Mauritius ( (listen) mər-ISH-(ee-)əs, mor-; French: Maurice [mɔʁis, moʁis] (listen); Mauritian Creole: Moris [moʁis]), officially the Republic of Mauritius, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,100 nautical miles) off the southeast coast of the African continent, east of Madagascar. It includes the main island (also called Mauritius), as well as Rodrigues, Agaléga and St. Brandon. The i...Read more

Mauritius ( (listen) mər-ISH-(ee-)əs, mor-; French: Maurice [mɔʁis, moʁis] (listen); Mauritian Creole: Moris [moʁis]), officially the Republic of Mauritius, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,100 nautical miles) off the southeast coast of the African continent, east of Madagascar. It includes the main island (also called Mauritius), as well as Rodrigues, Agaléga and St. Brandon. The islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues, along with nearby Réunion (a French overseas department), are part of the Mascarene Islands. The main island of Mauritius, where most of the population is concentrated, hosts the capital and largest city, Port Louis. The country spans 2,040 square kilometres (790 sq mi) and has an exclusive economic zone covering 2,300,000 square kilometres (670,000 square nautical miles).

Arab sailors were the first to discover the uninhabited island, around 975, and they called it Dina Arobi. In 1507, Portuguese sailors visited the uninhabited island. The island appears with the Portuguese names Cirne or Do-Cerne on early Portuguese maps. The Dutch took possession in 1598, establishing a succession of short-lived settlements over a period of about 120 years, before abandoning their efforts in 1710. France took control in 1715, renaming it Isle de France. In 1810, the United Kingdom seized the island, and four years later, in the Treaty of Paris, France ceded Mauritius and its dependencies to the United Kingdom. The British colony of Mauritius included Rodrigues, Agaléga, St. Brandon, the Chagos Archipelago, and, until 1906, the Seychelles. Mauritius and France dispute sovereignty over the island of Tromelin as the Treaty of Paris failed to mention it specifically. Mauritius remained a primarily plantation-based colony of the United Kingdom until independence in 1968.

In 1965, the UK split off the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritian territory to the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). The local population was forcibly expelled between 1968 and 1973 and the largest island, Diego Garcia, was leased to the United States. The sovereignty of the Chagos is disputed between Mauritius and the UK. In 2019, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion ordering the UK to return the Chagos Islands to Mauritius, and in 2021, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled in support of this, saying that the UK has "no sovereignty over the Chagos Islands".

Owing to its geographic location and centuries of colonialism, the people of Mauritius are highly diverse in ethnicity, culture, language and faith. It is the only country in Africa where Hinduism is the most practised religion. Indo-Mauritians make up the bulk of the population with significant Creole, Sino-Mauritian and Franco-Mauritian minorities. The island's government is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system and Mauritius is highly ranked for economic and political freedom along with being the only African country with full democracy. Mauritius is also the continent's only country with "very high" Human Development Index. According to the World Bank, the country is classified as a high-income economy. It is also ranked as the most competitive, and one of the most developed economies in the African region. The country is a welfare state. The government provides free universal healthcare, free education up through the tertiary level and free public transportation for students, senior citizens, and the disabled. In 2019, Mauritius was ranked the most peaceful African country by the Global Peace Index.

Along with the other Mascarene Islands, Mauritius is known for its varied flora and fauna. Many species are endemic to the island. The island was the only known home of the dodo, which, along with several other avian species, was made extinct by human activities relatively soon after the island's settlement. There are other endemic animals such as the Echo parakeet, the Mauritius kestrel, and the Pink pigeon.

Early history

The island of Mauritius was uninhabited before its first recorded visit by Portuguese sailors in the beginning of the 16th century. The name Dina Arobi has been associated with Arab sailors who first discovered the island.

'Portuguese Mauritius' (1507 - 1590s)
Pedro Mascarenhas, Viceroy of Portuguese India and namesake of the Mascarene Islands.

