Mauritius & the Case of the Stolen Island


Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 18:40 p.m. DST, 6 March 2014

British Flag, Photo by Daniel S. HagyPORT LOUIS, Mauritius - If someone asked you to point out Mauritius on a map, would you be able to? Most would likely say they had no idea where the tiny island is located. Beyond that, most people also wouldn’t know that Mauritius is entangled in a decades-long battle with the United Kingdom and United States over an archipelago, particularly one of its smallest islands: Diego Garcia.

The dispute began when the Chagos Archipelago was given up by Mauritius during independence negotiations in 1965, coinciding with the height of the Cold War. Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the time, wanted control over the area in order to make a deal with the United States who during this tense era was looking for a military base in the Indian Ocean.

In return for letting the United States put a military base on Diego Garcia, the UK in return earned improved ties and a substantial financial contribution to their Polaris submarine program. Cold War priorities were clearly at the forefront of everyone’s agendas at the time, so the UK had no inhibitions in forcefully removing Chagos’ citizens in order to make room for the US military.

Fast forward a few decades and in 2010, the UK further overstepped their boundaries and established the world’s largest Marine Protected Area around the archipelago, reportedly in order to prevent former residents from returning. This was clearly a strategic move made in order to set the stage for the 2016 expiration date of the US lease on Diego Garcia. The lease allows for a 20 year extension if renewed, so if Mauritius wants to regain sovereignty over the islands, they have to move swiftly and effectively.

Mauritius vigorously wants to regain control over the territory for means of economic growth and development. The location serves as a gateway to the ever-expanding markets in mainland Africa, and having governmental control over the region gives Mauritius a seat at the table concerning ocean economy, development, trade, and security. The tiny country has even made vast strides in recent months to create an extensive Ocean Economy Roadmap that aims to reach Mauritius’ potential as an ocean state within the next 10 years. However, the success of this roadmap hinges on uniting Diego Garcia back under Mauritius’ territory boundaries.

In the short term, their plans include becoming a major hub for petroleum products, container shipment, port services, and seafood processing. Additionally, they aim to expand on their tourism industry and develop more commerce around ocean-based leisure. Mauritius’ fish export volume has almost doubled since 2005, so the coupling of actively pursuing their ocean economic potential with regaining access to Diego Garcia would have immense benefits on their economy.

Beyond the next few years, the government of Mauritius aims to work on renewable energy, value-added services, exploration of hydrocarbon and mineral resources, and their expanding ocean economy. The island is also striving to become a center of excellence for Ocean Knowledge by 2025. Of course, these lofty goals will be hard to obtain if Mauritius is blocked from regaining sovereignty of Diego Garcia by the self-interests of the UK and US. Discussions regarding the issue will likely occur throughout 2014, so be on the lookout to see how this battle plays out.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Neo-Colonialism in Emerging Economies


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 02:12 AM EDT, 19 May 2011

AFRICA - When I lived in Africa as a child we resided in countries previously colonized by the British and Germans. In these post-colonialist nations the vacuum left by the departing imperialist was painfully evident in the areas of energy, water, sanitation, manufacturing and the transportation trade vectors implemented to facilitate the transport and shipment of wealth from Africa to their respective countries.

The departing colonialist were particularly vindictive when they deliberately sabotaged manufacturing plants which supported these supply chain vectors.

In both Nigeria and Tanzania we experienced the deleterious effects of post-colonialism.  Daily we were confronted with the challenges of securing clean drinking water, because if it was running it had boiled; the electricity was intermittent and grocery store shelves were often empty.

These pressures coupled with the indoctrination of the populace forced to abdicate their cultural values to those of the imperialist resulted in the dissolution of family structures. The century old traditions and mores soon dissipated and without these societal controls high crime rates  ensued.

Crimes previously held in check by swift communal judgment and justice, crimes like murder, rape and organized crime.  These social ills in conjunction with the ongoing external pressures to keep many former colonial countries destabilized through war are a modern manifestation of the heinous legacy of colonialism.

By this definition, Ethiopia escaped colonialism irrespective of the brief Italian occupation. Therefore, it is noteworthy that the country seems to have fallen prey to allure of foreign investment which is the advent of a new wave of colonialism. Companies from Asia, the Middle-East and elsewhere have secured 50 year land leases for pennies on the dollar from the ruling government. A hectare of fertile land in Ethiopia’s Oromia region costs $10 and in a bitter twist of fate is subsequently farmed by the locals who once owned the land.

Some people argue that this type of investment is good for the country because the people who owned the land were “lazy” and did not do anything with it. This type of thinking is similar to the faulty “logic” employed by the European settlers who arrived in North America and claimed that the land was not being properly “utilized” by the Native Americans. Under this premise they forcibly took the land and physically removed the indigenous population to less arable parts of the country.

What large aggro-farming corporations and the early American settlers fail to comprehend is the fact that local, indigenous people have a relationship with the land and understand the rhythm of the earth and its cycles of yields. My paternal grandparents owned a 500 acre working farm which is still in our family. We often spent summers with them and through this exposure I learned about the importance of allowing the ground to lay fallow to enable vital nutrients to be replenished.

In an effort to make more money, these large aggro concerns over farm the land year after year; and in order to increase yield, chemicals, pesticides and bioengineering is employed to decrease growing time and increase yield. These practices results in increased yield with decreased nutritional value. A better use of the resources would be to subsidize small, local farmers with the necessary funding and equipment to properly use the land they own. Instead of selling the majority of arable land to large, foreign conglomerates, investment should be made in local communities to encourage the formation and growth of farming cooperatives.

To sell some of the land to outside concerns to grow flowers or coffee is by no means a bad thing. It increases the Gross National Product (GNP), which is the value of all the goods and services produced in an economy, plus the value of the goods and services imported, less the goods and services exported, which ultimately helps these countries economies to mature. However, the current land leases referenced in this post and the links below offer short-term gains in exchange for long-term losses.

This type of exchange also occurs in Nigeria where the government unilaterally leases oil/gas rights to foreign companies who reap billions of dollars at the expense of the health and welfare of the local people and the environment.  The costs of these 100 years leases is  a mere pittance by comparison to what they earn in profits.

In addition to these profits the companies operate with relative impunity because of graft, which in Nigeria is otherwise known as a "dash."  For these foreign companies there is no accountability required nor punitive action enforced when they perpetrate heinous human rights violations or flagrant environmental abuses.

The African colonialism period (1818 – 1914) as well as the last 20 years of the nineteenth century saw the transition to ‘informal imperialism.'  This form of imperialism was instigated by the same nationals who originally carved up then colonized Africa.  Thus, the continued destabilization of these countries is to their benefit.

This outside interference leveraged by the sale of arms to various factions amounts to direct military influence. The previous economic dominance of direct colonial rule has been replaced by pervasive but less visible form of conquest which still enables the imperialist to  rape these countries of precious natural resources.

The sacrifice of people and the utter disregard of the needs of the masses for the profit of a few persist in every society.  However, in Africa this disparity results in massive human suffering and is portrayed as the fault of the populace who is unable through intellect or desire to manage their countries as well as the colonialist.

This form of patriarchal disdain is continued at the hands of large corporations that generate billions of dollars despite the ability and right of the government to  demand remuneration or compensation for the local people who are most adversely impacted by the negotiations and contractual obligations entered into by their governments.

Land sold for the express purpose of growing food stock or produce that doesn't directly benefit the local populace either nutritionally or economically is another form of colonialism and is a practice that must be publicized, countered and vociferously condemned.

Visit the links below to learn more about Colonialism in Africa::

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias