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UN Rules Against Britain In Favor Of Mauritius Over Colonial Era Territory Grab

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Part of Mauritius extended territory, Diego Garcia in the Chagos archipelago.

Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Chagos archipelago

The International Court of Justice has found that Britain illegally seized control of Chagos archipelago. According to the UN Court, British’s acquisition of the group of islands was wrongful. The Court further advised that Britain should end their administration of the islands as soon as possible. Specifically, the court advised Britain to hand over the islands to Mauritius.

As part of the advisory opinion, the UN court judges pointed out that all UN member states were under obligation to cooperate to complete the decolonization of Mauritius. This includes the United State which operates a military base on the largest atoll of Diego Garcia.

The Back Story

Chagos archipelago comprises 60 tropical islands in the Indian Ocean. Chagos has been part of Mauritius since the 18th Century. All of the islands were part of French colonial territory. However, after Napoleon’s defeat, the islands were ceded to the British. 3 years prior to Mauritian independence, the British cut Chagos from the territory of Mauritius to form British Indian Ocean Territory.

In order for the British to pave way for a leasing agreement with the United States that demanded an uninhabited island, British officials forcibly expelled approximately 2,000 Chagossians who had lived on those islands for a century.

The U.S set up an airbase on the islands, and the natives have never been allowed to return home. Today, the U.S. still holds a major military base in Diego Garcia. The military base was a strategic point for the U.S. during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Only the atoll of Diego Garcia is inhabited, home to some 3,000 UK and US military and civilian contracted personnel. The United States lease ends in 2036.

Chagossians have since engaged in activism to return to the archipelago, claiming that their forced expulsion and dispossession were illegal.

The Accusations

Mauritius argued that it was coerced into giving up the islands to the UK. In addition, the separation, which took place 3 years prior to independence breached UN Resolution 1514 that was passed in 1960. The UN Resolution banned the breakup of colonial territories prior to independence.

Mauritius also claimed that the UK offered it two options prior to independence—independence with detachment from the islands or no independence with detachment. Either way, Mauritius was to lose the islands.

Professor Philippe Sands Remarks For Mauritius

In a report of the hearings last year by The Guardian, Prof Philippe Sands QC, representing Mauritius, told the International Court of Justice:

“No country wishes to be a colony. The mere possibility engenders strong feelings. A recent British foreign secretary’s [Boris Johnson] statement made that clear a few weeks ago in his resignation letter. He complained to the prime minister that she was adopting a path, in respect of Britain’s intended departure from the EU, that would turn the country into one ‘headed for the status of colony’.

“… The United Kingdom does not wish to be a colony, yet it stands before this court to defend a status as colonizer of Mauritius, a significant part of whose territory it administers.”

Instead of resettlement, Sands pointed out, the UK proposes to fund “heritage visits”. They would allow a handful of former “Man Fridays” – as some colonial documents refer to members of the Chagossian community – to visit their old homes for a few hours.

“The right to self-determination is not a ‘heritage’ issue. This is not Africa in the late 19th or early 20th century. This is September 2018.”

The British Reject Mauritius’ Claim

Britain, in its defense, claimed that the UN Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. As such, the ruling will be referred to the UN General Assembly for debate.

Making arguments for the United Kingdom was Robert Buckland. He rejected Mauritius’ claim that the 1965 agreement was made under duress. He pointed out that in 1982, Mauritius and the UK signed a treaty that reached “full and final settlement” of Mauritian claims to the archipelago. That deal, he claimed has since been recognized by the European court of human rights. He added that the UK had already invested over $56 million in resettlement programs to help Chagossians living elsewhere.

Reactions from Both Parties

The decision by the International Court of Justice was passed by a majority. The majority decision by the UN Court is a major blow to Britain. Britain has termed the ruling as being an advisory, not a judgment. It is therefore non-binding.

Mauritius has celebrated the decision of the International Court of Justice, stating that it effectively ends colonialism in Mauritius. The Chagossians, natives of the Chagos archipelago, have, for many years, fought for the return of the islands. Mauritius Prime Ministers stated that the decision by the court was a historic moment for the country and its people.

