The United Kingdom (Britain) has reportedly refused to give up Chagos Islands, a group of islands in the Indian ocean as its colony despite a UN resolution asking the old colonialist to leave.
The UN had given the U.K six months to hand control of the archipelago in the central Indian Ocean back to government of Mauritius who said they were forced to hand over the Islands to the U.K. in 1965 for independence which it gained three years later, but the deadline has now passed.
Infuriated Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat who has expressed deep concern over UK’s continued “colonial administration” of the Chagos Archipelago, stated that it was a violation of the United Nations General Assembly’s Resolution 73/295 adopted on May 22, 2019.
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“The Chairperson expresses his deep concern over the continued colonial administration of the United Kingdom to the Chagos Archipelago, in violation of the United Nations General Assembly’s Resolution 73/295 adopted on May 22, 2019, in which the international community demanded from the United Kingdom to withdraw unconditionally within six months from the date of the Resolution, which expired on November 22, 2019,” an AU statement issued on late Friday November 22 read.
Mahamat also “reiterated the support of the African Union to the Republic of Mauritius for a complete decolonization of the Chagos Archipelago, in conformity with the Constitutive Act of the African Union which defines the defence of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the Member States as one of its main objectives,” the statement read. He further reiterated the relevant decisions made by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU on the matter, in particular the Assembly/AU/Dec. 747(XXXll) decision on the decolonization of the Chagos Archipelago, which was adopted in February this year in Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The AU Commission Chairperson also “called upon the United Kingdom to comply with the General Assembly Resolution, within the spirit of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.” He further “requests the international community to continue its support to the Republic of Mauritius for a complete decolonization of the Chagos Archipelago.”
The UK government however said it does not recognise Mauritius’ claim to sovereignty. Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) insists it has every right to hold onto the islands – one of which, Diego Garcia, is home to a US military airbase.
“The UK has no doubt as to our sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), which has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814,” it said in a statement.
“Mauritius has never held sovereignty over the BIOT and the UK does not recognise its claim.”
But Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was important to return the islands “as a symbol of the way in which we wish to behave in international law”.
He added: “I am looking forward to being in government to right one of the wrongs of history.”
The Chagos Archipelago was separated from Mauritius in 1965, when Mauritius was still a British colony. Britain purchased it for £3m – creating the BIOT. In May, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Chagos Islands being returned – with 116 states backing the move and only six against.
The UN said that the decolonisation of Mauritius “was not conducted in a manner consistent with the right to self-determination” and that therefore the “continued administration… constitutes a wrongful act”.
UN’s deadline was however not binding, and the U.K. is not expected to face sanctions or immediate punishment.