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Seychelles Islands History & Safari Information

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HISTORY OF THE SEYCHELLES ISLANDS
Early History
The first record of the Seychelles was in 1502, when Portugal's Vasco da Gama purportedly explored the islands, although Arab traders may have actually visited them much earlier. Later on, during the 16th century, the islands were frequented and some were even named by the Portuguese. In 1742, the French Governor of Mauritius, Mahe de Labourdonais, sent an expedition to the islands. A second expedition in 1756 reasserted formal possession by France and gave the islands their present name in honor of the French finance minister under King Louis XV, Moreau of Seychelles. The new French colony barely survived its first decade and did not begin to flourish until 1794, when Queau de Quincy became commandant.

In 1768 French planters and their slaves began to settle in the Seychelles. In 1771, a year after settling in, Pierre Poivre started the first plantation industry in Seychelles with a view to compete with the Dutch in the European spice trade. During that period Seychelles was also being used as a transit point for slaves from Africa, India, Madagascar and other countries. A few were retained here to work for their masters. The geographical location of Seychelles also made it ideal for both the French and the British during their respective reign of the islands to send all those who they wanted to get rid off for various reasons (Isolation, punishment). To name just a few the Dauphin of France, Louis XVII, son of Louis XVI, King Prempeh of Ghana, the archbishop Makarios of Cyprus (later upon his return to his country became the President of Cyprus).

In 1794 Britain annexed the Seychelles, which were then administered from Mauritius. However, for the thirteen years which followed, the islands changed hands seven times between the French and the British. In 1811 after a series of sea battles Seychelles was occupied by the British. In 1814 the Treaty of Paris rendered both Seychelles and Mauritius formally British. A year later this cession was sanctioned and the Seychelles became under the dependence of Mauritius. In 1835 Seychelles saw the abolishment of slavery and 1853 the establishment of the Roman catholic church, two important events in the history of Seychelles.

From the date of its founding by the French until 1903, the Seychelles Colony was regarded as a dependency of Mauritius, which also passed from the French to British rule in 1814. In 1888, a separate administrator and executive and administrative councils were established for the Seychelles archipelago. Nine years later, the administrator acquired full powers of a British colonial governor, and on 31 August 1903, Seychelles became a separate British Crown colony.

In 1948 the first elections to a legislative council took place. In 1964 the first political parties are formed: France Albert Rene's socialist Seychelles People's United Party and James Mancham's pro-business Seychelles Democratic Party. In March 1970, colonial and political representatives of Seychelles met in London for a constitutional convention. Elections in November 1970 brought a resulting constitution into effect. Further elections were held in April 1974, in which both major political parties campaigned for independence. Following this election, negotiations with the British resulted in an agreement by which Seychelles became a sovereign republic on June 29, 1976. These negotiations also restored the islands of Aldabra, Farquhar, and Des Roches, which had been transferred from Seychelles in November 1965 to form part of the new British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) to Seychelles upon independence.

Contemporary History
Just a year after independence in 1976, the Seychelles appeared to be heading down the path of instability which has blocked the development of many African states. In 1977, supporters of Prime Minister, France Rene, overthrew the President, James Mancham (ostensibly without Rene's knowledge) and Rene was installed as the new President. Rene embarked on a program aimed at giving poorer people a greater share of the country's wealth. His coup, though bloodless, resulted in about 10,000 islanders fleeing the country.

In 1978 Rene enacts a new constitution, turning the Seychelles into a one-party state. Four years later, in 1981, with the help of Tanzanian troops, Rene thwarted an attempt by South African mercenaries to restore Mancham. An army mutiny in 1982, followed by several attempted coups, suffered a similar fate. However, in 1991, possibly in response to pressure from foreign creditors and aid donors, Rene restored multiparty democracy and went on to win the presidential elections in 1993 and 1998. His party, the Seychelles People's Progressive Front, won parliamentary elections by a landslide in 1998. He also endorsed a shift towards a free-market economy. Rene's opponents say that despite the return to multiparty democracy, the repressive atmosphere of a one-party state continues to prevail.

