If you were under the impression that colonisation – at least the official and legal kind – is a thing of the past, you are wrong.
Britain is holding on to its last colony, the Chagos Islands, for dear life. This chain of more than 60 islands in the Indian Ocean has been under British rule for years, despite a claim by Mauritius that it should fall under its territory.
This week, the International Court of Justice ruled that Britain must cede this territory to Mauritius as soon as possible.
Why does this matter?
While the ruling is reportedly not legally binding, it is hugely symbolically important, as the judge had harsh words for Britain’s continuing rule. It has also shone a light on the plight of the Chagos people, many of whom were exiled from their country in horrific circumstances by the British for resisting colonial rule.
The Islands are important to the British because the United States has an important military base there, so if it obeys the court ruling, it could damage US/British relations.
What’s going on?
The ICJ ruling came about because the United Nations General Assembly sought its advice on the issue. Many countries, including South Africa, have sided with Mauritius. It is a sign that the global importance of former colonisers like Britain is waning.