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Wednesday, February 24, 1999 Published at 02:46 GMT

World: Africa

Riots in Mauritius over death of singer

One person died during clashes in the capital, Port Louis

By Africa Reporter, Caroline Hawley

Protests against the death of a popular reggae singer on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius have now spread outside the capital, Port Louis.

Listen to a report on the death of Kaya by the BBC's World Today programme
Several hundred people are reported to have rioted in the central city of Curepipe, burning vehicles and setting public buildings on fire. One person died on Monday during clashes in Port Louis.

The singer, known as Kaya, is to be buried on Wednesday. The usually tranquil island of Mauritius has been thrown into turmoil by Kaya's death.

The singer was arrested last Thursday for smoking marijuana during a rally calling for the drug to be decriminalised. He died, in police custody, three days later.

Protests began almost immediately in the neighbourhood where Kaya lived, and quickly spread throughout the capital.

The singer's supporters say his skull was fractured, and have accused the police of brutality against the island's Creole community, who are descended from African slaves. The police have denied this.

Cosmopolitan island

Mauritius has a reputation for political stability, and racial harmony among the mix of Asians, Europeans and Africans who make up its million-odd population.

The former French colony is also relatively prosperous - its palm-fringed beaches have been a magnet for wealthy European holidaymakers.

Whatever the truth of Kaya's death, the events of the past few days have shaken the island's peaceful image.

The Prime Minister, Navinchindra Ramgoolam, has appealed for calm and promised a full investigation.

Preliminary results of a second autopsy are reported to have found no evidence that the singer's skull was fractured. But the full findings are not expected for several days.

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