The Seychelles are an archipelago made up of over 100 islands that are widely scattered in the West Indian Ocean. The principal island is Mahe which is mountainous with towering rugged crests, boulders and cliffs, although sandy beaches surround the coastline. In general, the islands are divided into two groups, the granite islands which number 32 and the coralline islands which number over 60. After Mahe the three largest islands are Praslin, La Digue and Silhouette.
It’s westernised history began when Portugal's Vasco da Gama discovered the Islands while sailing around the Indian Ocean in 1502.
No country bothered with settling the Islands until 1768 when the French took control and along with their slaves they colonised the area, producing cotton, coconut oil, spices, coffee, and sugarcane, as well as sufficient food crops to support the population.
Until the British turned up in 1794 and annexed the islands, administrating them from Mauritius.
In 1903 the Seychelles became a separate British colony.
During 1948 the countries first elections took place to elect a legislative council.
On 9th March 1956 Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus arrived, having been arrested and exiled to the islands by the British government.
In 1964 The Islands were allowed to form their first political parties. France Albert Rene's lead the Socialist Seychelles People's United Party, and James Mancham the Seychelles Democratic Party. By this time Mancham was well known to all as a successful businessman. During elections that took place in 1966 and 1970, the Seychelles Democratic Party won power in both.
1st October 1975 Britain granted internal self-government to Seychelles.
On 29th June 1976 the Seychelles was granted independence from Britain.
And on the 31st July 1976 the Seychelles celebrated their Independence Day, and were governed by a coalition, with James Mancham as president and France Rene as prime minister.
On 5th June 5, 1977, sixty supporters of the SPUP who had been training in Tanzania staged a coup and overthrew James Mancham while he was in London. France René, denied knowing of the plan, but allowed himself to be sworn in as president and formed a new government.
René quickly established a socialist one-party state, censored the rival newspaper, and abolished religious fee-paying schools. Additionally, René created an army and a large security apparatus for the first time in the country's history. Such controversial policies caused considerable popular resentment against his regime.
This resentment caused thousands of Seychellois to go into exile and to organize an array of opposition groups seeking to overthrow Him. In April 1978, some of James Mancham's followers unsuccessfully tried to overthrow the government when René was on a state visit to North Korea and the PRC.
1978. Rene enacts a new constitution, turning the Seychelles into a one-party state.
On 5th June 1979 the Seychelles adopts a constitution.
During 1979 exiled supporters of James Mancham living in South Africa, and acting on his behalf, discussed with South African Government officials about the possibility of launching a coup against the president of the Seychelles France Albert René. The Movement for Resistance (Mouvement pour la Résistance), which also sought to restore democracy in Seychelles, indicating that many of its members would help finance such a venture.
The Seychelles Liberation Committee, was established in 1979 by exiles in Paris, also wanted to remove René and abolish his one-party state. The Seychelles National Movement maintained that it was a broad-based opposition group with followers based in the Seychelles, Britain, and Australia.
The South African exiles also made contact with Mike Hoare who at the time was living in South Africa, to see if he would fight alongside other mercenary soldiers, that included some of his old buddies from the Congo, ex South African special forces, and former Rhodesian soldiers.
While on the other side of the world a military option had also been decided upon in Washington D.C., because of growing concerns about the possible lack of access to its new military base on Diego Garcia island, and knowing that René was not corruptible in their favour.
On the 25th November 1981 and an attempted coup led by South African-based mercenaries trying to restore Mancham to power was defeated. When Mike Hoare and a group of armed mercenaries carrying out what they called Operation ‘Anvil’, entered the Seychelles by air disguised as a beer-drinking tourist party. Hoare's objective being to return to power ex-president James Mancham, who at that time as 49, a pro-Western leader who had been deposed by René during a 1977 coup.
The fighting started earlier than planned, when the second to last civilian passenger was filing through customs was found to be carrying undeclared goods. One of Hoare's men was last in line, behind the guy being searched, and the customs officer then insisted on searching his bag as well. Unfortunately for him, he had a weapon concealed in his bag. A rifle that he thought was well concealed in a false bottom, but for some reason the rifle was found, and the customs man ran from the scene, sounding the alarm.
Within seconds the situation got out of hand and developed further out of control as one of Hoare's men drew his own weapon, a disassembled AK-47 from the concealed compartment in his luggage. He assembled, loaded it and shot the escaping customs man before he could reach the other side of the building. Making a split second decision Hoare ordered the plan for the coup to proceeded despite the set-back, although they were making it up as they went along, by now the original plan had long since flown out of the window.
One of Hoare’s teams attempted to capture a barracks nearby. While a gunfight broke out in the airport terminal, in which one mercenary was killed and several others wounded. Desperate to escape, some of the mercenaries fought their way to the control tower, where they guided an incoming Air India 707 (Flight 224) to a safe landing and attempted to commandeered the plane. Although it had damaged one of its flaps on one of the trucks strewn on the runway. Hoare then managed to negotiate a cease fire before the aircraft and passengers were caught in the crossfire.