The Treaty of Tordesillas purported to give Portugal the right to colonise this part of world. In 1507, Portuguese sailors came to the uninhabited island and established a visiting base. Diogo Fernandes Pereira, a Portuguese navigator, was the first European known to land in Mauritius. He named the island "Ilha do Cisne" ("Island of the Swan"). The Portuguese did not stay long as they were not interested in these islands.[1]

The Mascarene Islands were named after Pedro Mascarenhas, Viceroy of Portuguese India, after his visit to the islands in 1512.

Rodrigues Island was named after Portuguese explorer Diogo Rodrigues, who first came upon the island in 1528.

Dutch Mauritius (1638–1710)
Dutch activities on the shore of Mauritius, as well as the first published depiction of a dodo bird, on the left, 1601

In 1598 a Dutch squadron under Admiral Wybrand Van Warwyck landed at Grand Port and named the island "Mauritius" after Prince Maurice of Nassau (Dutch: Maurits van Nassau) of the Dutch Republic. The Dutch inhabited the island in 1638, from which they exploited ebony trees and introduced sugar cane, domestic animals and deer. It was from here that Dutch navigator Abel Tasman set out to seek the Great Southern Land, mapping parts of Tasmania, New Zealand and New Guinea. The first Dutch settlement lasted 20 years. In 1639, slaves arrived in Mauritius from Madagascar. The Dutch East India Company brought them to cut down ebony trees and to work in the new tobacco and sugar cane plantations.[2] Several attempts to establish a colony permanently were subsequently made, but the settlements never developed enough to produce dividends, causing the Dutch to abandon Mauritius in 1710.[1][3] A 1755 article in the English Leeds Intelligencer claims that the island was abandoned due to the large number of long tailed macaque monkeys "which destroyed everything in it," and that it was also known at the time as the Island of Monkeys.[4] Portuguese sailors had introduced these monkeys to the island from their native habitat in Southeast Asia, prior to Dutch rule.[5]

French Mauritius (1715–1810)

France, which already controlled neighbouring Île Bourbon (now Réunion), took control of Mauritius in 1715 and renamed it Isle de France. In 1723, the Code Noir was established to regulate slavery; categorise one group of human beings as "goods", in order for the owner of these goods to be able to obtain insurance money and compensation in case of loss of his "goods".[6] The 1735 arrival of French governor Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais coincided with development of a prosperous economy based on sugar production. Mahé de La Bourdonnais established Port Louis as a naval base and a shipbuilding centre.[1] Under his governorship, numerous buildings were erected, a number of which are still standing. These include part of Government House, the Château de Mon Plaisir, and the Line Barracks, the headquarters of the police force. The island was under the administration of the French East India Company, which maintained its presence until 1767.[1] During the French rule, slaves were brought from parts of Africa such as Mozambique and Zanzibar.[7] As a result, the island's population rose dramatically from 15,000 to 49,000 within thirty years. During the late eighteenth century, African slaves accounted for around 80 percent of the island's population, and by the early nineteenth century there were 60,000 slaves on the island.[2] In early 1729, Indians from Pondicherry, India, arrived in Mauritius aboard the vessel La Sirène. Work contracts for these craftsmen were signed in 1734 at the time when they acquired their freedom.[8]

The Battle of Grand Port between French and British naval forces, 20–27 August 1810

From 1767 to 1810, except for a brief period during the French Revolution when the inhabitants set up a government virtually independent of France, the island was controlled by officials appointed by the French government. Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre lived on the island from 1768 to 1771, then went back to France, where he wrote Paul et Virginie, a love story that made the Isle de France famous wherever the French language was spoken. In 1796 the settlers broke away from French control when the government in Paris attempted to abolish slavery.[9] Two famous French governors were the Vicomte de Souillac (who constructed the Chaussée in Port Louis[10] and encouraged farmers to settle in the district of Savanne) and Antoine Bruni d'Entrecasteaux (who saw to it that the French in the Indian Ocean should have their headquarters in Mauritius instead of Pondicherry in India).[11] Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen was a successful general in the French Revolutionary Wars and, in some ways, a rival of Napoléon I. He ruled as Governor of Isle de France and Réunion from 1803 to 1810. British naval cartographer and explorer Matthew Flinders was arrested and detained by General Decaen on the island from 1803 to 1810,[12][13] in contravention of an order from Napoléon. During the Napoleonic Wars, Mauritius became a base from which French corsairs organised successful raids on British commercial ships. The raids continued until 1810, when a Royal Navy expedition led by Commodore Josias Rowley, R.N., an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, was sent to capture the island. Despite winning the Battle of Grand Port, the only French naval victory over the British during these wars, the French could not prevent the British from landing at Cap Malheureux three months later. They formally surrendered the island on the fifth day of the invasion, 3 December 1810,[11] on terms allowing settlers to keep their land and property and to use the French language and law of France in criminal and civil matters. Under British rule, the island's name reverted to Mauritius.[1] The swift conquest of Mauritius was fictionalised in the novel The Mauritius Command by Patrick O'Brian, first published in 1977.

