come for the dismantling of the last British colony in Africa". He said at the same time that Port Louis did not demand the dismantling of Diego Garcia's British-American base.

To justify maintaining its control, the United Kingdom had insisted on the defensive role of this base which makes it possible to defend the world against "terrorist threats, organized crime and piracy".

In 2016, the United Kingdom has extended until 2036 a contract on the use of the military base with the United States. It played a key strategic role during the Cold War before being used in the 2000s during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Source: Seychelles News Agency