After several hours, the mercenaries found themselves in an unfavorable position and some wanted to depart on the aircraft, which needed fuel. Hoare conceded and the captain of the aircraft allowed them on board after Hoare had found fuel for the aircraft. On board, Hoare asked the captain why he had landed when he had been informed of the fighting taking place and he responded that once the aircraft had started to descend, he did not have enough fuel to climb the aircraft back to cruising altitude and still make his destination.
They then forced the Air India pilot to fly them 2,500 miles across the Indian Ocean back to Durban. Most of the mercenaries still had their weapons with them on board the aircraft and Hoare asked the captain if he would allow the door to be opened so they could ditch the weapons over the sea before they returned to South Africa, but the captain laughed at Hoare's lack of knowledge on how pressurised aircraft functioned and told him it would not be possible.
Upon their arrival back in South Africa, being associated with the South African security services, the hijackers were initially charged with kidnapping, which carried a no minimum sentence, but this was later upgraded to hijacking after strong international pressure.
International suspicions pointed almost immediately to the South African government, who opposed Rene’s socialist’s regime and were already active in destabilising other leftist governments in Southern Africa. These suspicions seemed substantiated by the casual manner in which the South African government dealt with the hijackers. Instead of extraditing them back to the Seychelles where they would be tried for treason, or charging them with hijacking, the South African government opted to unconditionally freeing 39 of the 43 mercenaries and only charge the leaders, including Hoare, with lesser crimes.
International outcry was immediate, forcing the government to re-think their response to the incident. Several nations warned that South Africa could be struck from air-travel routings unless Pretoria enforced international agreements against harbouring of air hijackers. The government then brought hijacking charges against all 43 of the escaped mercenaries.
After a five-month trial Judge Neville James found 42 of the mercenaries guilty of airplane hijacking and sentenced Mike Hoare to ten years in prison. His fellow raiders were given from six months to five years, however the judge later reduced most of these to six months.
One of the mercenaries, an American Vietnam War veteran, was found not guilty of hijacking, for being seriously wounded in the fire fight, and had been loaded aboard while sedated. Many of the other mercenaries were quietly released after three months in their own prison wing,on the condition that they keep a low profile and not to mention the attempted coup.
In the aftermath of ‘Operation Anvil’, there were indications that Pretoria and Victoria, the capital of Seychelles, had concluded in a secret agreement. In exchange for the release of 6 South African prisoners still being held in the Seychelles, the South African government promised to refrain from future actions against the Rene regime, and help guarantee Seychellois security, and provide an indemnity payment to Seychelles.
It was also romoured that most of the mercenaries received $1000 and that a further a $10,000 would be paid if the coup was successful.
In January 1982 an International Commission, appointed by the UN Security Council, inquired into the attempted coup d'état. The UN report concluded that South African defense agencies were involved, including supplying weapons and ammunition.
During 1982 The Seychelles government stopped an attempted Army mutiny.
While under detention (or was it house arrest?) its widely believed that Mike Hoare used the time to build a rather large world data base of names of would be mercenaries who would be interested in this type of work for future reference. Although there is no proof that any of this information has been used?
On 7th May 1985, Colonel Hoare gained his freedom as a result of a general presidential pardon.
In 1986 another coup attempt against the René regime occurred, supposedly involving the United States, France, and Britain. In addition to this foreign connection, the plot, known as Operation ‘Distant Lash’, included thirty mercenaries and some 350 partisans in Seychelles. The figurehead of this coup attempt was Minister of Defense Ogilvy Berlouis who reportedly was groomed to be the country's new pro-Western president. The security forces uncovered the conspiracy before the plotters could act and subsequently arrested Berlouis. The government also forced several Seychelles People's Liberation Army (SPLA) officers to resign.
In July 1987, British police uncovered yet another plot to overthrow the René regime and to abduct leading members of the South African opposition movement, the African National Congress (ANC), who were based in London. The authorities eventually arrested four men and charged them with conspiracy to kidnap the ANC members, the charges were later withdrawn because of insufficient evidence.
1991 President Rene restored a multiparty democracy to the Islands.
In July 1992, Pretoria announced that it would pay Victoria about 8 million rand in compensation for Operation ‘Anvil’. Since then, Seychellois South African relations have improved to the point that, on November 8, 1993, the two countries established diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level.
(From 1993 to 1998 Rene was re-elected in all the multiparty ballots).
14th October 1997 When question by the South African Press Association about South African involvement in the 1981 Coup, retired foreign affairs minister Pik Botha seemed to have a problem remembering many of the fine details.
During 1998 Rene's Seychelles Progressive People's Front won 30 out of 34 seats in parliamentary elections.
Also In 1998 the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission ruled that the South African Government was responsible for the attempted coup and attack back in 1981.
In September 2001 President Rene won another term in office with 54% of the vote, beating opposition candidate Wavel Ramkalawan who won 45% of the votes.
time.com 14th December 1981
time.com 9th August 1982
Other articles of interest about the Seychelles Islands