The UK failed to meet a UN deadline Friday to hand over their last African colony back to its people. The Chagos Islands are far removed from mainland Africa and lay in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
In 1968, the British granted the Island of Mauritius its independence from colonial rule. Mauritius lies over 1,300 miles southwest of the Chagos Islands and was part of the same colonial territory.
Over 2,000 residents of Diego Garcia, the largest island of the Chagos, were forced to move to Mauritius to make way for a US military base. Since the expulsion, the people of Chagos have been fighting to return to their homeland.
In February, the International Court of Justice ruled that the islands are legally a part of Mauritius. In May, the UN General Assembly voted in favor of the court’s ruling and gave the UK six months to hand back the islands. 116 countries voted in favor of the decision, and only six voted against it. Those six countries were the US, UK, Israel, Australia, Hungary, and the Maldives.
In defense of their colonial rule, the British government released a statement, “The UK has no doubt as to our sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory, which has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814.”
Ultimately, the UN resolution is not binding, and the UK will likely hold onto the colony while the US still has a lease on Diego Garcia, which they extended in 2016 to last until 2036.
The base at Diego Garcia was allegedly used as a CIA “blacksite” to interrogate and torture suspected terrorists. In 2015, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff Col. Lawrence Wilkerson said the CIA used Diego Garcia for “nefarious activities.”