Seychelles Table of Contents
Officials characterize the nation's foreign policy as one of "positive nonalignment," under which the country pursues an active and independent course in the conduct of its international relations. Seychelles is a member of the United Nations (UN) and a number of related agencies, including the IMF. It is also a member of the Commonwealth, which has assisted it in transition to multiparty democracy; the Organization of African Unity (OAU); and the Nonaligned Movement. In 1984 Seychelles became linked with Mauritius and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC); later joined by Comoros and France on behalf of Reunion, the IOC seeks to promote economic cooperation in the region and expand interisland trade.
Although the René government often has sided with the more radical members and causes of the Nonaligned Movement, neither the positions taken nor the radical rhetoric in which they were expressed have been allowed to interfere with essentially pragmatic decisions directly affecting the nation's interests. Seychelles is particularly active in promoting the concept of the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace, campaigning for the removal of all foreign powers and bases in the region. It is committed to seeking the end of the United States naval presence on Diego Garcia, an island territory of Britain situated about 1,900 kilometers east of Mahé. In a spirit of solidarity with the more radical states of the nonaligned spectrum, Seychelles has pursued political ties with the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Libya, Cuba, Iraq, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea). It has supported the former Soviet Union on such controversial issues as its invasion of Afghanistan.
Seychelles also seeks to strengthen its relations with the littoral nations of the Indian Ocean. Such states include other island governments such as those of French-administered Reunion, and independent Maldives and Mauritius as well as more distant nations such as India, Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Kenya. India has been a source of funding for Seychelles projects and in October 1990 René paid his third visit to the country following the first meeting of the Indo-Seychelles Joint Commission. The body has continued to meet biennially to discuss common trade, investment, and communications matters. In addition, the navies of the two countries cooperate. In February 1992, the Seychelles minister of education visited Bangladesh to expand bilateral cooperation in education, literacy programs, and rural development. Relations with the Tanzanian government were especially close during the early years of the René regime. Tanzanians had helped train and equip the initiators of the coup that brought René to power, and Tanzanian advisers had helped establish and train the Seychelles People's Liberation Army. With both Tanzania and Kenya, Seychelles has discussed sharing labor resources and with Tanzania, the sharing of its EEZ, tourism promotion, and air flights.
In a practical sense, Seychelles' links with the countries of the West have been much more significant than its political kinship with more radical developing countries. Seychelles has succeeded in attracting relatively large amounts of aid; foreign assistance per capita was US$223 annually in 1975-79, US$295 in 1980-85, and US$331 in 1985-90. France has been the leading donor, providing US$53.9 million in bilateral assistance between 1982 and 1990, in addition to contributions through the World Bank and the EC. Loans placed through the Seychelles Development Bank and direct investments are also important. Examples of projects France has funded for Seychelles included in 1990 assistance to the television station to promote broadcasting in French and provision of devices to improve airport security. Britain has been second in total aid, supplying US$26.1 million in the 1982-90 period. Australia has extended modest amounts of aid, primarily in the form of education and training programs, as part of its efforts to become more fully engaged in the Indian Ocean region. Before the Soviet Union broke up in 1990, it was a significant contributor, granting such aid as fuel oil to assist in patrolling the EEZ. The relative prosperity of the islands has brought a decline in aid from most sources. The British aid level had fallen to about US$1.5 million annually in 1991.
In addition to Peace Corps volunteers working in Seychelles, United States assistance, which earlier amounted to US$3.3 million annually, was US$1.3 million in fiscal year (FY--see Glossary) 1993. The preeminent feature of United States-Seychelles relations over the preceding thirty years was the United States Air Force satellite tracking station situated on Mahé on land leased from Seychelles at US$4.5 million annually as of 1993. The Seychelles economy benefits by a further US$5 to US$6 million annually in local spending linked to the station. The facility's complement consists of four uniformed air force personnel, about seventy-five civilian contract personnel who operate the equipment, and some 175 Seychellois employees. United States naval vessels periodically pay calls at Victoria. Restrictions on British and United States ships carrying nuclear weapons had not been enforced since 1983.
Furthermore, Seychelles has sought to promote economic relations particularly with countries from which it might receive loan assistance. For example, it obtained a US$1 million loan for elementary education in December 1988 from the OPEC Fund for International Development. In August 1990 Seychelles signed an agreement on economic and technological cooperation with China.
The Seychelles government condemned apartheid policies in South Africa and joined in the voting in the OAU for trade sanctions. Although René declared that his government would take steps to reduce Seychelles' reliance on South African products, South Africa's relatively low prices and short delivery times have in fact brought South Africa a growing share of Seychelles' trade. In 1991 South Africa accounted for 13.5 percent of total imports. Numerous factors combined to curtail tourism from South Africa in the early 1980s--the René government's hostility, the apparent South African involvement in the 1981 coup attempt, a reduction in air links, and the recession in South Africa. Beginning in 1988, however, tourist arrivals began to increase dramatically, climbing to 13,570 in 1993.
As negotiations proceeded to convert to a multiracial political system in Pretoria, Seychelles modified its hostile political stance, agreeing to enter into commercial and consular relations in April 1992. South Africa also agreed in August 1992 to pay compensation of US$3 million for the abortive 1981 coup. In November 1993 the two countries agreed to establish relations at the ambassadorial level.
* * *
The Seychelles: Unquiet Islands by Marcus F. Franda is an indispensable introduction to the islands' history and society, covering political developments until 1982. An important sociological study, based on fieldwork in 1974-75, is Men, Women, and Money in Seychelles by Marion and Burton Benedict. James R. Mancham's Paradise Raped: Life, Love, and Power in the Seychelles provides helpful political background up to 1983. The quarterly reports and annual profile by the Economist Intelligence Unit provide a record of current political and economic developments. The annual reports of the Central Bank of Seychelles contain assessments of the performance of the various sectors of the economy and future prospects. Because relatively little is published on the Seychelles, the reader must rely on such publications as Africa Economic Digest, Africa Report, New African, Africa Contemporary Record, Economist, Indian Ocean Newsletter, Marchés tropicaux et méditerranéens, and Africa Research Bulletin. The United States Department of State's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices contains brief but useful appraisals of political and social conditions in Seychelles. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)
Data as of August 1994
Seychelles Table of Contents