The Republic of Mauritius is an island located in the Indian Ocean and just east of the nation of Madagascar. The capital, Port Louis, is the largest city and the main port of Mauritius. This island nation has a population of 1,313,095 and the predominant language spoken among the people is Creole (80.5%). Other languages spoken throughout the island include: Bhojpuri (12.1%), French (3.4%) and the official language English which is spoken by less than 1% of the population. Almost half of Mauritius is of the Hindu faith (48%). The second most common faith is Roman Catholic (23.6%) followed by Muslim (16.6%) and then Christian (8.6%). For a country that has no exploitable resources the island of Mauritius has one of the most successful and competitive economies in all of Africa. Between 1970 and 2010, the GDP grew at an average annual rate of 5.4 percent, compared with the African average of about 1 percent. The fast growing GDP rate has resulted in more equitable income distribution, increased life expectancy, lower infant mortality and a much improved infrastructure. It has also resulted in a GDP Per Capita (PPP) exceeding over $15,000 per person which is more than Turkey or Brazil. With such a high GDP Per Capita both the percent of the population unemployed (7.8%) and population living below the poverty line (8%) is extremely low compared to other African nations.
The island nation of Mauritius has a political history that stretches all the way back to the early 17th century. In 1638 the island was colonized by the Dutch and they remained there until 1710. They had abandoned the island due to rampant disease, natural disasters, droughts and cattle illness. Shortly thereafter in 1715 the French took over the island and had control until 1810. During that time Mauritius became a vital center for French trade and naval operations against the British. Though in 1810 during the Napoleonic Wars the French lost possession of the island to the British. The British would remain in power until they eventually gave up sovereignty of Mauritius in 1968. The British reign was marked by the abolition of slavery in 1835 and the large influx of indentured workers from the Indian subcontinent to provide labor for the sugar cane estates. On March 12th 1968 Mauritius officially became an independent state within the British Commonwealth.
Since achieving Independence in 1968, Mauritian politics have been characterized by coalition and alliance building. The first major ruling party was the Mauritian Labor Party (MLP) which had played a strong role in the independence campaign. Their leader and chief minister in the colonial government, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, became the first prime minister at independence in 1968. In 1982 the Mauritian Militant Movement / Mauritian Socialist Party (MMM/PSM) alliance won the election handedly and Sir Anerood Jugnauth became prime minister. Until 1992, Mauritius was a constitutional monarchy and Queen Elizabeth II was the head of state. That would all change on March 12th of 1992, when Mauritius became a Republic within the Commonwealth. On June 3rd of 1992, Cassam Uteem, leader of the Mauritian Militant Movement became Mauritius’s first democratically elected President. Uteem would remain in power for over nine years until resigning in 2002 when he refused to sign a controversial anti-terrorism bill. In 2003 former Prime Minister and founder of the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM), Anerood Jugnauth, took the office of President. He would remain in power until March 31, 2012 when he resigned due to disagreement with government policies. Former Vice President, Monique Ohsan Bellepeau, now serves as the President of Mauritius.
Today, Mauritius is a country that provides health care and education for all and ensures widespread homeownership. Despite a lack of natural resources, Mauritius has realized its greatest asset to success is its diverse population. This has led to a firm foundation of democratic institutions and cohesion between workers, government and employers. Though Mauritius is one of Africa’s most successful nations, it still faces difficulties. Due to its being an island nation and of small size, Mauritius worries about imported food and energy inflation. It also struggles with inequality in land and wealth, as well as being vulnerable in global politics. This is all directly related to Mauritius’s colonial legacy.