Currently viewing country profile for Mauritius
Mauritius, a volcanic island of lagoons and palm-fringed beaches in the Indian Ocean, has a reputation for stability and racial harmony among its mixed population of Asians, Europeans and Africans.
The island has maintained one of the developing world's most successful democracies and has enjoyed years of constitutional order.
It has preserved its image as one of Africa's few social and economic success stories.
Once reliant on sugar as its main crop export, Mauritius was hit by the removal of European trade preferences but has successfully diversified into textiles, upmarket tourism, banking and business outsourcing.
The strategy helped the island's economy weather the world financial crisis of 2008-9 better than expected.
Various cultures and traditions flourish in peace, though Mauritian Creoles, descendants of African slaves who make up a third of the population, live in poverty and complain of discrimination.
Mauritius was uninhabited when the Dutch took possession in 1598. Abandoned in 1710, it was taken over by the French in 1715 and seized by the British in 1810.
It gained independence in 1968 as a constitutional monarchy, with executive power nominally vested in the British monarch. It became a republic in 1992. The island of Rodrigues and other smaller islets also form part of the country.
Mauritius claims sovereignty over the Chagos islands, which lie around 1,000 km to the north-east. The British territory, which was separated from Mauritius in 1965, is home to the US military base on Diego Garcia. The British government oversaw the forced removal of the Chagos islanders to Mauritius to make way for the base.
The country is home to some of the world's rarest plants and animals. But human habitation and the introduction of non-native species have threatened its indigenous flora and fauna.
The dodo - a flightless bird and a national symbol - was hunted into extinction in the 17th century.
- Full name: The Republic of Mauritius
- Population: 1.3 million (UN, 2010)
- Capital and largest city: Port Louis
- Area: 2,040 sq km (788 sq miles)
- Major languages: English (official), Creole, French, Indian languages
- Major religions: Hinduism, Christianity, Islam
- Life expectancy: 68 years (men), 76 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 Mauritian rupee=100 cents
- Main exports: Sugar, clothing, tea, jewellery
- GNI per capita: US $7,240 (World Bank, 2009)
- Internet domain: .mu
- International dialling code: +230
President: Sir Anerood Jugnauth
Prime minister: Navin Ramgoolam
Former Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam of the Social Alliance returned to power after defeating Paul Berenger of the Mauritian Militant Movement in elections in July 2005.
The ruling alliance, which includes Mr Ramgoolam's Labour Party and the Militant Socialist Movement, was re-elected in a closely fought vote in 2010, defeating the Mauritian Militant Movement led by Mr Berenger.
Both main blocs campaigned on a promise of strengthening the welfare state and social justice.
Born in 1947, Mr Ramgoolam served as prime minister between 1995 and 2000. He is a doctor and lawyer.
His predecessor Paul Berenger, a white Mauritian of French descent, became the island's first non-Hindu prime minister in 2003.
The constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of the press. State-owned Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) radio and TV generally reflect government thinking. MBC is funded by advertising and a TV licence fee. Private radio stations were introduced in 2002.
Daily newspapers and weeklies offer balanced coverage in several languages. They are often critical of both the government and the opposition parties. Two media groups - Le Mauricien Ltd and La Sentinelle Ltd - dominate the press scene.
Television is the most-popular medium. Multichannel TV is available in Port Louis. Internet access is widely available; by early 2008, nearly 27% of the population had access (ITU).
BBC World Service radio is available via a mediumwave (AM) relay (1575 kHz). Radio France Internationale is relayed on FM.
- MBC - state-run, operates three channels and a service for Rodrigues Island
A chronology of key events:
10th century - Phoenicians, Malays, Swahili and Arab seamen visit island but do not settle. Island named Dina Robin by Arab mariners.
1498 - Portuguese explorers stumble upon Mauritius in the wake of Vasco da Gama's voyage around the Cape of Good Hope.
1510 - Portuguese navigator Pedro Mascarenhas visits the island and names it Cirné. It is used as a port of call, but the Portuguese do not establish a permanent settlement.
1598 - Dutch claim the uninhabited island and rename it after their head of state, Maurice, Prince of Orange and Count of Nassau.
1638-58 - Dutch settlement begins, but colony soon fails.
1664-1710 - Second Dutch attempt at colonisation fails. The Dutch withdraw permanently. By this time the dodo - a unique bird found only on Mauritius - has become extinct. Pirates inhabit the island.
1715 - French East India Company claims Mauritius for France, renames it Ile de France.
1721-67 - Settlement begins; Port Louis founded as a base for attacking the British in India.
1767 - French East Indies Company sells Mauritius; control of island transferred to French government.
1796 - Settlers break away from French control when the government in Paris attempts to abolish slavery.
1810 - British forces land in Mauritius after defeating the French in battle at Cap Malheureux.
1812 - Colonel Draper founds the Mauritius Turf Club, which opens the first racecourse in the southern hemisphere and the second oldest in the world.
1814 - Mauritius, Seychelles and Rodrigues ceded to Britain under Treaty of Paris.