British Mauritius (1810–1968)
British forces seizing the Isle of France on 2 December 1810
1830–1835: British rule and reform

The British administration, which began with Sir Robert Farquhar as its first governor, oversaw rapid social and economic changes. However, it was tainted by the Ratsitatane episode. Ratsitatane, nephew of King Radama of Madagascar, was brought to Mauritius as a political prisoner. He managed to escape from prison and plotted a rebellion that would free the island's slaves. He was betrayed by his associate Laizaf and was caught by a group of militiamen led by Franco-Mauritian lawyer Adrien d'Épinay and summarily executed.[14] He was beheaded at Plaine Verte on 15 April 1822, and his head was displayed as a deterrent against possible slave rebellions.[15]

In 1832, d'Épinay launched the first Mauritian newspaper (Le Cernéen), which was not controlled by the government. In the same year, there was a move by the procureur-general to abolish slavery without compensation to the slave owners. This gave rise to discontent, and, to check an eventual rebellion, the government ordered all the inhabitants to surrender their arms. Furthermore, a stone fortress, Fort Adelaide, was built on a hill (now known as the Citadel hill) in the centre of Port Louis to quell any uprising.[10]

Slavery was gradually abolished over several years after 1833, and the planters ultimately received two million pounds sterling in compensation for the loss of their slaves, who had been imported from Africa and Madagascar during the French occupation.[16][17]

1834–1921: Indian labour imported
Mixed emotions and feelings are portrayed 
First indentured Indian workers (1834)

The abolition of slavery had important impacts on Mauritius's society, economy and population. The planters brought a large number of indentured labourers from India to work in the sugar cane fields. Between 1834 and 1921, around half a million indentured labourers were present on the island. They worked on sugar estates, factories, in transport and on construction sites. Additionally, the British brought 8,740 Indian soldiers to the island.[1] Aapravasi Ghat, in the bay at Port Louis and now a UNESCO site, was the first British colony to serve as a major reception centre for indentured servants.

An important figure of the 19th century was Rémy Ollier, a journalist of mixed origin. In 1828, the colour bar was officially abolished in Mauritius, but British governors gave little power to coloured persons, and appointed only whites as leading officials. Rémy Ollier petitioned to Queen Victoria to allow coloureds in the council of government, and this became possible a few years later. He also made Port Louis become a municipality so that the citizens could administer the town through their own elected representatives. A street has been named after him in Port Louis, and his bust was erected in the Jardin de la Compagnie in 1906.[11]

In 1885 a new constitution was introduced. It was referred to as Cens Démocratique and it incorporated some of the principles advocated by one of the Creole leaders, Onésipho Beaugeard. It created elected positions in the Legislative Council — although the franchise was restricted mainly to the white French and fair-skinned Indian elite who owned real estate. In 1886, Governor John Pope Hennessy nominated Gnanadicarayen Arlanda as the first ever Indo-Mauritian member of the ruling Council — despite the sugar oligarchy's preference for rival Indo-Mauritian Emile Sandapa. Arlanda served until 1891.[18]

Two main political parties were active at that time, the pro-Hennessy party being Sir William Newton's Reform Party where as the anti-Hennessy party Democrats was led by Gustave de Coriolis and Onésipho Beaugeard.[19]

