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Mauritius
Coordinates: 20.2°S 57.5°E

Mauritius officially the Republic of Mauritius (French: République de Maurice) is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) off the southeast coast of the African continent. The country includes the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, 560 kilometres (350 mi) east of the principal island, the islands of Agaléga and Saint Brandon. The islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues and the French department of Réunion 170 km (110 mi) form part of the Mascarene Islands. The area of the country is 2040 km2, its capital is Port Louis.

The first Portuguese explorers found no indigenous people living on the island in 1507. The Dutch settled on the island in 1598 and abandoned it in 1710. Five years later, the island became a French colony and was renamed the Isle de France. The French developed extensive sugar plantations on the island, and the Mauritian Creole language came into existence during their rule. The British took control of Mauritius in 1810 during the Napoleonic Wars. The country remained under British rule until it became an independent Commonwealth realm on 12 March 1968 and a republic within the Commonwealth on 12 March 1992.

The country population is composed of several ethnicities, mostly people of Indian, African, French, and Chinese descent. Most Mauritians are multilingual; English, French, Creole and Chinese languages are used.

The Mauritian Constitution is based on the Westminster model. The head of state is the President but constitutional power is vested in the Prime Minister who is the head of government. Mauritius is highly ranked for democracy, economic and political freedom.

The island of Mauritius was the only home of the Dodo bird. The bird became extinct fewer than eighty years after its discovery.

History

The island of Mauritius was unknown and uninhabited before its first recorded visit during the Middle Ages by Arab sailors, who named it Dina Arobi. In 1507 Portuguese sailors visited the uninhabited island and established a visiting base. Diogo Fernandes Pereira, a Portuguese navigator, was the first European to land in Mauritius. He named the island Ilha do Cirne. The Portuguese did not stay long as they were not interested in these islands.

In 1598 a Dutch squadron under Admiral Wybrand Van Warwyck landed at Grand Port and named the island "Mauritius" after Prince Maurice van Nassau of the Dutch Republic, the ruler of his country. The Dutch established a small colony on 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 discover the western part of Australia. The first Dutch settlement lasted only twenty years. Several attempts were made subsequently, but the settlements never developed enough to produce dividends and the Dutch abandoned Mauritius in 1710.

Republic of Mauritius
Capital
Port Louis
Language
English & French
Demonym
Mauritian
Currency
Mauritian Rupee
Area
2,040 km²
Population
1,291,456
Density
630/km²
Timezone
MUT (UTC+4)
Independence
12 March 1968
President
Kailash Purryag
Prime Minister
Navin Ramgoolam
Legislature
National Assembly
GDP
$20.200 billion
Calling Code
+230
Drive
left

France, which already controlled neighbouring Ile Bourbon (now Réunion), took control of Mauritius in 1715 and renamed it Isle de France. 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. Under his governorship, numerous buildings were erected, a number of which are still standing today 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.

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 visited the island and wrote Paul et Virginie, a successful novel situated on the island. In particular Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen, a successful General in the French Revolutionary Wars and, in some ways, a rival of Napoléon I, 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 the General Decaen on the island, 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 surrendered to a British invasion at Cap Malheureux three months later. They formally surrendered on 3 December 1810, 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 name reverted to Mauritius.

The British administration, which began with Sir Robert Farquhar as Governor, was followed by rapid social and economic changes. Slavery was abolished in 1835. The planters 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. The abolition of slavery had important impacts on Mauritius 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.

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 RAF. Mauritius was never really threatened, but several British ships were sunk outside Port-Louis by German submarines in 1943.

The first general elections were held on 9 August 1948 and were won by the Labour Party. This party, led by Guy Rozemont, 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. A Constitutional Review Conference was held in London in 1961 and a programme of further constitutional advance was established. Two eminent British academics, Richard Titmuss and James Meade, published a report which dwelt upon the social problems caused by overpopulation and the monoculture of sugar cane. This led to an intense campaign to halt the population explosion, and the 1960s registered a sharp decline in population growth.

In 1965, the Chagos Archipelago was split from the territory of Mauritius to form British Indian Ocean Territory. A General election took place on 7 August 1967, and the Labour Party and its two allies obtained the majority of seats. Mauritius adopted a new constitution, independence was proclaimed on 12 March 1968, and the country became a member of the Commonwealth realm. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam became the first prime minister of Mauritius. In 1969, the opposition party Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) led by Paul Berenger was founded. 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, and the leader was imprisoned.

Mauritius was proclaimed a republic within the Commonwealth twenty four years after independence on 12 March 1992.[10]

Politics
The politics of Mauritius take place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, in which the President is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government who is assisted by a Council of Ministers. Mauritius has a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the Government. Legislative power is vested in both the Government and the National Assembly. The absolute power is split between two positions: the President and the Prime Minister.