President France-Albert RENE, who had served since 1977, was re-elected in 2001, but stepped down in 2004. Vice President James MICHEL took over the presidency and in July 2006 was elected to a new five-year term.


GENERAL INFORMATION ON SEYCHELLES
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Officially called Republic of Seychelles
The original name of Seychelles is "Seven Sisters", given by the Portuguese.

Political Summary

A lengthy struggle between France and Great Britain for the islands ended in 1814, when they were ceded to the latter. Independence from Great Britain came 29 June 1976. Socialist rule was brought to a close with a new constitution and free elections in 1993.

Chief of state: President James MICHEL (since 14 April 2004); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government.
Cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president.
Elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for two more terms); election last held 28-30 July 2006 (next to be held in 2011).
Election Results: President James MICHEL elected president; percent of vote - James MICHEL 53.73%, Wavel RAMKALAWAN 45.71%, Philippe BOULLE 0.56%; note - this was the first election in which President James MICHEL participated; he was originally sworn in as president after former president France Albert RENE stepped down in April 2004.

Geography
The are 40 granitic and about 50 coralline islands. The Mahe Group is granitic, narrow coastal strip, rocky, hilly; others are coral, flat, elevated reefs.  The islands lie outside the cyclone belt, so severe storms are rare; short droughts possible.

Ethnicity
The Seychelles have a population of 82,247 (July 2008 est). The ethnic groups consist of mixed French, African, Indian, Chinese, and Arab. Religious summary: Roman Catholic 82.3%, Anglican 6.4%, Seventh Day Adventist 1.1%, other Christian 3.4%, Hindu 2.1%, Muslim 1.1%, other non-Christian 1.5%, unspecified 1.5%, none 0.6% (2002 census).

English (4.9%) is the official language, but the majority of the people (91.8%) speak Creole.

The Flag
Seychelles' FlagThe National flag The new flag is made up of five oblique bands of blue, yellow, red, white and green (from left to right) representing a dynamic young country moving into a new future. The colour blue depicts the sky and the sea that surrounds the Seychelles. Yellow is for the sun which gives light and life, red symbolizes the people and their determination to work for the future in unity and love, whilst the white band represents social justice and harmony. The green depicts the land and natural environment.

Climate
The climate is tropical marine; humid; cooler season during southeast monsoon (late May to September); warmer season during northwest monsoon (March to May).

Industry / Economy
Since independence in 1976, per capita output in this Indian Ocean archipelago has expanded to roughly seven times the pre-independence, near-subsistence level, moving the island into the upper-middle income group of countries. Growth has been led by the tourist sector, which employs about 30% of the labor force and provides more than 70% of hard currency earnings, and by tuna fishing. In recent years, the government has encouraged foreign investment to upgrade hotels and other services. At the same time, the government has moved to reduce the dependence on tourism by promoting the development of farming, fishing, and small-scale manufacturing.

Sharp drops illustrated the vulnerability of the tourist sector in 1991-92 due largely to the Gulf War and once again following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US. Economic growth slowed in 1998-2002 and fell in 2003-04, due to sluggish tourist and tuna sectors, but resumed in 2005-07. Real GDP grew by 5.8% in 2007, driven by tourism and a boom in tourism-related construction. The Seychelles rupee was allowed to depreciate in 2006 after being overvalued for years and fell by 10% in the first 9 months of 2007.

The local currency is the Seychelles Rupee.
Recent historical exchange rates are as follows: Rupees per US dollar - 16.728 (12/31/2008); 7.887 (12/31/2007); 5.475 (12/31/2006); 5.638 (12/31/2005); 5.467 (12/31/2004); 5.178 (12/31/2003); 5.668 (12/31/2002); 6.049 (12/31/2001); 6.262 (12/31/2000); 5.366 (12/31/1999); 5.452 (12/31/1998); 5.130 (12/31/1997).

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