Former president of Seychelles dies at 83

Former President of Seychelles France-Albert René, who served as the second President of Seychelles from 1977 to 2004 after seizing power in a coup. Nicknamed by Seychellois government officials and fellow party members as “the Boss” or simply “Ti France” for the influence he commanded in Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off East Africa, René died on Wednesday February 27, following an undisclosed sickness. He was 83.

In a radio broadcast, Seychelles’s current president, Danny Faure said “René was a modern-day architect of Seychelles. It is with deep sorrow that I hereby announce that former president France-Albert René passed away early today. He was a true patriot who cared about his country and his people.”

René, who studied Law in London, served as prime minister before overthrowing the archipelago’s founding president James Mancham in a bloodless coup in 1977. A year later, he set up a one-party socialist state and his party was the sole legal political party in the country from 1979 to 1993, allowing him to win presidential elections in 1979, 1984, and 1989.

In 1981, South African mercenaries led by notorious British soldier-for-hire in Africa Colonel “Mad Mike” Hoare planned a coup to return Mancham to power. The group entered the country disguised as a beer-drinking tourist party called “The Ancient Order of Froth-Blowers”. Unfortunately, their plans were uncovered when an airport inspector found a weapon in their luggage and a gunfight broke out.

By 1993, multiparty democracy commenced. René, however, continued to win, recording victory in 1993, again in 1998 and also in 2001, when he defeated the opposition leader Wavel Ramkalawan, the candidate of Seychelles National Party. He was accused of widespread human rights abuses, which he denied.

The country’s next presidential elections are due in 2020.