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Business and Development

Sustainable Growers Rwanda Improving The Livelihood Of Female Coffee Farmers

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Sustainable Growers Rwanda (SG-R) is a local non-profit. The organization is offering training to low-income female coffee farmers to improve their livelihood. Majority of the low coffee yields are due to wrong farm practices. Some of the farming techniques SG-R are teaching the female farmers are mulching and timely application of fertilizers and pesticides.

The program SG-R is teaching the female coffee farmers has topics like cooperative management, agricultural practices, governance and leadership, home coffee roasting, and gender mainstreaming. The training happened in the Huye District of Rwanda. The female coffee farmers were also trained in quality control and cupping. These are necessary to increase their access to bigger markets. The Regional Director at Sustainable Growers, Christine Condo, said,

“We have a heavy agenda to enrich women’s potential with skills and means. Their focus and discipline inspire me greatly. These initiatives impact positively on the entire life-cycle of their respective families and Communities. We believe that 60 percent of coffee quality is achieved from the farm. That is why we have been training them to take care of coffee from seedlings to roasting, to cupping and marketing.”

Impact of the training to female coffee farmers

Sustainable Growers Rwanda is training female coffee farmers

A lot of Rwandan female coffee farmers are already reaping the benefits of the training. For example, Prisca Mukamurenzi has been suffering from low yield. The 46-year-old female coffee farmer used to harvest one kilogram of coffee from one tree. However, since attending the training, her fortune has changed for the better.

Mukamurenzi was one of the graduates of the SG-R training program comprising of about 3700 female coffee farmers. In attendance were farmers from the districts of Nyamagabe, Gisagara, Nyaruguru, and Huye. Last year Mukamurenzi was able to generate Rwf460,000 (approx. $510) from 250 kg of coffee. She also increased the coffee trees in her garden from 185 to 250.

To ensure the farmers implemented what they learned, SG-R also developed a reward scheme. The reward scheme called “Wakoze neza Muhinzi”, Premium Sharing Rewards was worth Rwf17 million (approx. $19,000). Depending on their level of performance, the women were rewarded with phones, radios, fabrics (ibitenge), mattresses, solar lights, pruning saws, pruning shears, sprayers, goats, pigs, and cows.

About Sustainable Growers Rwanda

Sustainable Growers Rwanda started its training in Nyaruguru District three years ago. However, the training has spread to other districts in the past years. The aim of their training is to improve the quality and prices of coffee as well as enhance transparency in coffee trading. Female coffee farmers in Nyaruguru are now reaping 100 percent increase in yield.

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Business and Development

Tanzanian Government Wants Visitors To Accept This Minor Inconvenience

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Plastic accumulation is becoming a menace around the globe. Marine life often consumes these plastics which eventually get into humans. Many countries around the world are exploring alternatives to plastic use. However, Tanzania is the latest country to officially place a ban on the use of plastic bags. The ban will take effect from the 1st of June 2019. On Thursday 16th of May 2019, the government released a statement titled “Notice To Travelers Planning To Visit Tanzania” which read in part,

“The Government of Tanzania wishes to make an official note to travelers planning to travel to Tanzania that from 1st June 2019 all plastic bags, regardless of their thickness will be prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used in mainland Tanzania.”

Consequently, the government is planning to set up a special desk at entry points to ensure total compliance. With the announcement, Tanzania joins about thirteen other African countries that have either introduced levy or banned plastic bags. However, the Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa is calling on plastic bag manufacturers to find alternative technologies for bags.

The problem with plastic bags and exceptions to the ban

Tanzania bans plastic waste

The major problem with plastic bags is the length of time it takes to decay. Some researchers are speculating it can take up to 1,000 years. Consequently, their accumulation can lead to flooding when they block drainages. Also, they can prevent rainwater from penetrating the soil leading to low crop yield.

