Throughout the 18th century, French and English settlers fought violently for this archipelago of the Indian Ocean. It was not until 1794 that the United Kingdom finally succeeded in becoming the owner of the archipelago. Yet the British did not pay any special attention to the area. Until 1903 it was administered from the neighboring island of Mauritius. It was only during the expansion of the European colonial powers in the second half of the 19th century and later after the two world wars that the archipelago gained strategic importance.
According to Countryaah, the population is predominantly descendants of African slaves and contract workers from India, and it was not until the formation of the Seychelles United People’s Party (SUPP) in 1964 that the population gained a political independence perspective. The strength of this demand was expressed by the general strikes in 1965, 66 and by the large popular manifestations in 1972. At the same time, the colonial interests organized themselves in the Seychelles Taxpayers employer organization, later transformed by James B. Mancham into the Seychelles Democratic Party, which went against independence.
At the April 1974 parliamentary elections, the SUPP received 47.6% of the vote. Yet the peculiar “colonial democracy” gave it only 2 out of the 15 seats of the local parliament, and Mancham continued as prime minister. But by then, it was already too late to hold back the independence movement, and on a proposal from the British Foreign Office, Mancham accepted to become the Republic’s first president at the independence proclaimed in 1976. Shortly thereafter, he agreed to “hand over” the strategic BIOT islands to London. There had been administration from Mahé since 1967, and Britain had promised to hand over the islands to the United States interested in setting up its strategically important naval and aircraft base at Diego García.
Knowing that the world would not accept this territorial surrender, Mancham postponed the 1979 election, arguing that they were unnecessary since the parties agreed to independence.
Mancham’s foreign policy was oriented towards a close alliance with South Africa, which also supplied most tourists to the country, while the tea and coconut plantations were overturned to make room for foreign-owned 5 star hotels. Whole islands were sold to foreigners such as South African gold magnate Harry Oppenheimer or actor Peter Sellers.
In 1977, Mancham was once again postponing the elections, but this time the SUPP members joined in his absence and took power – “with full cooperation of the police forces”. They accused him in a communique of “living a life of luxury while his people had to work hard”. In his place, SUPP leader Albert René was appointed.
René reaffirmed the country’s affiliation with the Alliance Free Countries Movement – which, even before independence, had recognized SUPP as the country’s legitimate liberation movement. At the same time, he recorded relations with the progressive countries and movements around the Indian Ocean. The new government expressed itself in favor of socialism. It proposed to reorganize tourism on a new basis, wanted to prioritize agriculture and fisheries to ensure the country’s self-sufficiency in food. At the same time, education was to be strengthened and unemployment affecting more than half of the population was combated.
- AllCityPopulation: Find Seychelles demographics including latest population, life expectancy, age structure, and urbanization.
In mid-1978, the SUPP was transformed into the Seychelles Progressive People’s Front (SPPF), to better counter the new political situation. In June 1979, the power of the front was institutionalized when it got 98% of the vote in the parliamentary elections – with a 95% turnout. Following the victory, President René announced the closure of a North American radar tracking station on the islands. At the same time, he took the opportunity to demand the US military base at Diego García closed and the island returned to Mauritius.