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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

Microsoft Wants To Promote Digital Transformation in Africa And Here Is How

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South Africa is the home for Microsoft’s first data centers in Africa. The two data centers are located in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The new data centers are serving Azure, with Dynamics 365 and Office 365 scheduled to be added by end of 2019.

The company had, in 2017, announced that it plans to have data centers in South Africa. Overall, the multinational technology company has 54 cloud regions announced around the world.

Data Centers and Digital Transformation

The location of the new data centers in Africa

Map showing the location of the new data centers in South Africa

The new data centers in South Africa make Microsoft the first global provider to offer cloud services from data centers in Africa. The company aims to help in promoting digital transformation in Africa.

The location of the data centers in Africa means regional users are guaranteed of resilient cloud services, enhanced security, compliance needs, and data residency. Furthermore, the new data centers will help promote global investment, improve access to the Internet and cloud services in Africa, and increase business opportunities in the region.

Projections from IDC–International Data Corporation–indicate that adoption of the cloud services will generate around 112,000 jobs in South Africa—by end of 2022. The data centers will facilitate improved environment for building digital businesses. Nedbank for instance, plans to utilize Microsoft Azure to increase its agility, customer focus, and competitiveness.

Furthermore, Azure provides companies with data privacy and security. This makes it a suitable service for banks like Nedbank. The Peace Parks Foundation and eThekwini Water have also signed up with Microsoft for computing services.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service. It can be used for building, testing, managing, and deploying services and applications through Microsoft data centers. The service supports different tools, frameworks, and programming languages.

Users of Azure can enjoy instant computing resources on demand. In addition, businesses or individuals using the service do not have to build on-site data centers or have server cooling environments. Also Azure users do not endure maintenance costs, electricity costs, and use of floor space. As such, Azure brings down the costs of computing.

Microsoft’s Investment in Africa

Microsoft has a 30-year history of operations in Africa. With over 10,000 local partners on the continent, the new data centers in South Africa add to the company’s long list of investments in Africa. The expansive investments in Africa took a new direction with Microsoft’s launch of 4Africa Initiative in 2013.

The initiative seeks to facilitate the company’s engagement with startups, partners, and governments. The aim of these engagements is to help the youth develop locally relevant technology, 21st-century skills, and affordable access to the Internet.

Other global tech giants with plans to open data centers in Africa include Huawei and Amazon. Facebook announced it will set up a content review center in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Politics

Tshisekedi and Kabila Agree to Form Coalition Government in DRC

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Kabila handing over power to Tshisekedi, few months before an agreement to form a coalition government

Joseph Kabila and Felix Tshisekedi during the inauguration ceremony

President Felix Thisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo and his predecessor Joseph Kabila have agreed to form a coalition government. Tshisekedi, who won the recent presidential elections, was not able to gain enough support in Parliament.

Kabila’s party holds the majority seats in parliament. Through this agreement, Joseph Kabila finds himself in government again. Kabila did not vie for the top seat in the December 30 2018 elections.

ALSO READ: Ethiopia PM Resigns In Bid To Sustainable Peace and Democracy

Factors Leading to the Coalition

President Tshisekedi could not push through his choice for Prime Minister in parliament. The stalemate effectively held back Tshisekedi’s ambitions to reform the country. Whereas President Tshisekedi’s CACH–Heading for Change Coalition–has only around 50 seats, Kabila’s FCC party—Common Front for Congo– has 337 seats, out of the 485 seats.

A sitting president in DRC is required to select a prime minister from the parliamentary majority. Essentially, a prime minister is chosen from a political group, coalition, or party that holds the majority in the National Assembly. The FCC coalition blocked Tshisekedi’s proposals in parliament.

The dominance of FCC put Tshisekdi at a difficult position in pushing his agenda, and a coalition government was seen as an ideal solution.

President Tshiskedi and Kabila’s parties pushed the two leaders to form a coalition government—after several weeks of failed talks. Both Kabila’s FCC and Tshisekedi’s CACH are coalition parties in themselves.

