Republic of Seychelles
Area: 444 sq. km; about 2.5 times the size of
Major islands: Mahe and Praslin.
Terrain: About half of the islands are granitic
in origin, with narrow coastal strips and
central ranges of hills rising to 905 m. The
other half are coral atolls, many uninhabitable.
Climate: Tropical marine.
Population (2008 est.): 82,247.
Annual growth rate (2008 est.): 0.42%.
Ethnic groups: Creole (European, Asian, and
Religions: Catholic 82.3%, Anglican Church 6.4%,
Seventh Day Adventist 1.1%, other Christian
3.4%, Hindu 2.1%, Muslim 1.1%, other 1.5%,
unspecified 1.5%, none 0.6%.
Languages: Official languages are Creole,
English, and French.
Education: Public schools and private schools,
compulsory through grade 10. Literacy--92%.
Health: Free government health services for all
expectancy--male 65.48 yrs, female 73.63
Work force: 32,382 with 3,550 unemployed.
Industries include tourism, fishing,
manufacturing, and construction.
Type: Multiple-party republic.
Independence: June 29, 1976.
Constitution: June 18, 1993.
(chief of state and head of government). Legislative--unicameral
National Assembly with 34 seats (25 directly
elected and 9 allocated on a proportional
Court, Appeals Court.
Political parties: Democratic Party (DP),
Seychelles National Party (SNP), Seychelles
People's Progressive Front (SPPF).
Suffrage: Universal at 17.
GDP (2007, official exchange rate): $710
Annual growth rate (2007): 6.3%.
Per capita income (2007, purchasing power
Average inflation rate (2005): 0.9%.
Natural resources: Fish.
Agriculture: Copra, cinnamon, vanilla, coconuts,
sweet potatoes, tapioca, bananas, tuna, chicken,
Industry: Tourism, re-exports, maritime
Trade: Exports (2007)--$400
million: canned tuna, frozen/fresh fish, frozen
prawns, cinnamon bark. Imports (2007)--$720
partners--France, Italy, U.K., Singapore,
South Africa, Spain, Saudi Arabia.
Official exchange rate (May 2007): 6.5
Aid per capita (2003): $110.
Seychelles is located in the Indian Ocean about
1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) east of Kenya.
The nation is an archipelago of 115 tropical
islands with two distinct collections of
islands, some comprised of granite and others of
coral. The Mahe Group consists of 42 granite
islands, all within a 56-kilometer (35-mi.)
radius of the main island of Mahe. These islands
are rocky, and most have a narrow coastal stripe
and a central range of hills rising as high as
914 meters (3,000 ft.). Mahe is the largest
island and is the site of Victoria, the capital.
The coral islands are flat with elevated coral
reefs at different stages of formation. They
have no fresh water; human life can be sustained
on them only with difficulty.
The climate is equable and healthy, although
quite humid, as the islands are small and
subject to marine influences. The temperature
varies little throughout the year. Temperatures
on Mahe vary from 240C to 29.90C
(750F-850F), and rainfall
ranges from 288 centimeters (90 in.) annually at
Victoria to 355 centimeters (140 in.) on the
mountain slopes. Precipitation is somewhat less
on the other islands. During the coolest months,
July and August, the temperature drops to as low
as 700F. The southeast trade winds
blow regularly from May to November, and this is
the most pleasant time of the year. The hot
months are from December to April, with higher
humidity (80). March and April are the hottest
months, but the temperature seldom exceeds 880F.
Most of the islands lie outside the cyclone
belt, so high winds are rare.
About 90% of the Seychellois people live on Mahe
Island. Most others live on Praslin and La Digue,
with the remaining smaller islands either
sparsely populated or uninhabited.
Most Seychellois are descendants of early French
settlers and the African slaves brought to the
Seychelles in the 19th century by the British,
who freed them from slave ships on the East
African coast. Indians and Chinese (1.1% of the
population) account for the other permanent
inhabitants. In 2006, about 4,000 expatriates
lived and worked in Seychelles. Of those, about
65 were American.
Seychelles culture is a mixture of French and
African (Creole) influences. Creole is the
native language of 94% of the people; however,
English and French are commonly used. English
remains the language of government and commerce.
About 92% of the population over age 15 is
literate, and the literacy rate of school-aged
children has risen to well over 98%. Increases
are expected, as nearly all children of primary
school age attend school, and the government
encourages adult education.
