Saturday, January 24, 2015



A week before the official resignation date of former dictator- President of the Seychelles – France Albert Rene, I received a call on my mobile from an SBC reporter who said that she had been tasked with preparing a programme about Mr Rene’s 40-year political career, with emphasis on the vision he had for Seychelles. She said that I had been highly recommended as someone who would give an independent, fair, honest, and presumably a dispassionate flattering view of the former dictator’s political career.

I replied that I could indeed give a fair, un-biased and honest view of his career, but it would be not be a flattering one at all and that her superiors would not view my opinion fit to broadcast on SBC. She admitted, after a few minutes of my presentation on the telephone, that indeed it would not be acceptable to her superiors for broadcast in the context of what she had been tasked to prepare. She was gravely disappointed and quietly admitted that she could not get any Seychellois who was not identified as a past or present stalwart, sycophant or panderer to the dictator and his regime that was prepared to take part in her programme.

So I pointed out to her that, in short, she had discovered the true legacy of Rene’s career: he was leaving behind a people divided between those who, when asked, would sing his praises and those who loath him because they have been victims of his despotic, dictatorial, misguided and brutal rule during the one party state. Statistics show that between 1977 and 1990, nearly 10,000 people left Seychelles to go and live in other countries. They voted with their feet at a time when Seychellois could only vote for Rene or pay the consequences.


The year he resigned as President of Seychelles, Albert Rene launched a slogan – in the fashion of every communist dictator to divert attention from their faltering and unpopular rule – with the words Renaissance Morale (Moral Renaissance). In my book, Mr Rene’s political career is full of deception, misrepresentation and distortions of facts until the very end – a career devoid of any sense of Christian morality, the faith into which he was born and brought up. For example in the last programme on SBC, he came up with a novel excuse for the coup d’état in 1977, one neither he nor the SPPF propaganda machine had ever opined before - that Mancham would not agree to redistribute land. For 27 years he pandered the lie that Mancham wanted to remain president for life and now suddenly it’s all about land for the people.

Nothing displayed more the characteristic of heartlessness and insensitivity than his response to the question about the three people who were killed on the day of the coup d’état. He dismissed it as mere accidents. For the benefit of the new generation who has grown up under the heavy blanket of lies and distortions of the facts and history, here is what actually happened:

Constable Berard Jeannie was a dedicated policeman whose duty on the night of 4th June 1977, was to watch over the police armoury at the Police Mobile Unit (PMU) headquarters at Mont Fleuri. Despite the fact he was watching over weapons and ammunition, he was unarmed, like all policemen in Seychelles were until that fateful day. Constable Jeannie could not have been a threat to anyone. His only authority was the uniform he wore. Yet he was shot in cold blood with an AK-47 assault rifle while sitting at his desk. This was no accident. One day history will record who actually pulled the trigger and Mr Jeannie’s family will be able to find closure. What morality does that teach us?

The first victim who paid the ultimate price with his life for the misguided ambition of Albert Rene on the day of the coup d’état was Francis Rachel. He was a semi literate labourer/farmer from Anse Boileau; a dedicated follower and supporter of Albert Rene, the politician. On the afternoon of 4th June 1977, he was taken under false pretences from his home at Anse Boileau to René’s private residence at l’Exile, smack in the middle of the Morne Seychellois National Park. There he met around a dozen or so people, who had similarly been gathered, to be told of the plan to take over the country by violent means while President Mancham was out of the country on official mission. Those who did not agree to take part were told they would remain a prisoner at l’Exile until after the event. Rachel was willing to do his party leader’s bidding. Together with five others, some armed with AK-47 smuggled into the country from the ANC – training camps in Tanzania, he was driven in a Toyota mini bus to Corgat Estate that evening, their mission to capture the police armoury next door. Given the fact that only the perpetrators of the coup d’etat had weapons, Francis Rachel could only have been killed by his comrades in arms. Yet he was declared a hero, given a funeral with “military honours” and had a street named after him. Today, Francis Rachel lies forgotten discarded into the dustbin of Albert Rene’s political history.

