Mauritius is a stable and prosperous Indian Ocean archipelago.
Once dependent on sugar exports, the island has built up a strong outsourcing and financial services sector, as well as an important tourism industry, and now boasts one of Africa’s highest per capita incomes.
Mauritius claims sovereignty over the Chagos Islands, in a dispute with Britain that saw hundreds of islanders deported to make way for a US military base on the island of Diego Garcia in the 1960s.
The Chagos archipelago, 1,280km to the north-east, were administered as part of Mauritius from the 18th Century onwards. In 1965, three years before Mauritian independence, the UK separated the islands, along with Aldabra, Farquhar and Desroches from the Seychelles, to form the British Indian Ocean Territory – the latter were returned to Seychelles in 1976 on its independence.
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Capital: Port Louis
Area: 2,040 sq km
Population: 1.2 million
Languages: English, French, Mauritian Creole
Life expectancy: 71 years (men) 78 years (women)
President: Prithvirajsing Roopun
Arts and Culture Minister Prithvirajsing “Pradeep” Roopun was elected to the largely ceremonial post of president in December 2019.
Prime minister: Pravind Kumar Jugnauth
Pravind Kumar Jugnauth succeeded his father, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, as prime minister in January 2017, he subsequently won the November 2019 general election.
Until he stepped down, Sir Anerood had been the longest-serving prime minister since Mauritius gained independence from Britain in 1968.
Mr Jugnauth is leader of the Militant Socialist Movement party.
State-owned Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) radio and TV generally reflect government thinking. MBC is funded by advertising and a TV licence fee.
Television is the most popular medium.
Some key dates in the history of Mauritius:
10th Century – Malay, African and Arab sailors visit island but do not settle.
1510 – Portuguese navigator Pedro Mascarenhas visits the island and names it Cirné 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.
1664-1710 – Dutch withdraw after repeated attempts at colonisation. By this time the dodo – a unique bird found only on Mauritius – has become extinct.
1710-1810 – French take possession, establishing a sugar industry based on slave labour.
1796 – Settlers break away from French control when the government in Paris attempts to abolish slavery.
1810 – British forces land in Mauritius after defeating French forces.
1814 – Mauritius, Seychelles and Rodrigues ceded to Britain under Treaty of Paris.
1834 – British abolish slavery.
1835 – Indentured labour system introduced. In subsequent decades hundreds of thousands of workers arrive from India.
1966 – Britain expels some 2,000 residents of the Chagos archipelago, many to Mauritius, and leases islands to the US for 50 years. US builds a military base on the largest island, Diego Garcia.
1968 – Independence declared.
1992 – Mauritius becomes a republic.
2008 – British House of Lords upholds government appeal against 2000 UK High Court court ruling that families expelled from the Chagos Islands are entitled to return home.
2010 – Mauritius and France agree to jointly manage Tromelin, a tiny Indian Ocean island owned by France but claimed by Mauritius.
2012 – European Court of Human Rights rejects claim by Chagos Islanders against Britain over their expulsion.
2016 – Britain extends the lease on Diego Garcia to the US till 2036.
2019 – UN International Court of Justice says Britain should end its control over the Chagos Islands as soon as possible, in a non-binding legal opinion that they were not lawfully separated from Mauritius in 1965.
2020 – Japanese-owned bulk carrier MV Wakashio runs aground on a coral reef, spilling up to 1,000 tonnes of heavy oil – one of the worst environmental disasters to hit the western Indian Ocean.