Mauritius celebrates Independence Day Every year on the 12th March, Mauritians enjoy a public holiday to celebrate the anniversary of independence from Britain. In 2015, the country marks 47 years from the day independence was proclaimed in 1968.
Campaign for Independence
The campaign for independence gathered pace during the early 1960s, following a slow but steady move towards home rule in the late 1940s and 50s. A new constitution was granted to Mauritius in 1947 in which the vote was given to women for the first time. The requirement that voters must own property was also removed. These two measures resulted in a huge increase in the electorate – from 12,000 to almost 72,000 people – and following elections in 1948, a new Legislative Assembly was born, formed of 12 governor-appointed members and 19 voted for by the public.
Winds of Change
In 1959, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan gave his famous Winds of Change address to the Parliament of South Africa, in which he made clear the British government’s intention to grant independence to many of its African colonies. Macmillan’s primary message – that the ‘growth of national consciousness’ throughout Africa was a ‘political fact’ – underscored his belief that self-government was an inevitability, and helped clear the path towards independence.
The UK and US
But the British government was also coming under increasing pressure to give up its colonies from the United States, who not only wanted access to the region’s markets and natural resources, but to prevent the tendrils of communism from infiltrating African nationalist movements; something they saw as a distinct possibility. In 1966, partly in response to this pressure, the British agreed to excise the remote Chagos Archipelago – which controversially remains under British control as the British Indian Ocean Territory – and relocate its population to Mauritius. A 50-year lease was granted to the USA, who established what they saw as a strategically vital military base on the island of Diego Garcia.
Once this deal was finalised, America was keen for Britain to speed up the process of decolonisation. The following year’s August elections saw an exceptionally high voter turnout of 89% with an alliance of the Mauritius Labour Party and other pro-self rule parties winning a mandate to lead the country towards independence.
On 12th March 1968, Mauritius adopted a new constitution and gained its independence as a constitutional monarchy. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolan became the independent nation’s first Prime Minister, but Queen Elizabeth II remained head of state. However, exactly 24 years later, on 12th March 1992, Mauritius became a republic within the British Commonwealth, with all political power vested in the Prime Minister.
The National Day Celebrations 2015 is based on the theme “Nouvo Destin Avek Lepep” meaning “New Destiny with the people”. In Mauritius today, the annual flag-raising celebrations will be held at the Champ de Mars racecourse, where the Mauritian flag was first raised in 1968. Independence Day is marked with a large-scale ceremony featuring military parades, fly-pasts, live music and spectacularly choreographed dance and light shows.
At this time of year, the colourful flag is displayed all over the island – in shops, homes, schools, restaurants and government buildings –and local communities gather for smaller festivities with family and friends in towns and villages across the country. Many hotels and resorts also mark the day by laying on special Mauritian-themed menus and events for their guests. To experience more of Mauritius book your Air Mauritius flight today, and remember to check us out on Facebook and Twitter. ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼
This post is also available in: French