The murder of Davidson Chang Him, a father of three young children, brother of the Anglican Bishop French Chang Him, was the most despicable act of wanton violence of that day. He was peacefully standing next to Marcel Zatte’s shop observing the goings on at the Central Police station when three men jumped out of a green Volvo brandishing AK-47s. They ordered him into the car and took him to the police station. As he got out of the car he came face to face with one of the coup plotters brandishing an AK- 47. Within seconds a shot rang out and Son, as he was commonly known, fell down dead. The high velocity bullet went though his chest and came out of his back and embedded itself in the door of the green Volvo. This was nothing less than pure terrorist murder. This was no accident. The perpetrator remained free, becoming a well known but feared enforcer for the illegal regime during the one party state. He is reported to have masterminded the disappearance of Hassanali Umarji in 1978, and others in the early eighties.

More than half a dozen people died or disappeared in Seychelles during the one party state. Some of these incidents have been documented by Amnesty International as well as by the democratic governments that had embassies in Victoria at that time. Will the families of these victims ever get closure, never mind justice? What morality does that teach us?


Rene has been portrayed in SPPF propaganda as a child that grew up in abject poverty, when in fact he had a relatively privileged up bringing. As manager of an outlying island, his father was a not a slave labourer, as the SPPF propaganda would have you believe. A wooden or corrugated iron house with thatched roof was not a sign of poverty in the 1930’s and 40’s. But the propaganda callously exploited the false perception of old poverty images of the 30’s and 40’s to justify the coup d’etat after the event. The experience of people in the seventies or even the sixties is never used. Never mind that in the 30’s and 40’s many diseases were killing anyone regardless of social or economic status. Today they no longer exist not because of Rene’s rule but because of the advances in science.

The fact Rene attended the best schools available to a favoured few at the time, remained hidden from the public. The Catholic Church provided him with more than just basic education, however. On his own admission he led the Bishop and the Church into believing that he wanted to be a priest so he could go to Switzerland. Despite that, the Church even arranged for him to go to the UK to study law, a privilege not available to 99% of the youngsters of his age back in the Seychelles, unless he or she came from the landed or commercial class. But the Catholic Church paid dearly for its largess. One of the first things Rene did upon establishing his dictatorship in 1977 was to seize all the primary schools in Seychelles. They were all the private property of the Catholic Church. He also seized large tracts of Church land. No compensation was offered. As president under the multiparty system, and under pressure from Mancham, Rene reluctantly agreed to an interest free loan to the Catholic Church to renovate the Cathedral.

His disrespect for the Catholic Church that gave him his best opportunity in life, was further demonstrated when he mocked Bishop Felix Paul on national radio after the army rebellion in 1982. Bishop Paul had earlier intervened with the rebels in a live radio broadcast, which they controlled, to pacify them and at the same time urging Rene to speak to them and negotiate a peaceful resolution to the stand off. Instead Rene remained un-contactable for two days while he was preparing to unleash Tanzanian troops on them, (reinforced in the meanwhile with fresh arrivals by air from Dar es Salaam). Many, including innocent civilians died in the process. The rebels were rounded up by the Tanzanians, some tortured and others made to serve hard labour in a specially constructed prison camp on Coétivy Island. When Bishop Denis Viehe, opined on SBC that the relationship between the Church and the SPPF government had not always been cordial, he probably was not aware that he was making the understatement of the century. Today Rene, it appears, professes another religion, repudiating his Catholic faith, while he exhorts the nation to renew its moral values. What an example does he represent and what values should we relate to?


As a young lawyer Rene was a member of the privileged class. After returning to Seychelles to practice law in 1958, he was inducted in the Seychelles Club, the bastion of the grand blanc or land owners. A private club, the Seychelles Club membership then was reserved only to those with white skin pigmentation and who owned land. It was the only place where colour bar was ever practiced in Seychelles outside the homes of the grand blanc.