The Seychelles islands remained uninhabited for
more than 150 years after they became known to
Western explorers. The islands appeared on
Portuguese charts as early as 1505, although
Arabs may have visited them much earlier. In
1742, the French Governor of Mauritius, Mahe de
Labourdonais, sent an expedition to the islands.
A second expedition in 1756 reasserted formal
possession by France and gave the islands their
present name in honor of the French finance
minister under King Louis XV. The new French
colony barely survived its first decade and did
not begin to flourish until 1794, when Queau de
Quincy became commandant.
The Seychelles islands were captured and freed
several times during the French Revolution and
the Napoleonic wars, then passed officially to
the British under the 1814 Treaty of Paris.
From the date of its founding by the French
until 1903, the Seychelles colony was regarded
as a dependency of Mauritius, which also passed
from the French to British rule in 1814. In
1888, a separate administrator and executive and
administrative councils were established for the
Seychelles archipelago. Nine years later, the
administrator acquired full powers of a British
colonial governor, and on August 31, 1903,
Seychelles became a separate British Crown
By 1963, political parties had developed in the
Seychelles colony. Elections in 1963 were
contested for the first time on party lines. In
1964 two new parties, the Seychelles Democratic
Party (SDP) led by James Mancham, and the
Seychelles People's Unity Party (SPUP) led by
France Albert Rene, replaced existing parties.
In March 1970, colonial and political
representatives of Seychelles met in London for
a constitutional convention. Elections in
November 1970 brought the resulting constitution
into effect. In the November 1970 elections, the
SDP won 10 seats, and the SPUP won 5 in the
Legislative Assembly. Under the new
constitution, Mancham became the Chief Minister
of the colony.
Further elections were held in April 1974, in
which both major political parties campaigned
for independence. During the April 1974
elections, the SDP increased its majority in the
Legislative Assembly by 3 seats, gaining all but
2 of the 15 seats. Demarcation of constituencies
was such that the SDP achieved this majority by
winning only 52% of the popular vote.
Following the 1974 election, negotiations with
the British resulted in an agreement by which
Seychelles became a sovereign republic on June
29, 1976. The SDP and SPUP formed a coalition
government in June 1975 to lead Seychelles to
independence. The British Government was asked
to appoint an electoral review commission so
that divergent views on the electoral system and
composition of the legislature could be
As a result, 10 seats were added to the
Legislative Assembly, 5 to be nominated by each
party. A cabinet of ministers also was formed
consisting of 8 members of the SDP and 4 of the
SPUP, with Chief Minister Mancham becoming Prime
Minister. With independence on June 29, 1976,
Mancham assumed the office of President and Rene
became Prime Minister.
The negotiations following the 1974 elections
also restored the islands of Aldabra, Farquhar,
and Des Roches to Seychelles upon independence;
those islands had been transferred in November
1965 from Seychelles to form part of the new
British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).
Although the SDP/SPUP coalition appeared to
operate smoothly, political divisions between
the two parties continued. On June 5, 1977,
during Mancham's absence at the London
Commonwealth Conference, supporters of Prime
Minister Rene overthrew Mancham in a smoothly
executed coup and installed Rene as President.
President Rene suspended the constitution and
dismissed the parliament. The country was ruled
by decree until June 1979, when a new
constitution was adopted.
In November 1981, a group of mercenaries
attempted to overthrow the Rene government but
failed when they were detected at the airport
and repelled. The government was threatened
again by an army mutiny in August 1982, but it
was quelled after 2 days when loyal troops,
reinforced by Tanzanian forces, recaptured
At an Extraordinary Congress of the Seychelles
People's Progressive Front (SPPF) on December 4,
1991, President Rene announced a return to the
multiparty system of government after almost 16
years of one-party rule. On December 27, 1991,
the Constitution of Seychelles was amended to
allow for the registration of political parties.
Among the exiles returning to Seychelles was
James Mancham, who returned in April 1992 to
revive his party, the Democratic Party (DP). By
the end of that month, eight political parties
had registered to contest the first stage of the
transition process: election to the
constitutional commission, which took place on
July 23-26, 1992.
The constitutional commission was made up of 22
elected members, 14 from the SPPF and 8 from the
DP. It commenced work on August 27, 1992 with
both President Rene and Mancham calling for
national reconciliation and consensus on a new
democratic constitution. A consensus text was
agreed upon on May 7, 1993, and a referendum to
approve it was called for June 15-18. The draft
was approved with 73.9% of the electorate in
favor of it and 24.1% against.
