The Republic of Seychelles (say-SHELLS or say-SHELL) (Creole: Repiblik Sesel) is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, some 1,600 km east of mainland Africa, northeast of the island of Madagascar. Other nearby island countries and territories include Mauritius and Réunion to the south, Comoros to the southwest, and the Maldives to the northeast.
Main article: History of Seychelles
While Arab traders were probably the first to visit the uninhabited Seychelles, the first recorded sighting of them took place in 1505, by the Portuguese. As a transit point for trading between Africa and Asia, they were occasionally used by pirates until the French began to take control of the islands starting in 1756, naming them after Jean Moreau de Sechelles , the then French finance minister.
The British contested control over the islands with the French between 1794 and 1811, with the British eventually gaining the upper hand and being ceded the islands in 1814. The Seychelles became a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903 and independence was granted in 1976, as a republic within the Commonwealth. The 1979 constitution declared a socialist one-party state, which lasted until 1992.
Main article: Politics of Seychelles
The Seychellois president, who is both head of state and head of government, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term of office. The previous president, France-Albert René, was democratically elected after the constitutional reforms of 1992, though he had been in power since a coup d'état in 1977. He stood down in 2004 in favour of his vice-president, James Michel. The cabinet is presided over and appointed by the president, subject to the approval of a majority of the legislature.
The unicameral Seychellois parliament, the National Assembly or Assemblée Nationale, consists of 34 members, of whom 25 are elected directly by popular vote, while the remaining 9 seats are appointed proportionally according to the percentage of votes received by each party. All members serve five-year terms.
Main article: Districts of Seychelles
Seychelles is divided into 23 administrative regions, called districts:
- Anse aux Pins
- Anse Boileau
- Anse Etoile
- Anse Louis
- Anse Royale
- Baie Lazare
- Baie Sainte Anne
- Beau Vallon
- Bel Air
- Bel Ombre
- Grand' Anse (Mahe)
- Grand' Anse (Praslin)
- La Digue
- La Riviere Anglaise
- Mont Buxton
- Mont Fleuri
- Pointe La Rue
- Port Glaud
- Saint Louis
Main article: Geography of Seychelles
The Seychelles constitute an archipelago in the Indian Ocean of about 115 islands, of which 33 are inhabited. The group of islands around Mahé consist of granite and are the largest and most populated of the country. The remaining outer group consists of smaller coralline atolls. The capital city, Port Victoria, is situated on Mahé, which is the largest island and home to about 80% of the total population, as well as the Seychelles' highest point, the Morne Seychellois at 905 m.
The local climate is tropical, tempered by marine influences and fairly humid. The southeast monsoon is a generally cooler season which lasts from late May to September, while the warmer northwest monsoon lasts from March to May. The Seychelles are fortunate to lay outside the tropical cyclone belt.
Seychelles largely escaped the Asian Tsunami of December 2004 spawned by an earthquake. However, the islands did see significant flooding and damage - as well as large loss of marine life and deathtoll of three persons.
Main article: Economy of Seychelles
Since independence in 1976, per capita output has expanded to roughly seven times the old near-subsistence level. Growth has been led by the tourist sector, which employs about 30% of the labour force and provides more than 70% of hard currency earnings, and by tuna fishing. In recent years the government has encouraged foreign investment in order 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. The vulnerability of the tourist sector was illustrated by the sharp drop in 1991-1992 due largely to the Gulf War and once again following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US. Other issues facing the government are the curbing of the budget deficit, including the containment of social welfare costs, and further privatisation of public enterprises.
Growth slowed in 1998-2001, due to sluggish tourist and tuna sectors. Also, tight controls on exchange rates and the scarcity of foreign exchange have impaired short-term economic prospects. The black market value of the Seychelles rupee is half the official exchange rate; without a devaluation of the currency the tourist sector should remain sluggish as tourists seek cheaper destinations such as nearby Comoros, Mauritius, and Madagascar.
Main article: Demographics of Seychelles
As the islands of the Seychelles had no indigenous population, the current Seychellois are composed of immigrants, mostly of French, African, Indian and Chinese descent. French and English are official languages along with a French-based Creole. Most Seychellois are Christians, mostly Catholics.
Main article: Culture of Seychelles