Rene also returned to Seychelles accompanied by his English wife and a daughter. His Chamber or legal practice was at Royal Street, now Revolution Avenue, in the wooden complex that later became Progress House, the birth place of the Democratic Party. The complex was owned by Richard Mancham, father of former President Mancham. Years later, I witnessed an episode at the Pirates Arms Hotel Bar in Victoria on a Saturday afternoon, when Rene took a swipe at Babby Mancham, brother of the former president.

He had taken offence after Babby accused him, in a loud voice for everyone to hear, of owing rent to the Mancham family for use of the office.

For over forty years, SPPF propaganda (and Rene) never mentioned the intervening years between 1958 and 1961 when speaking or writing about René’s life. Only upon his retirement from office has Rene owned up publicly that he had been living in Seychelles for a number of years before his reincarnation as a Marxist firebrand in 1964. He now says he left Seychelles to return to the UK to study economics and increase his knowledge of how a successful country should be. This came about, he now says, after he had decided, against family advice, to remain in Seychelles and not immigrate to Australia. He now tells us too how he felt he had inadequate ability to take on the responsibility to improve the lot of his fellow countrymen, as if he had a special calling from God like Moses. Hence his decision to return to the UK to study economics in 1961, to be better prepared.

The fact is his life was in shambles. He had been suspended from the Seychelles Club; his career as a lawyer in tatters; in short he had become a pariah in his community.


Rene began his long political life of deceit soon after he returned to Seychelles a second time in 1964. It seems that he had decided one day, while still in the UK, to return and wreak havoc on the lives of everyone who may have had a hand in his earlier humiliations. His weapons of preference were radical Marxism and an AK-47. The Seychelles Club was the victim of the first terrorism attacks in Seychelles and the subject of seizure after the coup d’etat, even though it had by then opened its doors to everyone and most of the new members joining at that time were those who took part in the coup d’etat with Rene and had become the new socialist elite. The modern building that was the club was torn down and the site remained vacant land until a few years ago. Seychelles Club was only the outward symbol of the grand blanc in Seychelles.

And it was this symbol, it appears, that Rene wanted to eradicate as if he did not want it to be known that it was the remnants of the grand blanc who gave him his critical breath of political life after his return. By seizing the property and destroying the building he would be able to pull the wool over the eyes of the next generation, who would be subjected to relentless one-party state propaganda about Rene’s political calling.

By the time Rene landed in Seychelles in 1964, the serene and compliant atmosphere dominated by the grand blanc under the benign rule of the British, had already been disturbed. A young lawyer by the name of James Mancham, son of a rich merchant, had defeated the grand blanc for the first time in an election (albeit of limited franchise) and he had joined forces with David Joubert, a young, educated and black social activist teacher from a poor family from Praslin, to campaign for social justice and economic changes. Instead of joining forces with Mancham and Joubert, Rene went to join forces with the remnants of the grand blanc class.

His true colours were to emerge very soon afterwards. The opportunity came when Robert Frichot, a lawyer and member of the Taxpayers Association, the front organisation for the grand blanc, resigned to take up an appointment as Acting-Attorney General. For Joubert it was a chance not only to mount the second challenge to the grand blanc but was also a unique opportunity to serve his community where he was born.

But in stepped Albert Rene, the man, who La Digue’s most famous grand blanc, Karl Ste Ange, described in his tribute to him as a bright young socialist. Rene decided to become a candidate in the bye-election to challenge Joubert. Although the Taxpayers Association fielded their own candidate in the person of South African white supremacist settler Teague, it surprised some that he and the grand blanc were urging everyone to vote for Rene. On La Digue, which was part of the Praslin constituency, Karl Ste. Ange also was rooting for Rene. Later Ste Ange joined Rene’s SPUP and was elected on its ticket to represent La Digue. Rene won the bye- election.