Coalition Government Talks

After Tshisekedi vented his frustrations on his inability to push through his choice for Prime Minister, it was time for coalition government talks with Kabila. On Sunday 17 February 2019, Kabila and Tshisekedi held talks on the possibility of forming a unity government. Although Kabila is no longer president, he is still the head of FCC.

On Wednesday, March 6 2019, both parties issued a joint statement confirming an agreement to form a coalition government. According to the issued statement, the decision to form a joint government was a move that reflected the will of the people.

What this Means

A coalition government will now make it easy for President Tshisekedi to have his proposals approved in parliament. As such, the President can comfortably appoint a new Prime Minister and cabinet. President Tshisekedi can now govern the country.

The Democratic Republic of Congo now joins Kenya and Zimbabwe as some of the African countries that have formed coalition governments during a specific period. In Kenya, former president Mwai Kibaki formed a coalition government with Raila Odinga—from April 2008 to April 2013. Former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe formed a coalition government with Morgan Tsvangirai—2009 to 2013.

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African Ingenuity

One of The Oldest Tribes In Africa Was Kicked Out Of Their Homes And Here Is What Happened

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Displaced Batwa Tribe

The Batwa tribe is one of the oldest in Africa. They originally resided in the rainforests of Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda. They survived many decades through hunting and gathering. However, in the 1990s, the government evicted them from the rainforest leaving them homeless. This and subsequent events threw them into poverty.

The actions of the governments of the three countries were prompted by the need to create a national park. The national parks helped to preserve the population of endangered gorillas in the Virunga Mountains. Since then, the population of the gorillas has grown to 880 in 2018 from 284 in 1981. Tourists now pay a huge amount to spend one hour with the apes. The parks have become a huge money spinner for the East African countries. However, the Batwa tribe paid the price.

A glimmer of hope for eighteen Batwa families

Volcanoes Safaris, a luxury lodge operator was drawn to the plight of the Batwa tribe condemned to squat in Uganda’ farmland. The founder of Volcanoes Safari, Praveen Moman was touched by their appalling livelihood. Moman first met the Batwa tribe when he opened the Mount Gahinga Lodge in 1997 on the outskirts of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The encounter sparked their relationship.

Through the Volcanoes Safari Partnership Trust, Moman gifted ten acres of land to the tribe.  When asked about what motivated his actions, Moman said,

“Generally, we want to support people and improve their livelihood in relation to the work we do at our lodges. It was a bunch of rocks on which they built little shacks of twigs, of tarpaulins, of cardboard—whatever they could get.”

All the material used for the construction of the new village were donations from the guests at Mount Gahinga lodge and the Volcanoes Safari Trust. However, Uganda-based Studio FH architects’ contribution was in terms of supervision services and free designs.

A glimpse into the new settlement for the Batwa tribe

The village consists of eighteen houses each measuring twenty square meters. Each of the homes boasts of a bedroom, common room and a covered veranda which also serves as the kitchen. Eucalyptus poles with bamboo crisscross form a grid and make up the walls. However, the roofing consists of metal sheets with papyrus coating.

Batwa Village Home

The builders took some steps to ensure the safety of these eco-friendly homes. First, the buildings have compact spacing for wind protection as well as to conserve farming lands. Secondly, the verandas face opposite of the direction of strong winds from the volcanoes. To ensure proper sanitation, two buildings containing latrines lie in the slopes on one side of the village.

The Batwa tribe village also has a community center on a 100 square meter space. Consequently, the dome-shaped community center is intended to be used for multiple purposes that involves public gathering. The official opening of the village was in May 2018.

Batwa tribe village community center

The 2018 Emerging Architecture Awards

The contributions of Studio FH Architects to the Batwa tribe also earned them a place on the 2018 Emerging Architecture Awards list. The prestigious award instituted in 1999 honors young designers who create a positive impact in their environment through architectural designs.

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