Champ de Mars Racecourse, Port Louis, 1880

The labourers brought from India were not always fairly treated, and a German, Adolph von Plevitz, made himself the unofficial protector of these immigrants. He mixed with many of the labourers, and in 1871 helped them to write a petition that was sent to Governor Gordon. A commission was appointed to look into the complaints made by the Indian immigrants, and in 1872 two lawyers, appointed by the British Crown, were sent from England to make an inquiry. This Royal Commission recommended several measures that would affect the lives of Indian labourers during the next fifty years.[11]

In November 1901, Mahatma Gandhi visited Mauritius, on his way from South Africa to India. He stayed on the island for two weeks, and urged the Indo-Mauritian community to take an interest in education and to play a more active role in politics. Back in India, he sent over a young lawyer, Manilal Doctor, to improve the plight of the Indo-Mauritians.[20]

1901–1914: Modernization and reform

In 1901, faster links were established with the island of Rodrigues thanks to the wireless.[20]

In 1903, motorcars were introduced in Mauritius, and in 1910 the first taxis, operated by Joseph Merven, came into service. The electrification of Port Louis took place in 1909, and in the same decade the Mauritius Hydro Electric Company of the Atchia Brothers was authorised to provide power to the towns of upper Plaines Wilhems.

Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York in Mauritius, 1901

The coat of arms of Mauritius was adopted in 1906, consisting of an Sambur deer and the extinct dodo, which has currently been a symbol of national identity since independence.[21]

The 1910s were a period of political agitation. The rising middle class (made up of doctors, lawyers, and teachers) began to challenge the political power of the sugar cane landowners. Dr. Eugène Laurent, mayor of Port Louis, was the leader of this new group; his party, Action Libérale, demanded that more people should be allowed to vote in the elections. Action Libérale was opposed by the Parti de l'Ordre, led by Henri Leclézio, the most influential of the sugar magnates.[11]

In 1911, there were riots in Port Louis due to a false rumour that Dr. Eugène Laurent had been murdered by the oligarchs in Curepipe. This became known as the 1911 Curepipe riots. Shops and offices were damaged in the capital, and one person was killed.[20]

In the same year, 1911, the first public cinema shows took place in Curepipe, and, in the same town, a stone building was erected to house the Royal College.[20] In 1912, a wider telephone network came into service, used by the government, business firms, and a few private households.

1914–1919: World War I prosperity

World War I broke out in August 1914. Many Mauritians volunteered to fight in Europe against the Germans and in Mesopotamia against the Turks. But the war affected Mauritius much less than the wars of the eighteenth century. In fact, the 1914–1918 war was a period of great prosperity, due to a boom in sugar prices. In 1919, the Mauritius Sugar Syndicate came into being, which included 70% of all sugar producers.[22]

1920–1939: Liberalization and reaction

The 1920s saw the rise of a "retrocessionism" movement, which favoured the retrocession of Mauritius to France. The movement rapidly collapsed because none of the candidates who wanted Mauritius to be given back to France were elected in the 1921 elections.

In the post-war recession, there was a sharp drop in sugar prices. Many sugar estates closed down, marking the end of an era for the sugar magnates who had not only controlled the economy but also the political life of the country.

Raoul Rivet, the editor of Le Mauricien newspaper, campaigned for a revision of the constitution that would give the emerging middle class a greater role in the running of the country. The principles of Arya Samaj began to infiltrate the Hindu community, who clamoured for more social justice.[20]

From the end of nominated Arlanda's term in 1891, until 1926, there had been no Indo-Mauritian representation in the Legislative Council. However, at the 1926 elections, Dunputh Lallah and Rajcoomar Gujadhur became the first Indo-Mauritians to be elected at the Legislative Council. At Grand Port, Lallah won over rivals Fernand Louis Morel and Gaston Gebert; at Flacq, Gujadhur defeated Pierre Montocchio.[23]

1936 saw the birth of the Labour Party, launched by Maurice Curé. Emmanuel Anquetil rallied the urban workers while Pandit Sahadeo concentrated on the rural working class.[24]

The Uba riots of 1937 resulted in reforms by the local British government that improved labour conditions and led to the un-banning of labour unions.[25][26] Labour Day was celebrated for the first time in 1938. More than 30,000 workers sacrificed a day's wage and came from all over the island to attend a giant meeting at the Champ de Mars.[27]

