Commonwealth Secretary-General pays tribute to slaves who sought freedom in Le Morne

26 July 2023

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, has paid a moving tribute to enslaved people from Africa, India and Southeast Asia, known as Maroons, who fought for their freedom and sought shelter in the caves of Le Morne, a basaltic mountain situated on the west coast of Mauritius.

The Secretary-General joined the Prime Minister of Mauritius, the Hon Pravind Jugnauth, senior Mauritian government officials, international leaders, dignitaries, and descendants of the Maroon people, who attended a special ceremony held on 25 July 2023 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Le Morne’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On behalf of the Commonwealth family, Secretary-General Scotland paid respect to the souls that gave Le Morne its profound meaning.

Standing at the International Slave Route Monument, she said:

“This site is so many things. A monument to some of the worst crimes in human history, a reminder that such atrocities may never be repeated. A testament to the courage people can summon when they are tested to the limit. A symbol of resistance of the slaves’ fight for freedom, their suffering, and their sacrifice. A beacon of hope for a better life.”

The Secretary-General continued:

“I have watched things change, in the main, for the better. The world is more equal now. But we still see the painful shadows of the past cast on our world even today. The fight for equality is not over. But I have hope.”

She attributed part of her hope to the Commonwealth, acknowledging its historical scars while emphasising its transformation into a diverse family of 56 equal countries.

“Our leaders meet as equals, sit together, deliberate together, all with equal say, making joint decisions on some of the world’s greatest challenges,” added the Secretary-General.

She pointed out that this equality-driven approach is evident in the Commonwealth’s history of collective responses to critical issues, such as ending apartheid in South Africa, promoting racial equality, advocating for the vulnerable, and fighting for climate justice.

In this context, the Secretary-General spoke about the essential values of the Commonwealth Charter, which marks its tenth anniversary this year, adding:

“These values of equality, respect, justice, peace, tolerance, solidarity, freedom and democracy are not abstract; they are our foundation for action."

"We are at a defining moment in our history,” Secretary-General Scotland added, referring to the global crises of poverty, economic strife, climate change, and conflict.

She urged the international community to face this defining moment with courage, saying:

“As we stand here today, we are surely reminded that – if we have the courage to ensure that our values shape our choices – we are more than equal to the challenges we face.”

The Secretary-General is in Mauritius on an official visit to meet with government officials on Commonwealth matters and to speak at the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Africa Meeting.

Media contact

  • Snober Abbasi  Senior Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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