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Seychelles - Tips

Thu, 8 Jul 2010 00:41:48

Seychelles Bureau of African Affairs
June 2007

Background Note: Seychelles

Flag of Seychelles is five oblique bands of blue (hoist side), yellow, red,
white, and green (bottom) radiating from the bottom of the hoist side.


Republic of Seychelles

Area: 444 sq. km; about 2.5 times the size of Washington DC.
Major islands: Mahe and Praslin.
Cities: Capital--Victoria.
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.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Seychellois.
Population (2006 est.): 86,000.
Annual growth rate (2006 est.): 1%.
Ethnic groups: Creole (European, Asian, and African).
Religions: Catholic 86.6%, Anglican Church 6.8%, other Christians 2.5%, other
Languages: Official languages are Creole, English, and French.
Education: Public schools and private schools, compulsory through grade 10.
Literacy (1994)--87.5%.
Health: Free government health services for all people. Life expectancy--male
65.48 yrs, female 73.63 yrs. Infant mortality rate--16.86/1000.
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.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state and head of government).
Legislative--unicameral National Assembly with 34 seats (25 directly elected
and 9 allocated on a proportional basis). Judicial--Supreme Court, Appeals
Political parties: Democratic Party (DP), Seychelles National Party (SNP),
Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

GDP (2005): $693 million.
Annual growth rate (2005): -1.5%.
Per capita income (2005): $8,682.
Average inflation rate (2005): 0.9%.
Natural resources: Fish.
Agriculture: Copra, cinnamon, vanilla, coconuts, sweet potatoes, tapioca,
bananas, tuna, chicken, teas.
Industry: Tourism, re-exports, maritime services.
Trade: Exports (2005)--$355 million: canned tuna, frozen/fresh fish, frozen
prawns, cinnamon bark. Imports (2005)--$620 million. Major partners--France,
Italy, U.K., Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Saudi Arabia.
Official exchange rate (May 2007): 6.10 rupees=U.S.$1.
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--9,142
sq. km (55 sq. mi.)--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

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-850
F), 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

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 reconciled.

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 rebel-held installations.

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 and fair."

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.

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 customary

Seychelles has had a multi-party system with the adoption of a new
Constitution in 1992. 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

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 observers.

Principal Government Officials
President--James Michel
(Head of Defense, Police, Internal Affairs, Legal Affairs, Risk and Disaster
Vice President--Joseph Belmont
(Head of Transport and Tourism and Public Administration)

Finance--Danny Faure
Arts, Culture & Sports--Sylvette Pool
Foreign Affairs--Patrick Pillay
Investment, Industries and Technology--Jacquelin Dugasse
Environment and Natural Resources--Ronnie Jumeau
Community Development and Youth--Vincent Meriton
Land Use and Habitat--Joel Morgan
Education--Bernard Shamlaye
Health--Macsuzy Mondon
Social Affairs & Employment - Marie-Pierre Lloyd
Chief of Staff (Seychelles People's Defence Forces--SPDF)--Brigadier Leopold
Judiciary--Chief Justice Vivekanand Alleear
Attorney General--Anthony Fernando
Commissioner of Police--Gérard Waye-Hive

Ambassador to the U.S.--Jérémie Bonnelame
(simultaneously accredited to the United Nations, the United States, and

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 2005 was at $693 million and income per capita was at $8,682, by far
the highest in Africa. 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 external shocks.

Although the average per capita income is over $8,000, 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 Defence 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 division.

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 1900.

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 Movement.

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, and India.

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
Mahé. The USAF Tracking Station facilities were situated on land that was
leased from the Seychelles Government ($4.5 million annually).

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,
Ambassador--Cesar Cabrera
Deputy Chief of Mission--Stephen Schwartz
Management Officer--Judith Semilota
Public Affairs Officer--Victoria Delong
Consular Officer--Wendy Ryde
Political Officer--Margaret Hsiang
Economic-Commercial Officer--Melissa Brown
Regional Security Officer--Brian Roundy

The address of the U.S. Embassy in Mauritius is Rogers House, Fourth Floor,
John F. Kennedy Street, Port Louis (tel: 230-202-4400; fax: 230-208-9534;
E-mail: [email protected]).

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans
traveling and residing abroad through Consular Information Sheets, Public
Announcements, and Travel Warnings. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
countries and include information on entry and exit requirements, currency
regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political
disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
Public Announcements are issued to disseminate information quickly about
terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that
pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet
web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution,
Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs
Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For
additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/

The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens who traveling or residing
abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or
at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your
presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an
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Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular
toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of
State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport
information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service
representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00
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Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
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(877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the
most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A
booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://
www.state.gov, the Department of State web site provides timely, global
access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background
Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
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working abroad through its website http://www.osac.gov

Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market
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STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides
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