The bye-election victory on Praslin provided Rene with an opportunity to re-cement his ties with the Seychelles Club crowd. In the 1967 election, they became very prominent as SPUP candidates. This was the first election held under universal adult suffrage principle. Even though he had won Praslin previously Rene shifted his candidacy to East Mahe. In his place at Praslin he nominated Joseph Albert, the most prominent grand blanc at the time and the biggest private landowner in the Seychelles. On La Digue it was Karl Ste Ange, who had become the party’s Vice –president. In South Mahe it was Raymond Deltel Sr. whose family owned large tracts of land at Grand Police. Years later, the Australian historian Derek Scarr, wrote that SPUP was a natural extension of the grand blanc. But Rene, who had taken power by then, shelved the manuscript, which was meant to be the school history textbook, in order to erase that part of his political history. While he was preaching socialism and the redistribution of wealth, Rene did not see the irony in being surrounded by remnants of the grand blanc with large tracks of land, then the symbol of wealth in Seychelles.

Anything was fair game in Rene’s ambition to win power at all cost, including ungratefulness. The Deltel family was picked upon to suffer humiliation by Rene when he seized their property at Grand Police after the coup, while Joseph Albert was spared the humiliation, and the Albert family, which owned more land than anyone else in the Seychelles, saw not one inch of their land confiscated. But the real intentions of Rene came to light when, shortly after the coup d’etat, he abandoned SPUP and created SPPF in its place. It is not surprising why today he has been reluctant to publicly acknowledge those who stood with him in the early days of SPUP, preferring the accolade of an old man of black skin who he had employed as a general factotum all those years ago.


Little is known about what he actually did during the three years he spent in London while “studying economics”. When in exile, I met someone who told me he attended the launching of SPUP in a pub in Chiswick, in the West of London. But Rene found few believers and supporters there for his Marxist ideology. In fact he never won any true believers to his ideology.

Realising that overtly promoting Marxism was not going to win him many adherents, he decided to adopt instead the new slogan of nationalism. This coincided with the wind of change that was sweeping across Africa at that time. Philibert Loizeau claimed that he invited Rene to come to Uganda after he had heard about him from his side kick Paul Gobine from London. In Kampala, Rene lost no time in making contact with the Soviet Embassy. Later, when challenged by Mancham about his Soviet connections, he denied he ever went there. He also went to Dar es Salaam. It is not known if he made his first contact with the Chinese Communist Party there.

In East Africa, Rene found a sympathetic ear among the Seychellois Diaspora, many of whom had passed themselves off as Free French in order to enjoy some of the privileges reserved for the white colonial settlers. Independence for them had meant becoming an African if they stayed, which was anathema to many. Why not have their own “African” nation a thousand miles in the Indian Ocean where they could enjoy the privileges they would lose if they were to become “Africans” in East Africa. In Seychelles, they proved the most vocal proponent of SPUP’s “Seychelles pou Seychellois” slogan. Not everyone, who lived in East Africa, though believed in Rene.

Before leaving Nairobi for Seychelles in 1964, Rene gave an interview to the Daily Nation newspaper which ran the article with the headline: Independence Or Else. When challenged in court during the bomb trial of Guy Pool in 1972, that this was proof that he was promoting violence, Rene flatly denied it, as he denied and disowned many of the things he wrote and beliefs he held, if it served his political ends.

When Rene saw that his call for independence fell on deaf ears among the population he decided to publicly repudiate his original political stand. His tactic was to deny and dissociate himself from the independence call. He refrained from mentioning independence in his public meetings where he spoke only in Creole. Instead, he promoted the new slogan “Seychelles pou Seychellois”. Today, it appears that no record exists of the speeches Rene delivered around the country and on the radio at election time. It was common knowledge that the police Special Branch recorded all public speeches during the colonial era. During the bomb trial, transcripts of one of his Gordon Square speeches recorded by Special Branch were used by the prosecution in his cross examination. One of the first places that were captured on the day of the coup d’etat was Radio Seychelles, where recordings of all the party political broadcasts were kept. Why would this important historical evidence be allowed to disappear if it could serve in the propaganda war?

