Opposition Movements and Interest Groups
Most domestic critics of the government had been silenced by harassment or had been forced into exile during the period of one-party rule from 1977 to 1991. Opposition groups, about which little information is available, included the Movement for Resistance (Mouvement pour la Résistance), the Seychelles Liberation Committee, and the Seychelles Popular Anti-Marxist Front. Government control over the press and radio and television broadcasts also made it difficult for any opposition views to be heard, although newspapers printed by exiles were smuggled in from abroad or received by fax. The Roman Catholic and Anglican churches were allowed to comment on social and political issues during broadcasts of religious services, which each was allowed on alternate Sundays. The Roman Catholic bishop exercised a degree of influence and was regarded as one of the few checks against abuse by the René regime.
Until 1992 the Seychelles government tolerated no manifestation of domestic opposition, and opposition figures were forced to carry on their anti-SPPF campaigns from abroad, mainly in London. One exile leader, Gérard Hoarau, head of the Seychelles National Movement, was assassinated in 1985 in a crime that the British police were unable to solve.
The leading member of the exile community, however, was Mancham, former head of the Seychelles Democratic Party who was overthrown as president in 1977. In April 1992, Mancham returned to Seychelles to revive his political movement. Since 1989 Mancham had mounted what he called a "fax revolution" from London by sending facsimile messages designed to stir up opposition to the 200 fax machines in Seychelles. His program, entitled the Crusade for Democracy, was intended to restore democracy to Seychelles peacefully. Data transmitted by fax included accounts of human rights violations in Seychelles and charges of corruption of the René regime. René's government made it illegal to circulate a seditious fax in Seychelles, but fax owners eluded this regulation by photocopying the original before turning it in to the police. René then sought to counter the criticism through a government media campaign, but in so doing he admitted the existence of an opposition in Seychelles. The end result was that he was obliged to give way and allow multiparty democracy to exist. René recognized Mancham as official Leader of the Opposition, and Mancham received a salary as a government employee with various perquisites.
A third opposition leader was Anglican clergyman Wavel Ramkalanan. In a 1990 radio sermon, Ramkalanan denounced violations of human rights by the René government. Although forced off the air, he continued to distribute copies of his sermons charging government corruption. Ramkalanan formed the Parti Seselwa when the government lifted its political ban but obtained only a 4.4 percent return in the 1992 election for delegates. The Parti Seselwa and five other newly registered parties allied themselves with Mancham's NDP but later broke away to form the United Opposition Party, charging Mancham with being too willing to compromise with René and the SPPF.
The Roman Catholic Church continued to wage opposition to the René regime. In early 1993, the Roman Catholic bishop appeared before the constitutional commission several times to complain about past human rights violations by the René government. He also demanded that the new constitution adopt a ban on abortion and provide for religious education in the schools.
|Country Studies main page | Seychelles Country Studies main page|