VICTORIA (Seychelles), Feb 27 — Former president of Seychelles France-Albert Rene, who seized power in a coup and stayed in power for nearly three decades, died today aged 83, state television said.
Rene, who died in hospital, was the “modern day architect of Seychelles”, President Danny Faure said in a statement.
“He was a true patriot who cared about his country and his people.”
Rene, who studied as a lawyer in London, served as prime minister before overthrowing the archipelago’s founding president James Mancham in a bloodless coup in 1977.
“Rene’s vision was nothing less than acquiring and retaining absolute power for himself at all costs,” said Paul Chow, a former member of parliament who was forced into exile under his rule. “He should be judged not on what he said, but on what he did.”
Rene set up a one-party socialist state, ruling the Indian Ocean islands until 2004, and defeating Mancham after the return of multi-party politics in elections held in 1998.
Rene also had to face down coup attempt against his own rule.
In 1981, South African mercenaries led by notorious British soldier-for-hire in Africa Colonel “Mad Mike” Hoare planned a coup to return the pro-Western Mancham to power.
The group entered the country disguised as a beer-drinking tourist party called “The Ancient Order of Froth-Blowers”.
However, their plan came undone when an airport inspector found a weapon in their luggage and a gunfight broke out.
The men then hijacked an Air India flight and forced the pilot to take them to Durban in South Africa to escape.
Rene stepped down in 2004, handing over power to his then vice-president James Michel.
The Seychelles, a former British colony, comprise some 115 islands scattered off the east coast of Africa, whose white sandy beaches and turquoise waters have made it a magnet for wealthy foreigners. — AFP