In 1969 when the British Minister Lord Shepherd visited Seychelles in order to report back to Whitehall the true sentiments of the people of Seychelles about independence, both political parties were asked to organise rallies to demonstrate the level of their support, since some on the left wing of the Labour Party had been told that all Seychellois wanted independence. But instead of being faced with the overwhelming proof that the majority of the people wanted independence, Lord Shepherd was to find that Rene too did not want independence, only association status like Anguilla in the Caribbean. Hence he had to report back to London that indeed, no one in Seychelles wanted independence. But this did not square with the photographs obtained by the UN Decolonisation Committee in New York which showed demonstrators carrying placards calling for independence.

Rene, the master of deception, would ensure, however, that his party newspaper, The People,... which was written only in English or French for foreign consumption, had sufficient articles about the call for independence. Read years later, without the benefit of the oral evidence that no longer exists, they give a false sense of consistency in his public declaration about the independence issue. One of his first political deceptions was known as La procession du Riz. To give justification to the march, he contrived with a well know Indian merchant to sell a small consignment of rice below the imported price and then made the claim that SPUP would bring cheaper rice for the poor. The march started from Anse aux Pins to Victoria. Most of the placards, however, carried slogans calling for independence, even if those carrying them – who were in the main unable to read or write English - were oblivious to the messages they were sending, which had nothing to do with cheaper rice. Pictures of this and other similar public “demonstrations” or strikes were snapped and sent to the OAU and the UN.

When it became clear to him that he was not going to win elections against Mancham, and the OAU was getting tired of his fence sitting, Rene decided that he must come out publicly to claim independence. The day after his party’s electoral defeat in 1970, Rene went on the air to admit for the first time in Creole that he had all along stood for independence and that from now on he would be campaigning publicly in favour of it. It was not surprising that he showed his true colours just when Mancham, at a much younger age than him, was to become the Chief Minister under a new constitution, which saw Seychelles become a self-governing territory.

In the next few years after that declaration, Seychelles was to experience a series of terrorist acts and acts of wanton arson. Previously, only one bomb explosions had taken place at that was at the Seychelles club. Between 1970 and 1972 more bombs exploded.

The first was a newly built Radio Seychelles. This was followed by one at the Reef Hotel, at Adam Moosa’s shop and Gros Samy’s shop at Market Street when Queen Elizabeth was due to visit Seychelles to open the Airport and the Reef hotel and at Progress House – the HQ of the Democratic Party. In the dry season, bush fires broke out in the hills around La Misere. The bomb explosions and arson ensured that SPPF was at par with the other liberation movements on the continent, at least in their actions. SPUP was duly recognised as a Liberation Movement, the only one to exist and operate legally as a political party in the territory it wanted to liberate. True enough some financial and material support from the OAU duly arrived in the form of a couple of Land Rovers and kitenge cloths – which became the symbol of the party.

Rene, however, came close to paying a heavy price for the SPUP’s, so far, duplicitous activities to undermine the peace, progress and tranquillity of Seychelles. Shortly after the bomb explosion at the Reef Hotel, Guy Pool was apprehended after a tip- off to the police. The man who made the tip-off was the common law husband of Guy Pool’s sister. The informer became the key witness for the prosecution, was given police protection and eventually settlement in the UK. While in detention at the Union Vale prison Guy Pool, confessed to Mr Felix Hoareau, then Chief Prison Officer, that he placed the bomb at the Reef hotel and named the person who gave him the bomb. Felix Hoareau was a prime witness against Pool. Another bomber who was arrested and confessed to the police was Raymond Bonte, then a taxi driver. He was not prosecuted though. Bonte later joined the coup d’etat and became a senior officer of the People’s Liberation Army until he fell from grace and was sacked.
On 4th June 1978 Felix Hoareau, then retired, was arrested, along with half a dozen men and women, accused of plotting to overthrow Rene. He was held for three months before being forced into exile. He died in Wales in the early 80’s. Hoareau was not the only one who faced the wrath of Rene during the one party state. Ramnik Vlabhji – the local lawyer who’s chamber officially represented Guy Pool, left Seychelles for voluntary exile in the UK and his properties seized by the tax authorities. He only returned after the multiparty system was restored. Everyone who knew the true facts about albert Rene’s role in the Reef Hotel bombings was harassed by Rene during the one party state.

