Mauritius became an independent nation on 12th March 1968.
The island has a long history of colonisation, from its discovery in the 16th century, until 1968 when the island nation became independent from British Rule. This year marks 53 years of independence.
A TIMELINE OF MAURITIAN INDEPENDENCE
The British took over from French colonial rule in 1810. In 1945, after World War II, numerous uprisings and conflicts in British colonies, and Britain favouring re-building its own country after the war meant the Empire began to collapse.
In 1947, the British revised the Constitution to allow Mauritius a general election in 1948, marking Mauritius’ first step towards self-rule.
In 1960, the UN passed a declaration setting up the agenda for rapid declonisation of British Colonies, and around the same time Mauritius spearheaded an independence campaign which gained rapid momentum. In 1966, the Legislative Assembly passed a motion requesting independence for Mauritius from the British.
A general election was held in 1967, with a landslide victory for the IPM (Independence Party Mauritius), allowing party leader Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam to form a government.
Mauritius became independent on 12th March 1968 within the Commonwealth, with Ramgoolam as its first Prime Minister. The island became a Republic on 12th March 1992.
THE ROAD TO MAURITIAN INDEPENDENCE- ETHNIC DIVISIONS AND RIOTS
Not everyone in Mauritius was in favour of independence. Some felt the island would remain better off if it were aligned with Britain, and others feared some groups might become disadvantaged over others with a new independent government in power.
This uncertainty about the political future of Mauritius post-independence caused divisions amongst certain ethnic groups (namely Creoles and Muslims), leading to violent clashes, especially in and around Port Louis.
In January 1968, following continuous riots where 25 people were killed, hundreds injured, and homes burnt down, Mauritius called a State of Emergency. British troops were brought in from Singapore in an attempt to quash the violence.
THE ROAD TO MAURITIAN INDEPENDENCE - CHAGOS
Under British colonial rule, the Chagos Archipelago was governed as part of Mauritius. Prior to independence in 1965, the British secretly annexed Chagos, and forcibly exiled 1500 people, to make way for a military base with the USA.
Mauritius claim it was coerced into handing over Chagos in return for independence. Several UN courts have stated that Britian’s continued occupation of Chagos is illegal, and therefore Mauritius’ decolonisation has not been lawfully completed.
HOW MAURITIANS CELEBRATE INDEPENDENCE DAY
Independence Day is a public holiday in Mauritius.
There is a flag raising ceremony, parade and performances in Champ de Mars, Port Louis, where the in March 1968, the Mauritian flag was raised for the first time. There are usually street or beach parties. Schools usually host a celebration the week of independence.
Mauritians abroad also take great pride in Independence Day, and celebrate it through Mauritian food, music and culture.
Baker, P. and Fon Sing, G. (eds.) (2007) The Making of Mauritian Creole. United Kingdom and Sri Lanka: Battlebridge Publications
Vine, D. (2009) Island of Shame. New Jersey: Princeton University Press
Dr Meera Sabaratnam, The End of the British Empire: What is the legacy of decolonisation? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AUG7NecYZg&t=51s
British Pathé, Independence for Mauritius (1968)