However, the government understands the importance of plastic in packaging and makes exceptions for a few. According to the statement, plastics or plastic packaging for sanitary and waste management, foodstuff, agricultural sector, construction industry, industrial products, and medical services are exceptions to the ban. “Ziplo Bags” used for carrying toiletries are also permitted for travelers since they are unlikely to be disposed of in the country. Another part of the statement reads,

“The government does not intend for visitors to Tanzania to find their stay unpleasant as we enforce the ban. However, the government expects that, in appreciation of the imperative to protect the environment and keep our country clean and beautiful, our visitors will accept minor inconveniences resulting from this plastic bags ban.”

Commendations for the new law

The international community is sending their message of congratulations to the Tanzanian government for the historic move. One of such messages came from Dr. Amani Ngusaru, the WWF Country Director. Ngusaru lauded the move as a boost to environmental and natural resources protection.

“Plastic is a number one polluter of environment and a silent killer of our natural environment and resources than most people understand. This is because it takes more than a hundred years for a single plastic bag to decay. We are happy that Tanzania is among the very few African countries to ban the use of plastic bags and we will work hard toward supporting the government in the fight against plastic pollution”.

Other African countries with a plastic control

In 2007, Uganda placed a ban on lightweight plastic bag. However, the ban was never implemented. In August 2018, Kenya introduced a total ban on the use of plastics. Consequently, those using plastics illegally in Kenya risk 4 years in prison or a fine of $40,000. Also, it is illegal to import, produce, use, or sell plastic bags in Rwanda. Currently, there are over 40 countries around the globe that banned, restrict or tax the use of plastics including Italy, France, and China.

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Reaching Out

Nigeria Makes This Touching Gesture To Help Alleviate Malawi’s Devastation From Cyclone Idai

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Nigeria is popular as the giant of Africa for the ‘big brother’ role the country play. The federal government of Nigeria on Monday 13th of May 2019 extended a brotherly hand to the government of Malawi by donating 30,000 tonnes of drugs, medical equipment, insecticide-treated nets as well as $500,000 cash. This was Nigeria’s way of sympathizing with the country which was recently hit by Cyclone Idai.

Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, the Minister of Foreign Affairs led the Nigerian Government delegation that delivered the relief materials to Mr. Nicholas Dausi, the Malawi Minister of Homeland Security and Disaster Management Affairs. Speaking during the presentation, Onyeama said a misfortune to any African nation affects Nigeria.

“We share this burden and the loss with you in this country. When the hurricane happened, Nigeria was conducting the election. [However], President Buhari instructed us that as quickly as possible we had to mobilize resources to bring to this country. We mobilized over 8,000 medical items, equipment to assist and also cash donation of 500,000 U.S dollars.

Delivery of Nigeria’s donations will take a while

Onyeama further extended President Muhammadu Buhari’s condolence to the people of Malawi. Cyclone Idai led to the death of many with an estimated 86,000 displaced from their homes. Apparently, 30,000 tonnes of items is a lot. However, according to Onyeama, it will take Nigeria a maximum of two weeks to deliver all the items.

“The amount is huge, 30,000 tonnes of items, which will be transported to Malawi in the next one or two weeks maximum. Some of our big transporters C130 will deliver the equipment may be in two trips but we sent some of the equipment with a small plane, for this occasion. Please, accept our deepest sympathy and the statistics are very disturbing…with some deaths and injuries.”

Malawi’s benefits beyond the material donation

Mr. Dausi thanked the government of Nigeria for assistance. According to him, the materials will go a long way to help the victims. Consequently, Mr. Dausi also said there were 67 camps housing the victims of the disaster.

“On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Malawi and the people… across 67 camps in the disaster and over 886,000 people affected, I want to sincerely express our deep thanks for your thoughtfulness.”

However, this is not the first time Nigeria will be assisting Malawi. According to the minister, Malawi has benefited from Nigeria in education as well as human support during the struggle to end apartheid. Consequently, the Malawian Minister congratulated President Buhari for his reelection. This is a gesture worth emulating by other African nations.

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