Report on the IPATC Conference on the Future of the Chagos islands, Johannesburg. October 4th and 5th 2022
5 members of Chagossian Voices were invited to present papers in person at a conference organised by the University of Johannesburg entitled “International Conference on the Status of the Chagos Islands”. The conference was organised and funded by the university’s Institute of Pan-African Thought and Conversation (IPTAC). The objective was for Chagossians, and other invitees, to express their thoughts on the Advisory opinion of the International Court (2019) and its consequences.
For the first time Chagossians were able to freely express their views on this issue at an influential international forum. Attendees included High commissioners (and a former president) of African countries, academics from Africa and beyond, Philippe Sands, diplomats, Laura Jeffery as well as representatives of CRG (Olivier Bancoult) and Chagossians in the Seychelles.
Chagossian Voices members spoke of their own experiences, but all spoke in favour of the right of self-determination for Chagossians and against the judgement of the ICJ in 2019 on the grounds that Chagossians were not represented or consulted. The papers presented were as follows:
- Bernadette Dugasse – The Views of a Native Islander Exiled to the Seychelles
- Frankie Bontemps – The Views of a Second Generation Chagossian Living in the UK
- Jean Francois Nellan – Chagossians Must Decide Their Future
- Louise Elyse – Why I believe in Self-determination for Chagossians
- Mylene Augustin – Chagos for Chagossians
The Pretoria Declaration
The Conference concluded with a joint declaration by participants, the “Pretoria Declaration”, which concluded as follows:
- Chagossians have a fundamental human right to return to the Chagos Archipelago to visit or resettle there as they desire.
- The relevant authorities – including Mauritius, UK, and US governments – should support and facilitate the return to and resettlement of the Chagos islands.
- The US military must end all employment discrimination against Chagossians and give them the opportunity to work on the base on Diego Garcia.
- The UK and US governments were primarily responsible for the displacement – and consequently for over 50 years of harm – and should therefore provide full and proper compensation, without prejudice to the right of resettlement.
- Chagossians have an inalienable right to self-determination.
- Chagossians alone have the right to decide when and how to exercise their right to self-determination, whether statehood or association with any other state.
Chagossian Voices members were very influential in their arguments and persuaded many that the recent judgment by the ICJ fell short of justice by not recognising the rights of self-determination of Chagossians.
Frankie Bontemps Speech at IPTAC
Bernadette Dugasse Speech at IPATC
Chagossian Voices challenge the Mauritian Ambassador at IPTAC