The trial of Guy Pool was probably the most celebrated ever held in Seychelles. I was lucky to have been a witness to history being made when I was given prime sitting accommodation by the Chief Justice Sir George Souyave, as one of two “reporters” in the packed court room. The other reporter was the late Antonio Beaudouin who was reporting for the Seychelles Bulletin (predecessor to the Seychelles Nation) and Radio Seychelles, while I was reporting for Le Seychellois – the mouthpiece of what remained of the Taxpayers Association.

The trial became famous because Guy Pool was being “defended” by the celebrated trial lawyer of East Africa, the Kenyan Asian Kapila. Kapila had earned prominence when, as a young lawyer, he formed part of the legal team that defended Jomo Kenyatta on charges of masterminding the Mau Mau rebellion. During his entire stay in Seychelles, Kapila was the personal guest of Mrs Geva Rene (then Savy), and was frequently seen in public in the company of Mrs Rene. They remained friends ever since, and Kapila often visited the Seychelles on the anniversary of the coup d’etat, as a VIP guest. No doubt SPUP foot Kapila’s substantial legal bill for the Guy Pool defence.

In the trial Rene was called as a witness for the defence to deny that he had any connection with the incident. All the same, Guy Pool was found guilty of placing the bomb at the Reef Hotel and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. He was pardoned by President Mancham as part of an amnesty for all convicts on the occasion of Independence in 1976. A year later Pool was part of the terrorist group that attacked the police armoury and was made a lieutenant in the new People’s Liberation Army. He died in mysterious circumstances a few years later when the dumper truck he was driving, went off the dirt road the army was carving on the side of the mountain to create the first palaces for the new military elite.

One of the constitutional structures the British experimented on Seychelles was called the Governing Council system, which was introduced in 1967 by Sir Colville Deverel. This provided for a two tier system: a Legislative Council comprising of both elected members and a handful of colonial officials appointed by the Governor, which debated and passed the laws and an Executive Council made up of the same people from the Legislative Council, which assisted the Governor to formulate policies and to “administer” various portfolios. The Executive Council was divided into three committees each with a chair person. Committee number 1 was chaired by Dr Hilda Stevenson Delhomme, who had been elected as an independent but un-opposed by the Democratic Party. Committee number 2 was chaired by Albert Rene and Committee number 3 was chaired by James Mancham.

Each committee was nominally responsible or supervised various administrative portfolios such as tourism, public works, housing and land. Their decisions would later be ratified by themselves sitting as the Legislative Council or vice versa. But this experiment was short-lived because Rene was accused of voting and speaking in public sessions against the very proposals he supported and voted for in private. The same accusation was of course levelled by Rene against Mancham. Unsurprisingly, Committee number 2, chaired by Rene, was responsible for the creation of the Morne Seychellois National Park where Rene had just before bought land from the Crown to build his house.
As a Minister in the Mancham administration during the self government period between 1st October 1975 and Independence day, as well as prime Minister after independence, Rene was responsible for land and housing. One of his responsibilities was to buy land from private individuals for the government to build low cost public housing. One of the properties which the cabinet had approved to be bought was the Nageon Estate at Pointe Larue and money had been provided by the EEC (now called the EU). Rene slept on the files until after the coup d’etat so he could announce that he was building houses for the people which Mancham had not done.