Following the dockers' strikes, trade unionist Emmanuel Anquetil was deported to Rodrigues, Maurice Curé and Pandit Sahadeo were placed under house arrest, whilst numerous strikers were jailed. Governor Sir Bede Clifford assisted Mr Jules Leclezio of the Mauritius Sugar Syndicate to counter the effects of the strike by using alternative workers known as 'black legs'.[28]

1939–1945: World War II

At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, many Mauritians volunteered to serve under the British flag in Africa and the Near East, fighting against the German and Italian armies. Some went to England to become pilots and ground staff in the Royal Air Force. Mauritius was never really threatened, but in 1943 several British ships were sunk outside Port Louis by German submarines.

During World War II, conditions were hard in the country; the prices of commodities doubled but workers' salaries increased only by 10 to 20 percent. There was civil unrest, and the colonial government censored all trade union activities. However, the labourers of Belle Vue Harel Sugar Estate went on strike on 27 September 1943.[29] Police officers eventually fired directly at the crowd, resulting in the deaths of 4 labourers: Soondrum Pavatdan (better known as Anjalay Coopen, a 32-year-old pregnant woman), Moonsamy Moonien (14-year-old boy), Kistnasamy Mooneesamy (37-year-old labourer), and Marday Panapen.[30] This became known as the Belle Vue Harel Massacre.[31][32] Social worker and leader of the Jan Andolan movement Basdeo Bissoondoyal organised the funeral ceremonies of the 4 dead labourers.[33]

Three months later, on December 12, 1943, Basdeo Bissoondoyal organised a mass gathering at "Marie Reine de la Paix" in Port Louis, and the significant crowd of workers from all over the island confirmed the popularity of his movement Jan Andolan.[34]

1945–1960: Postwar politics, universal suffrage

After the proclamation of the new 1947 Constitution the general elections were held on August 9, 1948 — and, for the first time, the colonial government expanded the franchise to all adults who could write their name in one of the island's 19 languages, abolishing the previous gender and property qualifications.[35][36]

Guy Rozemont's Labour Party won the majority of the votes[37] with 11 of the 19 elected seats won by Hindus. However, the Governor-General Donald Mackenzie-Kennedy appointed 12 Conservatives to the Legislative Council on 23 August 1948 to perpetuate the predominance of white Franco-Mauritians.[38][35] In 1948 Emilienne Rochecouste became the first woman to be elected to the Legislative Council, serving until 1953.[39]

Guy Rozemont's party bettered its position in 1953, and, on the strength of the election results, demanded universal suffrage. Constitutional conferences were held in London in 1955 and 1957, and the ministerial system was introduced. Voting took place for the first time on the basis of universal adult suffrage on 9 March 1959. The general election was again won by the Labour Party, led this time by Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam.[40]

1960–1968: Ethnic tensions

A Constitutional Review Conference was held in London in 1961, and a programme of further constitutional advance was established. The 1963 election was won by the Labour Party and its allies. The Colonial Office noted that politics of a communal nature was gaining ground in Mauritius and that the choice of candidates (by parties) and the voting behaviour (of electors) were governed by ethnic and caste considerations.[40] Around that time, two eminent British academics, Richard Titmuss and James Meade, published a report of the island's social problems caused by overpopulation and the monoculture of sugar cane. This led to an intense campaign to halt the population explosion, and the decade registered a sharp decline in population growth.

In early 1965, a political assassination took place in the suburb of Belle-Rose, in the town of Quatre Bornes, where Labour activist Rampersad Surath was beaten to death by thugs of rival party Parti Mauricien.[41][42]

On 10 May 1965, racial riots broke out in the village of Trois Boutiques near Souillac and progressed to the historic village of Mahébourg. A nationwide State of Emergency was declared on the British colony. The riot was initiated by the murder of Police Constable Beesoo in his vehicle by a Creole gang. This was followed by the murder of a civilian named Mr. Robert Brousse in Trois Boutiques.[43] The Creole gang then proceeded to the coastal historic village of Mahébourg to assault the Indo-Mauritian spectators who were watching a Hindustani movie at Cinéma Odéon. Mahébourg police recorded nearly 100 complaints of assaults on Indo-Mauritians.[44]

