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The Commonwealth
Mauritius


Region:

Africa

Did you know:

The 18th triennial Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers was held in Port Louis during 28–31 August 2012 and was attended by delegations from 39 countries.

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, a Frenchman whose parents originated from Mauritius, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2008.

Mauritius has one of the highest life expectancies in Africa (74 years).

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1968
Population: 1,244,000 (2013)
GDP: 3.5% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: world ranking 63
Official language: English
Timezone: GMT plus 4hr
Currency: Mauritian rupee (MRs)

Geography

Area: Island of Mauritius 1,864 sq km; Rodrigues 104 sq km; total area, including other islands 2,040 sq km.
Coastline: 177km
Capital city: Port Louis
Population density (per sq. km): 610

The Republic of Mauritius, an island country in the Indian Ocean, lies east of Madagascar and the south-east African coast. Its nearest neighbour is the French island of Réunion. The Constitution of Mauritius provides that Mauritius includes the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agalega, Tromelin, Cargados Carajos and the Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia and any other island comprised in the State of Mauritius. Mauritius has always maintained that it has sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago but has not been able so far to exercise its sovereignty.

Main towns:

Port Louis (capital, pop. 151,033 in 2013), Vacoas-Phoenix (106,493), Beau Bassin-Rose Hill (104,973), Curepipe (79,273), Quatre Bornes (77,534), Triolet (23,780), Goodlands (20,990), Bel Air (17,935), St Pierre (16,193), Central Flacq (16,085), Mahébourg (15,431), Le Hochet (15,289) and Grand Baie (12,079).

Transport:

There are 2,150 km of roads, 98 per cent paved, including at least 30 km of motorways and 940 km of main roads. There is no railway.

Port Louis is the main harbour and only commercial port. Facilities include a container terminal and terminals for the bulk handling of sugar, oil, wheat and cement.

Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport at Plaisance is in the south-east of the island, some 50 km from Port Louis. There is an airstrip at Plaine Corail on Rodrigues receiving a daily service from Mauritius.

International relations:

Mauritius is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Mauritius hosts the headquarters of the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

Topography:

The island of Mauritius is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs, with lagoons and coral-sand beaches. Mountains, with rocky peaks, rise abruptly from the broad fertile plains; within lies the central plateau. The rivers flow fast through deep ravines, with frequent waterfalls. They are not navigable, but fill eight reservoirs. The longest is the 34 km Grand River South-East. There are two natural lakes, Grand Bassin and Bassin Blanc, both craters of extinct volcanoes.

Climate:

The climate is maritime subtropical, with south-east trade winds blowing for much of the year. Summer, the rainy season, is from November to April, winter from June to September. Rainfall ranges from 80 mm in October to 310 mm in February. Heavy rains fall mainly from late December to the beginning of April. Cyclones, occurring in the summer, occasionally cause severe damage.

Environment:

The most significant issues are water pollution, and degradation of coral reefs.

Vegetation:

The mountain foothills are densely vegetated, many planted with sugar cane and tea. Some 4,600 hectares of forest land have been set aside as nature reserves. Remains of the original ebony forests, felled by the early settlers, have survived here. The uplands have been extensively replanted with conifers and eucalyptus. Trees include coastal casuarina trees (called filaos), the Indian almond tree (badamier), ficus (multipliant), flametree (flamboyant), African tulip, bauhinia and jacaranda. Mangroves grow along the east and south-east coasts. Many indigenous trees and tree orchids have vanished, but over 10,000 plant species remain, of which more than 150 are indigenous to Mauritius and 40 to Rodrigues. Forest covers 17 per cent of the land area, having declined at 0.5 per cent p.a. 1990–2010.

Arable land comprises 38 per cent and permanent cropland two per cent of the total land area.

Wildlife:

Mauritius was the home of the dodo, an extinct species of flightless large turkey. Conservation systems are now well enforced, but only nine of a known 25 species of indigenous birds remain, including the Mauritius kestrel and the pink pigeon. The Rodrigues fruit bat or golden bat was in danger of becoming extinct until recently; the Mauritius fruit bat is more common. Javanese deer, introduced by the Dutch for food, are found mainly in the uplands and the ravines, and protected by hunting restrictions. There are 12 species of lizards, four of non-poisonous snakes and 2,000 of insects and butterflies. Three of the butterflies – the citrus, ficus and sailor – are unique to the islands. Marine fauna is very rich.

History:

Mauritius was uninhabited until 1598, and had much unique wildlife and plant life. There were Dutch settlers from 1638 until 1710. The French took formal possession in 1715 and sent settlers from 1721; the French East India Company governed the island, called Île de France, from about 1767. Slaves were brought in from Madagascar, Mozambique and other parts of Africa.

The island was captured by the British in 1810, during the Anglo–French war, and renamed Mauritius. Together with its dependencies, including Seychelles and Rodrigues, the island was formally ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Paris (1814). At the time slavery was abolished, in 1834, there were 68,616 registered slaves in the country. After abolition, indentured labourers were recruited, mainly from India, to work in the expanding sugar industry. More than 200,000 Indian labourers arrived between 1840 and 1870. They were later joined by a small number of Chinese traders. The population swelled from 100,000 in 1835 to 371,000 by the end of the century.

From 1810 until they were separated in 1903, Mauritius and Seychelles were administered as a single British colony by a Governor and British officials.

