Seychelles Table of Contents
Defense Forces: All services under army; total forces of 800 persons in 1994, including 300 in Presidential Guard. Army has one infantry battalion and two artillery elements. Paramilitary forces include national guard of 1,000 persons, coast guard estimated at 300 members including 100-member air wing and eighty marines. Defense budget in 1993 estimated at US$15.9 million.
THE REPUBLIC OF SEYCHELLES, one of the world's smallest nations, comprises 115 islands, including a central granitic group and more than seventy widely scattered coral islands. Most of the population is a relatively homogeneous mixture of European and African descent and lives on the main granitic island of Mahé. Before the opening of commercial airline links in 1971, Seychelles had a plantation economy heavily dependent on exports of copra and cinnamon. Tourism has since become the most important sector of economic life.
Claiming jurisdiction over more than 1 million square kilometers of productive fishing grounds, Seychelles has profited from the fees and commercial activity produced by foreign fishing fleets, from the export of fresh and frozen fish of its domestic fishing fleet, and from a tuna cannery operated jointly with French interests. Although Seychelles is vulnerable to fluctuations in the world economy, per capita income is high by developing country standards. Its citizens benefit from a modern social welfare system and free health care and schools.
The nation was a French possession until 1814. In that year the British took control, administering it first as a dependency of Mauritius and after 1903 as a crown colony (see Glossary). Seychelles was granted independence on June 29, 1976. In June 1977 a coup brought to power a leftist government with France Albert René as president and his party, the socialist-oriented Seychelles People's (SPUP) as ruling group. From 1977 through 1991, the René government dominated political life and controlled all phases of the economy. Dissent was forbidden, and opposition figures were forced to flee the country. In 1992 a multiparty system was restored, and in July 1993, after a new constitution was approved by referendum, the nation held free elections. René's Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF--the new name of the SPUP following the 1979 constitution) won easily, defeating the Democratic Party (DP) of former president James Mancham and a coalition of smaller opposition parties.
Data as of August 1994