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The Republic of Mauritius is an island country situated off the southeast coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean. Islands within the country include Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agaléga, Saint Brandon, and some disputed territories.

The islands are part of the Mascarene Islands, as is nearby Réunion Island, a French territory about 140 miles west-southwest of Mauritius Island.

Previously known as the Isle of France, Mauritius Island is the largest of the islands that make up Mauritius. Located between Réunion and Rodrigues, the island is inhabited by a mixture of ethnicities, mostly of African origin mingled with Indian or Creole, as well as some of Arab-Indian or white European blood. The capital of Mauritius is Port Louis, in the northwest part of the island. Languages include Mauritian Creole, French, and English, and the main religion is Hindu, which accounts for about half the population, followed by Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists.

Rodrigues Island is an autonomous outer island within the Republic of Mauritius. Volcanic in origin, it is surrounded by a coral reef. Several uninhabited small islands are just off its coast.

Once a District of Mauritius, it became autonomous in 2002, and is governed by a Regional Assembly. Its capital is Port Mathurin. The inhabitants of Rodrigues Island are citizens of Mauritius, and the island forms part of the Republic of Mauritius.

Rodrigues was uninhabited when it was discovered by the Portuguese in 1528. Being off of the regular trade routes, it received very few visits. The Dutch attempted to colonize it in the 1600s, and the French made attempts to develop the island in the 1700s. After a short battle in 1809, British troops took control of the island, which was then being used by the French for the slave trade.

In 1968, Rodrigues joined Mauritius when it achieved independence. In 2002, it took steps to separate by becoming an autonomous region of Mauritius.

Agaléga is comprised of two outer islands of Mauritius, which together have a population of only a few hundred. Its North Island is home to an airstrip and its capital, Vingt Cinq.

The first inhabitants of the islands were two castaways, whose bodies were discovered in 1808. In 1827, French colonists organized the production of coconut oil and copra on the islands, using slave labor.

Today, the islands are inhabited by people who are known as Agaléens, who speak the Creole language, most of whom live in Vingt-Cinq and Les Fourchettes, villages on the North Island, or on the South Island village of Saint Rita. Catholicism is the main language.

Also known as Cargados Carajos Shoals, Saint Brandon Island is an archipelago northeast of Mauritius. It is made up of several sandbanks, shoals, and islets, with five island groups and from thirty to forty islands and islets, some of which are prone to flooding and submersion.

Politically, Saint Brandon is part of the Republic of Mauritius and administered from Port Louis. Suitable only for fishing, the islands have a small population, its largest settlement having a population of forty.

As for the Republic of Mauritius, it was once a colony of the Dutch, then the French, and then the British, before it achieved independence from Britain in 1968. The territory of Mauritius once included the Chagos Archipelago and Seychelles, but Seychelles was separated in 1903, and the Chagos Archipelago in 1965, although the sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago is in dispute between Mauritius and the United Kingdom. Also in dispute is Tromelin Island, with France.

Since gaining independence, there have been periods of unrest, and charges of corruption, but it has not experienced the level of violence seen by many other African countries.

Politically, Mauritius is a parliamentary representative democratic republic. The President serves as head of state, while the Prime Minister is head of government, along with a Council of Ministers.

The country's legal system is derived in part from French civil law and British common law. Suspects may be imprisoned for as long as two years before being charged, and this has been used against journalists who have published information that the government objected to.

More than half the population of Mauritius adhere to Hinduism, followed by Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, making it the only African country with a Hindu majority. Freedom of religion is a constitutional right in Mauritius, and this is also so in practice. Its constitution does not name an official language. In matters of Parliament, the official language is English but any member of the Assembly can address the chair in French. The country's constitution is written in English, while some of its laws are in French. Creole languages are also very much in use, as are some African ethnic languages.


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