Independence (since 1968)
Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, first Prime Minister of Mauritius at Lod airport, Israel 1962

At the Lancaster Conference of 1965, it became clear that Britain wanted to relieve itself of the colony of Mauritius. In 1959, Harold Macmillan had made his famous "Wind of Change Speech" in which he acknowledged that the best option for Britain was to give complete independence to its colonies. Thus, since the late Fifties, the way was paved for independence.[45]

Later in 1965, after the Lancaster Conference, the Chagos Archipelago was excised from the territory of Mauritius to form the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). A general election took place on 7 August 1967, and the Independence Party obtained the majority of seats. In January 1968, six weeks before the declaration of independence the 1968 Mauritian riots occurred in Port Louis leading to the deaths of 25 people.[46][47]

Elizabeth II was Queen of Mauritius from 1968 to 1992.

Mauritius adopted a new constitution, and independence was proclaimed on 12 March 1968. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam became the first prime minister of an independent Mauritius — with Queen Elizabeth II remaining head of state as Queen of Mauritius. In 1969, the opposition party, Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM), was founded, led by Paul Bérenger. Later, in 1971, the MMM — backed by unions — called a series of strikes in the port, which caused a state of emergency in the country.[48]

The coalition government of the Labour Party and the PMSD (Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate) reacted by curtailing civil liberties and curbing freedom of the press.[20] Two unsuccessful apparent assassination attempts were made against Paul Bérenger:

On October 1, 1971, his supporter Fareed Muttur died in suspicious circumstances at Le Réduit, whilst driving Paul Bérenger's car.[49] The second led to the death of Azor Adélaïde, a dock worker and activist, on 25 November 1971.[50]

General elections were postponed and public meetings were prohibited. Members of the MMM, including Paul Bérenger, were imprisoned on December 23, 1971. The MMM leader was released a year later.[51]

In May 1975, a student revolt that started at the University of Mauritius swept across the country.[52] The students were unsatisfied with an education system that did not meet their aspirations, and that gave limited prospects for future employment. On 20 May, thousands of students tried to enter Port-Louis over the Grand River North West bridge, and clashed with police. An act of Parliament was passed on 16 December 1975 to extend the right to vote to 18-year-olds. This was seen as an attempt to appease the frustration of the younger generation.[15]

The next general elections took place on 20 December 1976. The Labour-CAM coalition won only 28 seats out of 62.[53] The MMM secured 34 seats in Parliament but outgoing Prime Minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam managed to remain in office, with a two-seat majority, after striking an alliance with the PMSD of Gaetan Duval.

In 1982 an MMM-PSM government (led by PM Anerood Jugnauth, Deputy PM Harish Boodhoo and Finance Minister Paul Bérenger) was elected. However, ideological and personality differences emerged within the MMM and PSM leadership. The power struggle between Bérenger and Jugnauth peaked in March 1983. Jugnauth travelled to New Delhi to attend a Non-Aligned Movement summit; on his return, Bérenger proposed constitutional changes that would strip power from the Prime Minister. At Jugnauth's request, PM Indira Gandhi of India planned an armed intervention involving the Indian Navy and Indian Army to prevent a coup under the code name Operation Lal Dora.[54][55][56]

The MMM-PSM government split up nine months after the June 1982 election. According to an Information Ministry official the nine months was a "socialist experiment".[57] Harish Boodhoo dissolved his party PSM to enable all PSM parliamentarians to join Jugnauth's new party MSM, thus remaining in power whilst distancing themselves from MMM.[58] The MSM-Labour-PMSD coalition was victorious at the August 1983 elections, resulting in Anerood Jugnauth as PM and Gaëtan Duval as Deputy PM.

