March 12 commemorates the independence of Mauritius and also its accession to the status of Republic. A festive as well as solemn commemoration, it gives rise to the flag-raising ceremony, military parades and numerous cultural events throughout the country.
The movement for the sovereignty of the island (Mauritius was then under British rule) began in the middle of the 20th century, a new constitution was adopted in 1947 and a new legislature the following year. In 1959, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan delivered his famous “Winds of Change” speech to the South African Parliament, making clear the British government’s intention to grant independence to many of its African colonies.
Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, a well-respected Mauritian politician (who later became Chief Minister and the first Prime Minister of Mauritius and later Governor General), led the negotiations for full political independence from the British Crown in the 1960s. In the 1967 elections, his efforts were rewarded by the pro-independence alliance (of which his Labour Party was a member) which won the election. This led to the introduction of a new constitution which allowed internal autonomy. Mauritius became an independent state and joined the Commonwealth on 12 March 1968.
Mauritius went through many political upheavals between 1968 and the 1990s, but the fact remains that it gained independence. On 12 March 1992, following an amendment to the Constitution, Mauritius became a Republic, while remaining within the Commonwealth. March 12 has therefore been declared a public holiday, and every year Mauritians celebrate their independence in style – an extraordinary occasion that is well worth living.