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Security Concerns

Seychelles confronts no external security threat. However, during the Cold War, Seychelles faced several threats from foreign powers interested in the country's strategic position astride the Indian Ocean's oil-tanker lanes. In particular, President France Albert René feared South African aggression. On at least two occasions, he accused South Africa of trying to overthrow his regime. Both incidents involved Colonel "Mad Mike" Hoare, a mercenary who allegedly had been acting on behalf of the South African government. The first coup attempt occurred in November 1979, when René announced that he had foiled a plot "sponsored from abroad with the cooperation of mercenaries standing ready in Durban." The authorities arrested but later released eighty coup plotters. Although a South African connection could not be ruled out, some Western observers believed the affair was French-inspired.

The second, more serious coup attempt occurred on November 25, 1981, when a group of forty-five European mercenaries, led by Colonel Hoare, arrived at Mahé International Airport on a commercial flight from Swaziland to overthrow the René regime. The Seychellois authorities quickly thwarted the coup attempt, known as Operation Anvil, and the mercenaries hijacked an Air India plane and forced the captain to fly them to Durban, South Africa. As soon as the aircraft arrived, the South African police arrested all the mercenaries. Several of the mercenaries, including Colonel Hoare, served time in jail for their involvement in Operation Anvil. On May 7, 1985, Colonel Hoare gained his freedom as a result of a general presidential pardon.

In the aftermath of Operation Anvil, there were indications that Pretoria and Victoria, the capital of Seychelles, had concluded a secret agreement. In exchange for the release of South African prisoners in Seychelles, the South African government promised to refrain from future actions against the René regime, help guarantee Seychellois security, and provide an indemnity payment to Seychelles. 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.

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. Also, the government 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.

Since independence numerous internal threats against the Seychellois government have arisen. After overthrowing James Mancham's regime on June 5, 1977, 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 the René regime.

Resentment caused thousands of Seychellois to go into exile and to organize an array of opposition groups seeking to overthrow René. 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. The Movement for Resistance (Mouvement pour la Résistance), which sought to restore democracy in Seychelles, indicated that about 100 of its members had financed the November 1981 coup attempt. The Seychelles Liberation Committee, 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 in Seychelles, Britain, and Australia. The Seychelles Popular Anti-Marxist Front (SPAMF) declared that it had unsuccessfully tried to persuade the South African government to support a SPAMF coup attempt against René. Most Western observers believed that, notwithstanding the November 1981 coup attempt, these exile organizations had little chance of effecting a change of government in Seychelles, largely because they had few supporters in the country and minimal resources. With the end of the Cold War and the emergence of multiparty politics in Seychelles, the external and internal threats against the René regime have dissipated.

Data as of August 1994

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