That period saw growth in the EPZ (Export Processing Zone) sector. Industrialisation began to spread to villages as well, and attracted young workers from all ethnic communities. As a result, the sugar industry began to lose its hold on the economy. Large retail chains began opening stores in 1985 and offered credit facilities to low-income earners, thus allowing them to afford basic household appliances. There was also a boom in the tourism industry, and new hotels sprang up throughout the island. In 1989 the stock exchange opened its doors and in 1992 the freeport began operation.[20] In 1990, the Prime Minister lost the vote on changing the Constitution to make the country a republic with Bérenger as president.[59]

Republic (since 1992)

On 12 March 1992, twenty-four years after independence, Mauritius was proclaimed a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations.[1] The last governor general, Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo, became the first president.[60] This was under a transitional arrangement, in which he was replaced by Cassam Uteem later that year.[61] Political power remained with the prime minister.

Despite an improvement in the economy, which coincided with a fall in the price of petrol and a favourable dollar exchange rate, the government did not enjoy full popularity. As early as 1984, there was discontent. Through the Newspapers and Periodicals Amendment Act, the government tried to make every newspaper provide a bank guarantee of half a million rupees. Forty-three journalists protested by participating in a public demonstration in Port Louis, in front of Parliament. They were arrested and freed on bail. This caused a public outcry and the government had to review its policy.[20]

There was also dissatisfaction in the education sector. There were not enough high-quality secondary colleges to answer the growing demand of primary school leavers who had got through their CPE (Certificate of Primary Education). In 1991, a master plan for education failed to get national support and contributed to the government's downfall.[20]

In December 1995 Navin Ramgoolam was elected as PM of the Labour–MMM alliance. In October 1996 the triple murder of political activists at Gorah-Issac Street in Port Louis led to several arrests and a long investigation.[62]

The year 1999 was marked by civil unrest and riots in February and then in May. Following the Kaya riots President Cassam Uteem and Cardinal Jean Margéot toured the country and calm was restored after four days of turmoil.[63] A commission of enquiry was set up to investigate the root causes of the social disturbance. The resulting report delved into the cause of poverty and qualified many tenacious beliefs as perceptions.[64] In January 2000 political activist Rajen Sabapathee was shot dead after he escaped from La Bastille jail.[65]

Perceived failure of the government to respond promptly and effectively to the MV Wakashio oil spill has resulted in anti-government protests.

Anerood Jugnauth of the MSM returned to power in September 2000 after securing an alliance with the MMM. In 2002, the island of Rodrigues became an autonomous entity within the republic and was thus able to elect its own representatives to administer the island. In 2003, the prime ministership was transferred to Paul Bérenger of the MMM, and Anerood Jugnauth became president. Bérenger was the first Franco-Mauritian Prime Minister in the country's post-Independence history.

In 2005 elections, Navin Ramgoolam became PM under the new coalition of Labour–PMXD–VF–MR–MMSM. In 2010 elections the Labour–MSM–PMSD alliance secured power and Navin Ramgoolam remained PM until 2014.[66]

The MSM–PMSD–ML coalition was victorious at the 2014 elections under Anerood Jugnauth's leadership. Despite disagreements within the ruling alliance that led to the departure of PMSD, the MSM–ML stayed in power for their full 5-year term.[67]

On 21 January 2017 Anerood Jugnauth announced his resignation and that his son and Finance Minister Pravind Jugnauth would assume the office of prime minister.[68] The transition took place as planned on 23 January 2017.[69]

In 2018, Mauritian president Ameenah Gurib-Fakim resigned over a financial scandal.[70] The incumbent president is Prithvirajsing Roopun[71] who has served since December 2019.

In the November 2019 Mauritius general elections, the ruling Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) won more than half of the seats in parliament, securing incumbent Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth a new five-year term.[72]

On 25 July 2020, Japanese-owned bulk carrier MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef off the coast of Mauritius, leaking up to 1,000 tonnes of heavy oil into a pristine lagoon.[73] Its location on the edge of protected fragile marine ecosystems and a wetland of international importance made the MV Wakashio oil spill one of the worst environmental disasters ever to hit the western Indian Ocean.[74]

On 5 December 2022, Yu Feng 67, a Taiwanese long liner based in Port Louis and authorised by the Mauritian Fisheries Planning and Licensing Division ran aground on the reefs of St. Brandon with 70 tonnes of diesel, 1 tonne of heavy oils and 30 to 40 tonnes of baitfish onboard.[75][76] This was the fourth Taiwanese shipwreck in Mauritius in 2022.[77]

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