Capital : Port Louis
Size: 720 sq m Popn: 1084 000
This small island is 2000 km off the South East coast of Africa. It was first inhabited by the Dutch in the C16th and named Mauricius after Prince Maurice of Nassau. They left in 1710 and it was occupied by France in 1715. Sugar-cane plantations were established and African slaves brought in to work on them.
The British captured it from the French in 1810, freeing the slaves, and bringing in indentured workers from India whose descendants form about 70% of the population. There was no political activity until the protests against poor labour conditions in 1910 and the Mauritius Labour Party (MLP) was established in 1936 but independence was not demanded until 1950. In 1957, Mauritius was given internal self-government.
The first Prime Minister, Dr. Seewoosagur Ramgoolam of the MLP, was the driving force behind the campaign for independence within the Commonwealth which was won in 1968. Opposition to his rule mounted and the left-wing MMM became the largest single party in the 1976 elections, forcing him to govern by coalition. In the 1982 elections, the Mauritius Militant movement (MMM) won all sixty directly elected seats but the new Prime Minister, Aneerood Jugnauth, only held the party together for a year before dissidents broke away forcing another coalition government. This was dissolved in 1983 and Jugnauth founded the Mauritius Socialist Movement incorporating the Mauritius Socialist Party. After a general election that year, a new coalition was formed with Jugnauth as Prime Minister on condition that Ramgoolam was to be President if the country became a republic. This did not occur, but Ramgoolam became governor general. He died in 1985 and was replaced by Sir Veersamy Ringadoo. Jugnauth was re-elected in 1987 and tried to make the country a republic in 1990, only narrowly being defeated by the legislative assembly. His ruling coalition won a large majority in the September 1991 election and the country eventually became a republic in March 1992 although it remained a member of the Commonwealth.
The racially-mixed population lives peacefully, with the Indians running the government, the Europeans big business and the Chinese the shops. There are also people of Arab and African descent and the mixed race Creoles. English is the official language and French, Creole, and Bhojpuri are also spoken. Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are all followed. The neighbouring island of Reunion is still under French rule.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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