He was also responsible to approve the purchase of land by investors. One group of investors, in 1977, had finalised plans to buy land at Baie Lazarre to build a resort to be managed by the Intercontinental hotel chain. The property belonged to the Albert family. Rene sat on the files until after the coup. When I met Mr Guy Devoud at the Pirates Arms one day after the coup, he recounted to me how the family managed eventually to get sanction to sell the land, but only after certain contributions were made to a particular party.
On the day of the coup d’etat, Rene rounded up all the six British police officers on secondment to the Seychelles Police Force and deported them. He appointed James Pillay, a senior local officer, as the Commissioner of Police. Pillay was one of three senior local officers who were in line to take over the top job of Police Commissioner occupied by a British expatriate police officer. But Pillay had somehow been recruited by Rene to join the coup plot. He was instrumental in giving local legitimacy to the coup and to encourage other officers to remain in the force under his command.
When in exile, I discovered that Pillay would send Mancham a postcard from wherever he found himself in the world, with simple messages of good wishes, but no postcard ever came from Seychelles. Later, I found out why James Pillay was doing this. It transpired that early in 1977, President Mancham had signed the recommendation appointing Pillay the first Commissioner of Police, but the appointment remained a secret until Pillay had finished a series of administrative postings to gain experience. But throughout that time, Pillay was being made to believe that Mancham had not supported him for the top post and that his various postings were a punishment. After he became Commissioner, however, Pillay discovered the truth but then it was too late. Rene had already reneged on a promise made to Pillay that the police would be the only security force in the country. Instead Rene created the SPLA, the Seychelles People’s Militia and a secret police unit under his direct command. The Seychelles Police Force was marginalized and gradually became subservient to the political agenda of the one party state.
The most glaring piece of deception was to name the army that was created after the coup d’etat The People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Never mind that it looked ridiculous to everyone. It would. Nevertheless, ensure that when President Rene appeared on the world stage alongside Castro, Brezhnev and others of their ilk, he would be seen with a similar baggage. Otherwise he would be seen for the phoney liberator that he truly was.

In 1979 Rene published his new vision for Seychelles. In it he said he would create a National Youth Service which would compulsorily take all children from the age of 16 and place them in special education camps on coral islad of Coetivy, 150 miles out in the Indian Ocean, for two years. Rene wanted to emulate Castro who built an infamous island indoctrination camp in Cuba. When the plan was leaked many parents with children at Seychelles College and the Regina Mundi grammar schools expressed alarm, especially among those of the previous grand blanc class who were offering open support to Rene and endorsing his regime. Shocked by the strength of the reaction, Rene thought he could pacify them by personally chairing public discussions at the schools with the parents, where he got a thorough grilling. But the fear and anger had spread like wild fire and by the time Rene reached the Anse Aux Pins school he realised his regime was under threat from a looming popular revolt. At Anse Aux Pins he was humiliated by his own angry and working class supporters who were happy to vote for him only a few months before in the one party election. 

When the students went into the streets by the thousands to demonstrate against NYS in October 1979, Rene sent Guy Sinon, his Minister of Education, to pacify them. In a meeting broadcast live on national radio, Sinon promised that NYS would not be compulsory and the students made him sign a pledge to that effect. But true to his character, Rene then ordered that all schooling should terminate after year two of secondary education, and made clear that the route to further education was only via the NYS. At the same time all private schools were prohibited to Seychellois nationals. This made Sinon’s pledge not to make NYS compulsory worthless. Once more Albert Rene had engineered a classic deception. The only compromise he allowed, NYS would be on Mahe and Ste Anne, not on Coetivy. 

By the time he took power in 1977, quite a number of the new intelligentsia had high regards for Rene and his perceived dedication and hard work as Prime Minister. Even l’Echo des Iles, the official mouthpiece of the Catholic Church, took swipes at Presidetn Mancham’s practice of going places with a lone police outrider in front blowing its siren and a security detail of two plane clothes policemen in one car following behind. Two prominent individuals who did not hide their glee at René’s coup were Dr Guy Ah Moye, consultant physician at Victoria Hospital and Yvon Savy, previously the Government’s Chief surveyor when Rene bought his Crown property. In early 1978 Ah Moye and Savy decided to hold public meetings to discuss proposals to put to the new Constitutional Commission appointed by Rene to prepare a new Constitution. They were enamoured by the perception of the new style of Government Rene seems to promise. After all Rene was organising monthly press conferences, which never actually took place that frequently under Mancham.

