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Thursday, February 25, 1999 Published at 18:15 GMT

World: Africa

Order returns to Mauritius

Violence in Port Louis is said to be the worst in 30 years

Businesses, banks and government departments opened again in Mauritius on Thursday, after being forced to close for two days because of riots.

Buses were operating normally across the island as road blocks were cleared but schools and universities remained closed.

On Wednesday the President Cassam Uteem threatened to declare a state of emergency to curb ongoing violence which broke out after a popular reggae singer, known as Kaya, died in police custody.

East Africa Correspondent Cathy Jenkins reports
The president promised that there would be a judicial inquiry into the death of the singer, who was buried on Wednesay.

At least four people died in clashes with police, which have been described as the worst the island has seen for 30 years.

Thirty police officers were reported to have been injured, as rioters hurled firebombs at police stations.

Demonstrators blocked main roads and witnesses said dozens of cars were burned.

President Uteem said the unrest could affect the island's international image.

"A few hundred people cannot hold a country hostage," he warned in a radio broadcast.

Arrest at marijuana rally

The violence erupted on Monday, a day after the reggae singer, whose real name is Joseph Topize, died in police custody.

Listen to a report on the death of Kaya by the BBC's World Today programme
He was arrested last Thursday after smoking marijuana at a rally to promote the legalisation of the drug.

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

Many of the protestors who went on the rampage are young Creoles - a community descended from African slaves that makes up about 30% of the population in Mauritius.

They often come from the poorer parts of the capital and other towns and are considered to be underprivileged.

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

Correspondents say that whatever the truth behind Kaya's death, the events of the past few days have shaken the island's peaceful image.

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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