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Armed Forces in National Life

Traditionally, the armed forces have played a minimal role in Mauritian national life. In 1859 the British colonial government established the first Mauritian Police Force, with a separate unit for Port Louis. Ordinance No. 16 of 1893 expanded the Police Force, which by 1899 numbered 700 personnel, 300 of whom were stationed in Port Louis and the remainder at eight other locations. The officer corps included one inspector general and seven inspectors while the other ranks had twelve subinspectors. With the exception of about 100 police who carried Martini Henry rifles, the Police Force was unarmed. Europeans, Creoles, and Indians served in the police. Initial recruitment into the police was for a period of not more than three years. The colonial government allowed men of good character to reenlist for a further five years.

Except during 1942, when a Japanese attack seemed imminent, World War II had little impact on Mauritius. However, Mauritians fought in North Africa and the Middle East. Additionally, the Royal Mauritius Regiment, a small part-time home defense volunteer unit, deployed to Madagascar for lines of communication security work. This regiment became involved in a mutiny in Madagascar caused by tensions among British, Franco-Mauritians, and Creoles in the military.

After the British garrison withdrew from Mauritius in 1960, the authorities created the SMF, with six officers and 146 enlisted personnel to maintain internal security. The separate regular police force was divided into special divisions including criminal investigation, riot control, traffic control, immigration and passports, and water police.

On at least two occasions during the last few years before independence, the SMF required British assistance to maintain internal security. On May 10, 1965, political grievances caused armed clashes between the Hindu and Creole communities. After the governor declared a state of emergency, a company of 2d Battalion, Coldstream Guards, flew from Aden to Mauritius to help keep the peace. These troops remained on the island until July 1965.

On January 22, 1968, the governor again requested British soldiers to help maintain order. The authorities feared that politically motivated violence between the capital's "Istanbul" Muslim gang and the rival "Texas" Creole gang in Port Louis would spread to the rest of the island. Troops from B Company of 1st Battalion, The King's Shropshire Light Infantry, deployed to Mauritius from Malaysia, and worked with the police and the SMF to restore peace.

With independence in 1968, almost all internal security duties became the responsibility of the Mauritian government. However, under the terms of a joint defense agreement announced on March 11, 1968, the British government agreed to help Mauritius combat any internal security threat and to train local security and police forces. This agreement remained in effect until 1975.

Data as of August 1994