Sir James Richard Marie Mancham
Founding President of the Republic of Seychelles
Sir James R. Mancham (KBE) and PhD, born 1939 in Mahé, Seychelles, was the first President of the small archipelago Islands from 1976 to 1977. Sir James is also an Officer de la Legion d’Honneur of France. He has been awarded the Medal of the City of Pusan in the Republic of Korea and the Quaid – I Azam of Pakistan.
Portuguese sailors discovered the Seychelles Islands in the early 16th Century.
In 1756, the French named the group of Islands in honour of Vicomte Moreau des Sechelle, Minister of Finance to Louis XV. The French thereby took possession of them. Its critical role in European trade generated serious competition for colonization both in the East and West. The Islands were finally ceded to Great Britain by the first Treaty of Paris in 1814.
From a wealthy family, Mancham was sent to London to study law. He returned to the Seychelles to practice as a barrister and attorney. This was the same period that Britain decided to grant its colonies more autonomy. Mancham founded the Seychelles Democratic Party (S.D.P) in 1964 as a way to enhance self – government, whilst remaining under British supervision.
After Britain gave independence to the nation, Mancham was elected First Chief Minister and then elected as President in 1976, having beaten the opposition party, the Seychelles People’s United Party (S.P.U.P) founded by Albert René. He was also actively involved in promoting Seychelles tourism and proposed the building of an international airport, which soon improved the economy.
While Mancham was in London at a Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, which coincided with the Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, René staged a coup d’état on 5th June 1977 and set up a Soviet – backed government that was in office until the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. During this period Mancham was forced to live in exile for fifteen years in the UK, but became a formidable businessman.
In April 1992, Mancham returned as the “Apostle of National Reconciliation” to the Seychelles and by working with the people who had deposed him, he made it his priority to restore the economy, national peace and reconciliation. Together with René and the Seychelles People Progressive Front (S.P.P.F) a new constitution was drafted and Seychelles would become a multi – party democracy. The S.P.P.F was victorious in the following elections, and are still the ruling party today.
Not only has Mancham become an ambassador of national reconciliation, but also an advocate for global reconciliation. He is aware of the problems other African countries, former Soviet bloc states and many developing countries around the world face, and he works relentlessly to advance international peace.
As a result, he is an influential actor on the international stage. He is President of the Global Peace Council of the Universal Peace Federation (U.P.F) and is involved in the Inter - religious and International Federation for World Peace (I.I.F.W.P), both organisations with the objective of world peace. He is also President of Seychelles First Movement, a Non – Governmental – Organization and often attends conferences organized by the World Association of Non – Governmental Organisations (W.A.N.G.O) as he strongly believes that dialogue and diplomacy between nations are essentials in maintaining world peace and security. He has also attended and participated in the European Centre for Peace Development (E.C.D.P) conferences. Mancham was one of many officials in Geneva to launch the World Future Council (W.F.C.). As a member of numerous other international peace organisations, he has been engaged in the promotion of peace in nations like Kenya, Korea, Kosovo, Serbia, and many in the Middle East. As well as being involved on the international stage, Mancham is concerned about the future and the security of the Seychelles. The geo-political position of the Seychelles means that it is at great risk from Somali pirates and Mancham is trying to reduce this risk.
Mancham is also engaged with the power struggle in the Indian Ocean, known as the world’s largest energy and trade seaway. The Seychelles, situated in the Indian Ocean, is the centre of the superpower rivalry of China and India. The U.S.A is interested in peace in that region, but as Mancham states, without an embassy in Seychelles diplomatic work is unthinkable.
Furthermore, Mancham has written a number of books, some of which include: Paradise Raped, a novel about the Coup, and War on American seen from the Indian Ocean (written after the 9/11 attacks), Adages and Piece of Mind. His autobiography, Seychelles Global Citizen: The Autobiography of the Founding President of the Republic of Seychelles has been a major success.
Overthrown and forced into exile from his own country, Sir James Mancham returned to his beloved home and has dedicated himself to establishing national reconciliation as well as global peace.