1834 - British abolish slavery. It is phased out on the island under a transition period known as "apprenticeship".
1835 - Indentured labour system introduced. In subsequent decades hundreds of thousands of workers arrive from India.
1847 - Incorrectly-worded Penny Black postage stamps are issued in Mauritius; later they become among the most sought-after stamps in the world.
1866-68 - Malaria epidemic kills more than 40,000 people after Anopheles mosquito accidently introduced.
1876 - Indian rupee becomes official currency.
1912 - Mahatma Gandhi visits.
1910 - Indentured labour system abolished. Between 1834-1910, 451,776 Indians were brought to Mauritius to work on the sugar estates, of which 157,639 returned to India.
1926 - First Indo-Mauritians elected to government council.
1936 - Creole politician Dr Maurice Cure founds Mauritian Labour Party (MLP), or Parti Travailliste.
1937 - Rioters demand better economic conditions and participation in government.
1942 - Donald Mackenzie-Kennedy becomes governor. Introduces consultative committee which for the first time includes representatives from all Mauritian communities.
1948 - New constitution gives the vote to many Indians and Creoles in an enlarged legislature.
1957 - Internal self-government introduced, with an electoral system based on the Westminster model.
1958 - New constitution - all adults over 21 can vote. Island divided into four single-member constituencies.
1959 - First elections under universal adult suffrage won by MLP, led by Dr Seewoosagur Ramgoolam.
1960 - Cyclone Carol devastates island, leaving thousands homeless and prompting a housing revolution.
1964 - Ethnic rioting; Hindus and Creoles clash.
1965 - Constitutional conference held in London to discuss independence.
1966 - Britain drives out some 2,000 residents of the Chagos archipelago, in the Indian Ocean. Many are sent to Mauritius. Britain leases the Chagos islands to the US for 50 years. The US builds a military base on the largest island, Diego Garcia.
1968 - 12 March - Independence
1969 - Opposition Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) founded, advocates socialism, led by Paul Berenger.
1971 - First Export Processing Zone created. Textiles sector develops. Between 1971-77, 64,000 jobs are created.
1971 - MMM, backed by unions, calls a series of strikes. State of emergency declared, lasts until 1976. MMM party's leadership imprisoned.
1979 - Cyclone Claudette devastates island.
1979 - Mauritius approaches IMF and World Bank for assistance. Country has deficit of $111 million.
1982 - Sir Anerood Jugnauth becomes prime minister.
1985 - Seesowagar Ramgoolam, father of nation, dies
1985 - Drugs scandal at Amsterdam airport; four MPs arrested on charges of drug smuggling. Inquiry in 1986 implicates three members of Legislative Assembly. Six more politicians are accused in 1987 of involvement in the affair.
1989 - Stock Exchange opens in Port Louis.
1991 December - Legislative Assembly approves the transition of the nation to a republic within the Commonwealth.
1992 March - Prime Minister Jugnauth declares Mauritius a republic. Legislative Assembly redesignated National Assembly and incumbent governor, General Ringadoo, becomes president.
1992 June - MMM member Cassam Uteem elected president.
1994- Cyclone Hollanda leaves 1,400 people homeless and causes $81million in damage.
1995 December - MLP leader Navin Ramgoolam becomes prime minister.
1999 February - Creole singer Kaya dies in police custody, prompting four days of rioting among Creole community.
2000 - Mauritius secures a seat on the United Nations Security Council for the first time.
2000 - September - MSM leader Sir Anerood Jugnauth becomes prime minister.
2000 November - High Court in London rules that Britain acted unlawfully in driving the inhabitants of the Chagos archipelago from their homes in 1966. Many of the exiles settled in Mauritius.
2002 February - Cassam Uteem resigns as president, refusing to sign controversial anti-terrorism bill. Vice president also refuses to sign and resigns. Head of legislature becomes acting president and passes legislation into law.
2002 - Karl Hoffman elected president by National Assembly.
2002 - "Cyber Cities" plan launched to create concentrations of hi-tech facilities and boost economy.
2003 - Anerood Jugnauth hands over leadership of MSM to his son, Pravind.
2003 September - Anerood Jugnauth hands over power to Paul Berenger, who becomes the island's first non-Hindu premier.
Labour in power
2005 July - Navin Ramgoolam wins general election, returns as prime minister.
2006 April - One hundred former residents of the Chagos Archipelago - claimed by Mauritius - make a return visit nearly 40 years after being evicted by Britain to make way for a US military base on the island of Diego Garcia. Their legal battle with Britain continues.
2008 May - British House of Lords upholds a UK government appeal against court ruling that families expelled from the Chagos Islands are entitled to return home. The decision ends the Chagossians' long-running UK legal battle to return.
2010 May - Ruling coalition of PM Navin Ramgoolam wins general election.
2010 June - Mauritius, France agree to jointly manage Tromelin, a tiny Indian Ocean island owned by France but claimed by Mauritius.
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Congo Dem Republic
- Cote d'Ivoire
- Equatorial Guinea
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