The independence movement had its roots in the labour movement which, in the late 1940s, campaigned for the transfer of political power to Mauritians. In 1947 the franchise was extended to every literate adult. A measure of democratic self- government followed, with a general election in 1948 and the first legislative council. Universal adult suffrage was introduced in 1959.

Negotiations for political autonomy in the 1960s were led by Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. Elections were held in 1967, which were won by a pro-independence alliance of Ramgoolam’s Labour Party and two smaller groups, the Independent Forward Bloc and the Muslim Action Committee. A new constitution granting internal self-government was then introduced. Mauritius became an independent state and joined the Commonwealth on 12 March 1968.

Alarmed by the growing strength of the socialist Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM), led by Paul Bérenger, and union strikes, the government of Ramgoolam refused to allow the general election due in 1972. A state of emergency was declared and MMM and union leaders imprisoned.

In the 1976 general election, Labour retained power by forming an alliance with the Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate (PMSD). But in 1982 the MMM, in alliance with Labour breakaway group the Parti Socialiste Mauricien (PSM), won all the elected seats in the National Assembly. In government, the MMM was less radical than it had been in the early 1970s, but the MMM/PSM alliance broke up within a year. Anerood Jugnauth, Prime Minister and MMM President, then broke away from the MMM to form a new party, the Mouvement Socialiste Mauricien (MSM), which formed an alliance with Labour and the PMSD. The new alliance won the elections of 1983, leaving the old MMM in opposition. The Organisation du Peuple Rodriguais again won the two Rodrigues seats and joined the new government.

In 1984, Jugnauth dismissed a number of ministers, most of them members of the Labour Party, and the coalition government split. Those Labour MPs who continued to support the government formed the Rassemblement des Travaillistes Mauriciens (RTM). In an early general election called in June 1987, the MSM/PMSD/RTM coalition unexpectedly won a comfortable majority. The PMSD left the alliance in 1988, and the MMM came into the alliance in its place.

The alliance of MSM and MMM were returned to power in 1991; it held firm until 1993 when MMM leader Paul Bérenger was dismissed from the cabinet and took part of the MMM with him to form an alliance with the Labour Party. Meanwhile, the constitution was amended to make Mauritius a republic on 12 March 1992.

The Labour Party–MMM alliance won a sweeping victory at elections held in December 1995, leaving the country with only a token parliamentary opposition. Labour Party leader Navinchandra Ramgoolam became Prime Minister and Bérenger Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. The government introduced privatisation policies, despite strong opposition from the MMM and unions. Bérenger and other MMM members resigned from the coalition to rejoin the opposition in June 1997.

Lost in Paradise, Mauritius Island
Mauritius is a fascinating, world-in-one-island slice of paradise. Its very name of conjures up images of tropical luxury and stupendous extravagance. While in many destinations famed for cobalt-blue seas, white sandy beaches and luxury hotels, you may eventually find yourself wishing for something to do besides sunbathing and swimming, it’s often hard to know what to do next in Mauritius. The island is loaded with historic sights, cultural diversity, geographic variation and almost limitless activities to distract you from the daily grind of beach and pool. But perhaps its single biggest asset is the relaxed charm of its warm and welcoming people.

Learn more about Mauritius on The Commonwealth site
Society, Economy, Constitution & politics, History and Travel.

The History of Mauritius
Or, the Isle of France and the Neighbouring Islands; from their First Discovery to the Present Time composed principally from he Papers and Memoirs of Baron Grant who resided twenty years in the Island by his son Charles Grant, Viscunt de Vaux (1801) (pdf)

The History Of Mauritius (1507-1914)
by S. B. De Burgh-Edwardes (1921) (pdf)

Mauritius and Madagascar
Journals of an Eight Years Residence in the Diocese of Mauritius and of a Visit to Madagascar by Vincent W. Ryan, D.D., Bishop of Mauritius (pdf)

A History of Mauritius
By Palmer & Bradshaw (1859) (pdf)

Mauritius, A Piece Of A Star In The Ocean
A piece of a star from a world of dreams that fell into the Indian Ocean. With its ring of coral, lagoons swarming with fish and magnificent bays, Mauritius Island does indeed look to have come straight out of a dream. The wildlife is extraordinary, as is the diversity of population and religions. In unveiling this wealth of landscape and cultures, this DVD Guide will help you to understand why Baudelaire was inspired by the island in his poem “Parfum exotique”, and to grasp the evolution of an island that has successfully combined the dream dimension with development.

Mauritius Vacation Travel Video Guide
The little island, lying in the center of the Indian Ocean is a real tropical paradise. Along the white sand beaches, shaded by coconut palm trees there are many luxury hotels. We can take excursions to the nearby islands, or take a dive in the turquoise blue water. In the center of the island, on the top of a vulcanic plateau, emerald green sugar cane plantations can be found. On the Domaine Les Pailles estate we can have a glimpse at how rum and sugar are produced from sugar cane. We can try the Indian dishes and take a look at the colorful Hindu temple. We might enjoy the Sega dance and taste the teas from the Bois Cheri plantation. We might also take a Jeep Tour through the Black River National Park and take a look at the marvellous waterfall of Chamarel, while in the zoo the famous pink pigeon and the golden bat can be found. In the city there is the Blue Penny Museum and one of the worlds most beautiful tropical parks, the Pamplemousses Botanic Garden to visit.

Business in the Commonwealth
Web site of the Country


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