The Seychelles is comprised of a series of islands in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Kenya. Alhough the country was originally discovered by Portuguese explorers, it was the French who ultimately turned the islands into a colony. The Seychelles remained a French colony until 1814, when the Treaty of Paris awarded them to Great Britain. Over time, several political parties developed in the Seychelles, and by 1974, two of them called for independence. Representatives from the Seychelles negotiated with the British and gained the islands’ independence on June 29, 1976. A short-lived coalition government was formed, with Chief Minister James Mancham as president. But division between the political parties led to a Marxist coup in 1977 that overthrew Mancham and installed Albert René. In the wake of the coup Mancham was said to have remarked, “It is no big heroic deed to take over the Seychelles. Twenty-five people with sticks could seize control.”
Lay of the Land: The Seychelles are an archipelago of about 115 islands lying near the equator in the Indian Ocean. Its capital city of Victoria, is located approximately1,000 miles east of Kenya on the island of Mahé—one of Seychelles’ major islands along with Praslin and La Digue. Approximately 90% of Seychelles’ population resides on Mahé, which amounts to about 80,000 people. All of the Seychelles’ islands are comprised of mostly granite and coral, and some may have areas that reach elevations up to 940 meters high. In addition, the islands usually contain coastal plains and or coral reefs. The climate is tropical, highly humid, and generally has little seasonal variation. However, the islands may experience cooler weather during the southeast monsoon season that occurs from May to September.
Portuguese explorers discovered the Seychelles in 1505, though Arabs may have visited the islands earlier. The Seychelles remained uninhabited until 1742, when the French governor of Mauritius, Mahe de Labourdonais, sent an expedition to the islands. In 1756, a second French expedition claimed the islands for France, and gave them their name, in honor of the French finance minister under King Louis XV. A colony on the islands began to flourish in 1794, when Queau de Quincy became commandant.
Seychelles Nation (Government Daily)
The United States began its presence on the Seychelles in 1963, when a US Air Force tracking station was built and put into operation on Mahe. The US paid $4.5 million per year to lease the land for the station from the Seychelles government. Five Air Force personnel, 65 employees of Loral Corporation and Johnson Instruments, and 150 Seychellois employees occupied the station. It closed down on September 30, 1996.
Current relations between the US and Seychelles are cordial, according to the State Department.
In 2009, the United States imported $6.3 million woth of goods from the Seychelles. In that same year, the United States exported $34.1 in goods and services to the Seychelles. The largest US import category from Seychelles is scientific, medical and hospital equipment, which amounted to $3.9 million. The largest US export from Seychelles is Civilian aircraft, engines, equipment, and parts at $26.9 million.
The State Department reported the following human rights problems in the Seychelles during 2009: “Prolonged pretrial detention; abuse of detainees; an inefficient and politically influenced court system; restrictions on speech, press, and assembly; official corruption; violence against women and children; violations of and restrictions on labor rights; and discrimination against foreign workers”.
Anthony D. Marshall
Appointment: Jun 30, 1976
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 1, 1976
Termination of Mission: Left Nairobi Apr 26, 1977
Note: Also accredited to Kenya; resident at Nairobi.
The Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles (population: 85,000), located about 1,000 miles east of Kenya and 900 miles northeast of Madagascar, sent a new ambassador to the U.S. in September 2012. Marie-Louise Potter succeeded Ronald Jean Jumeau, who had served as ambassador from Seychelles since September 2007, and is now ambassador for Climate Change and Small Island Developing States, resident in New York.
Born on March 15, 1959, in Seychelles, Potter earned degrees in political and social sciences in Seychelles and Cuba.
In 1992 and 1993, she was a delegate of the Seychelles People’s Party (Parti Lepep), then known as the Seychelles Progressive People’s Front (SPPF), to the constitutional commission that drew up the present Constitution of the Third Republic of Seychelles.
Potter served two consecutive terms as SPPF Member of the National Assembly for Beau Vallon, between 1993 and 2002, and was the director of the Ministry of Local Government, Youth and Sports in 1993.
First elected to the Parti Lepep Central Committee in 2005, and re-elected in January 2012, from 2007 to mid-2012, Potter was Leader of Government Business in Parliament. She caused a stir in September 2010 when she stated that some members of the Parti Lepep did not have sufficient education or technical knowledge to understand the content and meaning of bills placed before them.
Nominated for her first ambassadorship by Seychellois President James Michel on March 30, 2012, Potter presented her credentials to President Obama on September 19. She is concurrently accredited as permanent representative to the United Nations and will be accredited to other nearby countries in the future.
Potter is married and has three children.
As a career diplomat with more than three decades of involvement in international affairs, Mary Jo Wills was confirmed by the United States Senate as the Ambassador to Mauritius and the Seychelles in December of 2009.