July 23-26, 1993 saw the first multiparty
presidential and legislative elections held
under the new constitution, as well as a
resounding victory for President Rene. Three
political groups contested the elections--the
SPPF, the DP, and the United Opposition (UO)--a
coalition of three smaller political parties,
including Parti Seselwa. Two other smaller
opposition parties threw in their lot with the
DP. All participating parties and international
observer groups accepted the results as "free
Three candidates contested the March 20-22, 1998
presidential election--Albert Rene, SPPF; James
Mancham, DP; and Wavel Ramkalawan--and once
again President Rene and his SPPF party won a
landslide victory. The President's popularity in
elections jumped to 66.6% in 1998 from 59.5% in
1993, while the SPPF garnered 61.7% of the total
votes cast in the 1998 National Assembly
election, compared to 56.5% in 1993. In 2001
President Rene was re-elected once again.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The president is both the chief of state and
head of government and is elected by popular
vote for a 5-year term. The Council of Ministers
serves as a cabinet, and its members are
appointed by the president. The unicameral
National Assembly has 34 seats--25 elected by
popular vote and 9 allocated on a proportional
basis to parties winning at least 10% of the
vote; members serve 5-year terms. The judicial
branch includes a Court of Appeal and Supreme
Court; judges for both courts are appointed by
the president. The legal system is based on
English common law, French civil law, and
Seychelles has had a multi-party system with the
adoption of a new constitution in 1993. Since
then, multi-party elections took place in 1993,
1998, 2001, 2006, and 2007. The Seychelles
People's Progressive Front (SPPF) won the
presidency and majority in the National Assembly
in all of the elections.
Presidential elections were held in July 2006.
Incumbent President James Michel of the
Seychelles People's Progressive Front, who was
appointed to power by former President Rene in
2004, won his first elected term. The final vote
count was 53.73% for Michel to 45.71% for
opposition alliance candidate and Seychelles
National Party (SNP) leader, Wavel Ramkalawan.
The electoral process for the 2006 presidential
elections was determined to be credible by
international observers. Following a six-month
boycott in the National Assembly by the SNP
opposition party, President Michel dissolved the
National Assembly on March 20, 2007. Early
elections to fill the vacated National Assembly
seats were held May 10-12, 2007. The SPPF won 18
district seats and the SNP/DP alliance won seven
district seats. Under the system of proportional
representation, the SPPF won five seats and the
SNP/DP alliance won four seats. The electoral
process for the 2007 National Assembly elections
was determined to be credible by international
Principal Government Officials
(Head of Defense, Police, Internal Affairs,
Legal Affairs, Risk and Disaster Management)
Vice President--Joseph Belmont
(Head of Transport and Tourism and Public
Arts, Culture and Sports--Sylvette Pool
Foreign Affairs--Patrick Pillay
Investment, Industries and Technology--Jacquelin
Environment and Natural Resources--Ronnie Jumeau
Community Development and Youth--Vincent Meriton
Land Use and Habitat--Joel Morgan
Social Affairs and Employment--Marie-Pierre
Chief of Staff (Seychelles People's Defense
Forces--SPDF)--Brigadier Leopold Payet
Judiciary--Chief Justice Vivekanand Alleear
Attorney General--Anthony Fernando
Commissioner of Police--Gerard Waye-Hive
Ambassador to the U.S.--Ronny Jumeau
(simultaneously accredited to the United
Nations, the United States, and Canada)
Seychelles' economy rests on tourism and
fishing. Employment, foreign earnings,
construction, banking, and commerce are all
largely dependent on these two industries.
The services sector--including transport,
communications, commerce, and tourism--has
accounted for close to 70% of GDP in recent
years. The share of manufacturing has been
between 15%-20% of GDP, although it fluctuates
from year to year owing to changes in output
from the Indian Ocean Tuna cannery. Public
investment in infrastructure has kept
construction buoyant, with its share of GDP at
around 10%. Given the shortage of arable land,
agriculture, forestry, and fishing (excluding
tuna) make a small contribution to national
GDP in 2007 was at $710 million (official
exchange rate) and income per capita was at
$16,600 (purchasing power parity). This puts the
island in the World Bank's "upper middle-income"
bracket with the result that Seychelles is low
on the agenda of international donors and aid
flows are limited. However, given the small size
of the economy, the island remains vulnerable to
Although the per capita income is over $16,000
(PPP), residents often have difficulty obtaining
even basic foodstuffs, such as rice and sugar.
