A Brief History of Seychelles - Part 1

Where in Africa are the Seychelles?
Where in Africa are the Seychelles?. Image: © Alistair Boddy-Evans. Used with Permission

France Grabs an Uninhabited Collection of Islands:


The Seychelles islands remained uninhabited for more than 150 years after discovery by 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.

Transfer to Britain Under the Treaty of Paris:


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.

Connection With Mauritius:


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 31 August 1903, Seychelles became a separate British Crown Colony.

Formation of Political Parties:


Two political leaders emerged: James Mancham who was pro-British and France-Albert René who was pro-independence.

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 René, replaced existing parties.

Developing a Constitution – the Road to Independence:


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.

Skewed Constituencies Give Landslide:


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.

Granting Independence:


Following the 1974 election, negotiations with the British resulted in an agreement by which Seychelles became a sovereign republic on 29 June 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.

Sharing out Power in Seychelles:


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 29 June 1976, Mancham assumed the office of President and René became Prime Minister. The coalition government called itself the Progressive Front of the Seychelles People (FPPS).

Reincorporating British Indian Ocean Territory:


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). After independence these islands were leased to USA.



Next: A Brief History of Seychelles - Part 2


(Text from Public Domain material, US Department of State Background Notes.)