Monday, June 8, 2015


In this evocative piece, the Founding President recounts how he felt when he found that he had been deposed and the lasting effects of the coup d’état on him and the country.

By James R. Mancham

In early June 1977 things were going extremely well for Seychelles under the coalition government which had been brought about to rule the country as an independent sovereign nation with myself as President of the Republic and France Albert René as Prime Minister and Minister for Housing and Land Development.

Albert Rene swearing allegiance to the First Republic on Independence Day
 The bitterness which had prevailed over the infighting on the issue of independence had almost disappeared and Seychellois were back into festive mood with the Blues and the Reds once again socialising together as in the good old days before the birth of party politics in the country.

Seychellois families who had emigrated to Australia and Canada were returning home to work for the new government and build up a happy and prosperous Seychelles with our government having come out with a serious development plan which included, as a matter of priority, the building of houses for the less fortunate members of the community. I felt personally confident and happy with the golden future I saw on the horizon and I was proud to have been invited to attend the Queen's Silver Jubilee in London on the 5th June 1977.

At a Cabinet meeting which I presided over a few days before my departure, Prime Minister France Albert René spoke eloquently about the way things were progressing and wished me good luck and bon voyage. He also accepted an invitation to dine with me on the eve of my departure and to officially see me off at the airport at departure time.

Against such a background, I was unsurprisingly utterly shocked when early morning on the 5th June I was woken up by a phone call in London informing me that I had been the victim of a coup d'état and I that was deposed as the President of the Republic of Seychelles.

I had been engaged in the islands politics ever since I returned to the country in 1963 as a young qualified lawyer. A majority of the people of Seychelles over the years had come to love and respect me and to support my leadership of the nation. I had been the leader of the majority party and an elected member for the Victoria constituency in our Legislative Council before serving as Chief Minister and Prime Minister over many years. Seychelles being a small nation the people certainly knew what James Mancham was all about when they elected him President.

And now I had just been deposed by a violent coup d'état in absentia by none other than my Prime Minister France Albert René who at the time of the coup disclaimed any connection with it and alleged that he was only assuming the position of leadership at the request of a group of people who were unhappy with my presidency.

Mr René of course attempted to justify the treasonable and unconstitutional takeover of the country by force by making the following allegations:

1. That I was an international playboy. Well history has certainly put into proper perspective this allegation as Mr René's lifestyle since he took over and started behaving as a dictator has shown that he has been a far greater playboy than myself.

 In this connection, I am reminded of the remark which James Earnest Thomas LLB, a former Attorney-General of Seychelles one evening made to some friends at the Seychelles Club: "What is this business about Albert René calling James Mancham an international playboy? I James Earnest Thomas, ever since I was 15 years old, I have been dreaming to become an international playboy but frankly don't we know that Albert is also a great playboy. The only difference of course is that whilst Jimmy is playing on the international stage, Albert is playing in the chicken yard."

2. The second allegation which Mr René made was that I was busy selling land to Arabs.
 What he made a point not to disclose to the public was that he was, at all material times, the Minister of Land and Housing and that no land could have ever been bought by any foreigner without the sanction of his ministry and his ministry's recommendation to the cabinet.

3. The third allegation was that I was always for the interests of the business class as I belonged to a successful business family. After "the killing" of Richard Mancham and Co. Ltd. through a policy of refusing the company import licences over a whole range of merchandises, the Seychelles saw the growth of the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB) under Mukesh Valabhji and the birth and growth of the gambling business under Dr. Ramadoss who was Mr René's personal physician.

Of course, I was also accused of being "an imperial lackey" which formed the base for Mr René's regime to receive financial assistance from both Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein and Kim Il-Sung who sent North Korean soldiers to Seychelles to assist René to consolidate his takeover.

Of course I could see the need for Mr René to indulge in all these false allegations in an endeavour to lower the level of esteem and affection which the people of Seychelles held for me.

Aware of all the good work I had done for the Seychelles amongst which was the buildup and opening of our international airport and a new port, I decided not to lose faith in the future - "Albert, I said to myself, you have taken the Seychelles away but you have given to me the world." Of course, Mr René was soon to introduce a one-party dictatorship in the country where he prevailed for 15 years by a rule of fear which reigned over the nation which suddenly found its police force replaced by the political army. Some 20 000 Seychellois fled the country after the coup.

There is too much to write about concerning the conspiracy behind the coup d'état. You can read some bits and pieces in Paradise Raped, in Seychelles Global Citizen and Seychelles - The Saga of a Small Nation Navigating the Currents of a Big World. There are still stories left for a fourth book.

Finally, one thing I am trying to understand and to forget is the fact that at the time of the coup d'état, those friends I thought would run away, ran away very fast. Amongst those I thought would stay, some still did run away. Hence the coup d'état enabled me to determine who were the true friends of Jimmy Mancham and who were the friends of the President.

 No one of course should forget that Mr René's coup d'état was not a coup d'état against James Mancham but a coup d'état against a government in which he was serving as Prime Minister.