The Seychelles in self-examination with the help of a new peace research center

Countless testimonies of violence have bubbled to the surface in recent months. After the coup 40 years ago, the Seychelles social climate has been marked by political repression. A newly started peace research center works together with the National Assembly for national reconciliation. - It is time to stop silencing this now, says a local cultural profile.

Less than a year after the declaration of independence in 1976, the new government was turned upside down in the Seychelles, an island nation located east of Kenya in the Indian Ocean, perhaps best known for its paradise beaches. The then Prime Minister and independence activist France-Albert René took power from the popularly elected Sir James Mancham, recently knighted by the British Kingdom. René's government declared the Seychelles a one-party state.

- We must deal with our past in order to become a center of peace today, says Dennis Hardy. Photo: Michel Denousse

- Life here was marked by fear after that. René's government was afraid that the opposition would overthrow them. To prevent this, they in turn intimidated anyone who might claim power, says Professor Dennis Hardy, chairman of the board of Sir James Mancham International Center for Peace Studies and Diplomacy (JMPC).

The JMPC Peace Research Center, inaugurated in August this year, is named after former President Mancham. The coup forced him into exile in Britain, after which he began a successful career as a lawyer and peacemaker. Mancham returned to the Seychelles in 1992 and, in symbiosis with the then-incumbent President René, succeeded in opening up a multi-party system, which to this day has ensured a stable democracy for the island nation.

- The Seychelles is a peaceful nation, especially in the international arena, and we have a vision to become a forum for global peacebuilding, explains Hardy, who has been involved since the start of the party-politically independent peace research center.

- But to be credible in our establishment of a peace research center, we must examine ourselves first, he continues.

Since March this year, citizens have been invited to submit testimonies about what they or their loved ones have experienced during the political repression. Descriptions of how people were forced into exile, kidnapped, robbed of farmland and detained without legal reasons have been communicated to the National Assembly's Truth Committee. A report has been submitted to the government, which in this now deals with the question of what measures need to be taken to reconcile the people. In the meantime, the JMPC is compiling a book on the abuses that have taken place, in order to give further recognition to the victims. The reconciliation process is actively supported by experts from South Africa, who worked with the nation's Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the abolition of the apartheid system.

- The country is so small that everyone in one way or another knows someone who has been directly affected by the oppression. Even if the abuses do not have the same proportions as in South Africa, we need to do something to move forward, says a local cultural profile who wishes to remain anonymous. Hen believes, however, that not everyone shares that opinion:

While tourists enjoy the Seychelles' paradise-like beaches, old injustices bubble beneath the surface.
Photo: Penstones, Pixabay

- I just do not know if we are ready for the truth yet, do not know if people dare to speak yet. Most recently a few months ago, two government employees disappeared without a trace and my theory is that the motives are political.

In parallel with the work of reconciliation, extensive work with the creation of international peace research forums and national educations in diplomacy is in the starting blocks. In doing so, the JMPC Peace Research Center wants to put the Seychelles on the diplomatic map and make the Seychelles even more of a paradise on earth.

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