From the March-April 2011 issue of News & Letters:
Port Louis, Mauritius–The Oct. 30-Nov. 2 LALIT International Conference to “Free Diego” was timed so right and politically so spot on that it seems to have been a catalyst. An instant effect was that during our conference, the prime minister announced Nov. 3 would be “Chagos Day” and commemorated every year. Also during the conference, the UK’s Marine Protected Area came into force. This was Britain’s perfidious way of claiming sovereignty over Chagos and preventing Chagossians from returning. It provoked the Mauritian state, with the prime minister calling the British “hypocrites, liars and cheats.”
WikiLeaks published cables that are clear proof that both the UK and U.S. saw the whole “marine protected area” maneuver as a cynical ploy to keep Chagossians and Mauritians away from the military base.
The Mauritian government started a legal action. For the first time since the 1965 illegal theft and occupation of the islands by the British and U.S., Mauritius acted on the Chagos issue. Dr. Arvin Boolell, Minister of Foreign Affairs, demanded the U.S. quit Diego Garcia.
On Jan. 30 and 31 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the African Union Summit, the prime minister proposed a motion on Diego Garcia and Chagos, first for approval by the African Union (AU) and then to be presented to the next UN General Assembly. It was unanimously supported. For the first time, official delegation to the AU included a Chagossian representative, Olivier Bancoult.
On Feb. 4, WikiLeaks sent the Telegraph yet another correspondence between Britain and the U.S. that shows that the British and U.S. intend to “buy out” the Chagossian leadership if they win the right to return.
With the difficulties that the Pentagon has had to get military bases to set up its Africa Command, Diego Garcia has become even more important. All kinds of popular uprisings have been taking place well nigh simultaneously.
Greetings from all at LALIT in Mauritius,
(Excerpts from a letter to N&L)
–Ragini Kistnasamy and Lindsey Collen