Diego Garcia: A Story Of Untold Black Erasure

“To be black and beautiful means nothing in this world unless we are black and powerful.”

These words by Mwalimu John Henrik Clarke instantly sprang to mind when I was recently reminded (through a 12-minute video) of the harrowing story of our Black kin -the Chagossians of a place called Diego Garcia.

Diego Garcia is an island on the Indian Ocean that forms part of 60 others that are known as the Chagos Archipelago. It has an area of about 30 km². The original inhabitants of this island the Chagossians are also known as ‘the Îlois or Chagos Islanders.

They are people of African, Indian and Malay ancestry who inhabited the Chagos Islands, specifically Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos, and the Salomon island chain, as well as other parts of the Chagos Archipelago, from the late 18th to the late 20th century.

It is also said that the ‘Chagossian people's ancestry is mostly African, particularly from Madagascar, Mozambique and other African nations including Mauritius,’ and that they were brought to Diego Garcia as slaves (by among others the French) to work on the cocoa plantations.

They are therefore regarded as the first to inhabit this island and have developed a thriving life and self-sustaining civilisation for themselves.

However, today, there are no more Chagossians on the island of Diego Garcia. Most live in Mauritius, the Seychelles and some in the United Kingdom. How did this happen?

From the mid-20th century, the Island of Diego Garcia was under British control and later the AmeriKKKan government developed an interest in it. Then in the late 60s, the British and AmeriKKKans entered into an agreement. This agreement had a number of implications some of which included allowing AmerIKKKa to set up a military base on the island.

In return, they (the AmeriKKKans) would grant the British payment in the form of military equipment and deals. However, the biggest and most tragic implication of this deal was that the indigenous people of the Island (the Ghagossians) had to be ejected.

So, from the late 60s onwards, the British government devised various (and may I add diabolical) methods to ensure the displacement of the island’s original inhabitants. These included poisoning of the animals of the Chagassians and gradually reducing the provision of basic services such as health care. This inevitably forced the Chagassians to leave the island.

It is also important to state that the Chagassians didn’t just fold their arms and watch their land and heritage being destroyed. They put up all manner of resistance, from the 70s onwards.

Today, the land of the Chagassians (Diego Garcia) is an occupied colony and multi-billion-dollar Navy and Air Force base of the United States of AmeriKKKa. What is also not known is that this US base has been central to AmeriKKKa’s invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria-all of which is inspired by the US’s age-old agenda of capturing the strategic oil and gas resources of what is referred to as the Middle East.

This base (Diego Garcia) is said to be more secretive than the other U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and that is has also been used as a CIA ‘black site’- a place where illegal capture, torture and death of people who are regarded as US ‘enemies’ is carried out.

Diego Garcia is therefore a central part of the US’s global geo-political agenda and for this agenda to succeed, our Black kin of Diego Garcia had to suffer immeasurably. Like many indigenous and Black populations in other parts of the world, the Chagassians of Afrikan descent have been violently uprooted, torn asunder and scattered like worthless grain.

One of the indignities they now suffer is that they can’t even visit the graves of their kin who lie buried on the island. The horror and trauma of the Chagassians is not too dissimilar to that of our Black kin in the south pacific island of West Papua.

Just like the on-going genocide and erasure against our West Papuan kin- the erasure of our kin in Diego Garcia doesn’t dominate media headlines or discussions at the meetings of bodies like the United Nations or even the African Union (this is not a coincidence or mistake- it is by design).

The major reason why our Black kin in Diego Garcia and other parts of the world remain a brutalised and racially abused people is because, while the British and the AmeriKKKans (who are essentially the same people) are acutely aware that what they are doing is wrong, criminal and inhumane - they however don’t fear any consequences because they are also aware that, Black people, don’t have a global political or military body whose business it is to ensure that whoever abuses or harms Black people, in any way - is held accountable and made to suffer the necessary consequences.

White people have NATO to defend them, what do Black people have? Unless the current leaders of the various 'Black' governments and other 'Black' institutions develop the consciousness to understand the nature and gravity of the existential threat Black people continue to face (mainly by virtue of their skin colour), and consciously use their access to state power and related resources to build a global Black body (with regional structures). The primary agenda of such a global Black body will be to defend and help advance Black people, regardless of where they be in the world.

Unless today’s leaders of the Black world do this, we as Black people (everywhere in the world and regardless of how much money or certificates we may have) - will remain forever vulnerable to being abused, attacked and killed by our various race-enemies. If this power dynamic is to change in our favour, we have to wake up as a race and understand that power only respects power and therefore, the only way-out for us as a race is to unapologetically build exclusive Black Power spaces and structures.

The very groups that continue to exploit and brutalise Black people have built racially exclusive spaces and structures for themselves and yet the same groups (and some Blacks) call Blacks ‘racist’ each time we talk of organising exclusively. What could be more logical for a people or group to respond to an exclusive threat in an exclusive manner? See the documentary Stealing A Nation for more clarity on the question of the Diego Garcia. Camagu!

Selected readings

  1. Britain’s shameful treatment of Chagos islanders must end
  2. Lost in exile: The forgotten Chagos Islanders
  3. Stealing A Nation
  4. Chagossians-The original inhabitants of Diego Garcia Face U.S Government in the Court
  5. Origins & History of the Chagossians
  6. West Papua’s forgotten independence struggle — interview with Papuan leader Benny Wenda
  7. Clarke J.H (1991). Africans At The Crossroads: Notes For An African World Revolution, (Africa World Press).