The meetings were held at the school hall of the Mont Fleuri Senior Secondary School and the first meeting was lively and well attended. Also buoyed by the new ‘freedom’ was young Ibrahim Afif from Radio Seychelles, who brought along his tape recorder to record the proceedings and to replay the opinions of the newly enfranchised masses, over the airwaves. I attended the first meeting and even took part in the discussions. But after I heard the first report Afif put out on the radio, which showed that most of the opinions being expressed were not in sync with the new political reality, especially the one party state concept, I cautioned Ah Moye and Savy that we were probably playing with fire. Savy reassured me that Rene personally had given him his word of honour to respect all opinions.
At the next meeting the following week, a carpenter from Plaisance stood up and asked why should we have an army and spend thousands of rupees on providing them with AK-47, when the money could be better spent to build houses. The gathering, almost to a man, gave an approving applause, which was reported faithfully with sound by Afif at the next broadcast. Little did Savy and Ah Moye realise that this was going to be the last time free speech was heard in Seychelles for a long time. The following Saturday evening Douglas Cedras read an official but scathing attack on the unsuspected carpenter on radio Seychelles branding him an enemy of the people, a term constantly used from then on against the political enemies of Albert Rene. No more meetings were held by Messrs Ahmoye and Savy. Instead, the new SPPF staged managed, recorded and edited its own popular assembly. The edited recordings were presented to the constitutional commission as the people’s overriding “opinion”. Not surprisingly 100% of the “opinions” called for the creation of a one party state. Even though Savy remained in Seychelles, Ah Moye packed his bags and left the country.
When SPPF was launched in 1978, it was presented as a party that would unite all the people under one super umbrella. Guy Sinon, its Secretary General was naively enthusiastic to organise the new popular committees across the country. The first and only meeting openly held was on Praslin where Dan Payet, the Democratic Party’s National Assembly member was king. Payet brought along sufficient supporters to register as members of the new party and got himself elected its local chairperson. The same evening it was announced that the membership rules had changed. New members would have to serve a six-month probation and must be approved by Mr Rene himself. Henceforth, SPPF would be not just a popular party but also a vanguard party in the pursuit of the vision of its creator, Albert Rene.

Conscious of the criticism of Mancham and his lone police outrider motorcade in l’Echo des Iles, Rene, in his first radio broadcast to the nation after coup d’etat, pledged that he would not drive around with official bodyguards. Two years later when reminded of his pledge at a press conference, after his entourage had grown from John Pillay brandishing a Stirling machine gun just after the coup to a posse of vehicles filled with heavily armed bodyguards in military uniform provided by his People’s Liberation Army, Rene responded with what became his classic line and his hallmark response to such contradictions – it is the wish of the people.


Albert Rene never had a vision for Seychelles. In actual fact when one reads his often dialectic pronouncements, he was never so categorical about a vision for the country. His vision was always a retrospective one, cobbled together in party propaganda leaflets after a programme had failed. Whenever a programme failed and had to be abandoned like the NYS, it is portrayed as having achieved its desired objectives that it was created to do, a phase in the grand design had ended and now all we needed to do was go to the next phase and restore the old system. The one party state, he now claims, was necessary to prepare the ground for the return of multiparty democracy, as if he had set this vision all along.

For years he shunned the diplomatic world, refusing to be seen alongside other heads of states and heads of government. Now on his retirement from office, he claims he will be travelling to these places to be seen with them, sort of making it up to them as a favour. He doesn’t care that his behaviour as Head of State dishonoured our country and made us a laughing stock among nations. Only Kim Il Sung bettered him on diplomatic visits. Yet, during the one party era, Rene paid official visits to China and North Korea 5 times, including once to communist Vietnam.

SEYCHELLES WEEKLY-Paul Chow 23 April 2004.