Government mismanagement and excessive economic
regulations, including a manipulated exchange
rate, have resulted in foreign exchange
shortages and a parallel market currency
exchange rate double the official rate.
In 2005 and 2006, the government implemented
several measures toward the liberalization of
the trade regime and the privatization of
state-owned entities, such as the removal of
import licenses and the partial sale of the
public insurance company SACOS. In October 2006,
the Minister of Finance announced measures to
start the process of a gradual liberalization of
foreign exchange transactions. These limited
measures, however, are unlikely to influence an
agreement with the International Monetary Fund
(IMF), which continues to press for devaluation
as an important step toward resolving the
persistent shortage of foreign exchange.
Although Seychelles is eligible for the African
Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), it has failed
to take advantage of AGOA thus far. Seychelles
is not qualified for apparel benefits under AGOA
and, in any case, its apparel manufacturing
capacity is negligible.
In 2002, Seychelles had a defense force
(Seychelles People's Defense Forces) of about
800 army personnel, including 300 in the
presidential protection unit. The army has one
infantry battalion and two artillery elements.
Paramilitary forces include a national guard
consisting of 1,000 people and a coast guard
estimated at 250 and divided into two divisions,
the naval wing and security or infantry
The Seychelles Coast Guard (SCG), which was
created in 1992, assumes many of the maritime
roles commonly associated with the U.S. Coast
Guard. They recently acquired responsibility for
search and rescue for vessel incidents as well
as environmental protection from the Port and
Marine Services Division. SCG has several
operational vessels: the Russian-built Fortune,
the Italian-built Andromache, the Scorpio, two
Indian manufactured vessels, four Motor Life
Boats, and the luxury yacht Gemini that also is
used as the presidential yacht.
The air wing of the defense force separated from
the coast guard in 1997 and does not have any
dedicated aircraft, but it sometimes supplies
pilots and aircrews to fly search and rescue
missions. Their primary duty is to train pilots.
The Island Development Corporation (IDC)
maintains the pool of aircraft, using them for
sources of income by chartering them out. The
aircraft inventory includes one Caravan F-406,
one Defender, one Cessna 150, and one Beech
Seychelles follows a policy of what it describes
as "positive" nonalignment and strongly supports
the principle of reduced superpower presence in
the Indian Ocean.
The Seychelles Government is one of the
proponents of the Indian Ocean zone of peace
concept, and it has promoted an end to the U.S.
presence on Diego Garcia. Seychelles' foreign
policy position has placed it generally toward
the left of the spectrum within the Nonaligned
The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom,
France, India, China, and Cuba maintain
embassies in Victoria. Seychelles has an
ambassador resident in New York dually
accredited to the United Nations and to the
United States and Canada. It also has a resident
ambassador to France and Belgium. In early 2007,
the Seychelles Government announced the opening
of new missions in South Africa, China, Italy,
Seychelles is a member of the Nonaligned
Movement (NAM), the African Union, Commonwealth,
International Monetary Fund (IMF), Indian Ocean
Commission (IOC), La Francophonie, and the UN
and some of its specialized and related
The year 1963 marked the beginning of an
official U.S. presence in Seychelles when the
U.S. Air Force Tracking Station was built and
put into operation on Mahe. The USAF Tracking
Station facilities were situated on land that
was leased from the Seychelles Government ($4.5
The station's complement consisted of five
uniformed Air Force personnel (two officers and
three sergeants), 65 employees of Loral
Corporation and Johnson Instruments, and 150
Seychellois employees. The USAF Tracking Station
officially closed down on September 30, 1996.
Peace Corps Volunteers served in Seychelles
between 1974 and 1995. A U.S. consulate was
opened in May 1976 and became an Embassy after
Seychelles' independence in June 1976. The
Embassy was subsequently closed in August 1996,
and the United States opened a consular agency
on September 2, 1996 to provide services to
residents of Seychelles. The agency is under the
supervision of the American Embassy in Port
Louis, Mauritius. The U.S. Ambassador to
Mauritius also is accredited to Seychelles.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials (all
officers resident in Port Louis, Mauritius)
Deputy Chief of Mission--Virginia Blaser
Management Officer--Tim Bashor
Public Affairs Officer--Craig White
Consular Officer--Jason Hackworth
Regional Security Officer--Kevin Helm
The address of the U.S.
Mauritius is Rogers House, Fourth Floor, John F.
Kennedy Street, Port Louis (tel: 230-202-4400;
fax: 230-208-9534; E-mail: email@example.com).