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The Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. Although multi-party democracy was restored in 1993, the former single permitted party still dominates politics and has produced every president since. Though freedom of speech has improved somewhat, much of the media is still government-controlled, while children’s rights concerns centre on the inappropriate juvenile justice system and the trafficking of children.
The Republic of Seychelles, which gained independence from Britain in 1976, is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. It forms part of the Mascarene Islands along with Mauritius and Réunion. It lies around 500 kilometres east of mainland Africa.
Population and language
The population of the Seychelles – the smallest of any African State, is about 86,500. Most Seychellois are descendants of early French settlers and East Africans. About 1.1 per cent of the population is comprised of South Asians and Chinese. The main languages are French, English and Creole.
Politics and economy
The Seychelles is a multi-party republic and member of the British commonwealth. In July 2006 James Michel won a five-year term in presidential elections and was re-elected in 2011. France Albert Rene, brought to power in a bloodless coup in 1977, had led the country for almost three decades before stepping down in April 2004.
The Indian Ocean tsunami struck the Seychelles in 2004, causing about $30 million of damage and harm to the tourism and fishing industries, on which the country relies.
In recent years, the economy has been damaged by rising food and fuel costs. The country has large amounts of debt and continues to suffer from rising inflation and depletion of the central bank’s foreign reserves. The economy also worsened as a result of the global recession and increasing piracy in the Indian Ocean.
Major exports include fish and cinnamon bark. Important trading partners include the U.K., France, Mauritius, Japan, Italy, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, and Saudi Arabia.
Nearly all of the country’s political and economic life is dominated by people of European and South Asian origin. The legal system is based on English common law, French civil law, and customary law.
Media and civil society
Much of the media is controlled by the government, which operates radio and TV stations and the only daily newspaper.The opposition weekly newspaper Regar has been sued for libel by the government under broad constitutional restrictions on the freedom of expression. The other major independent newspaper, Le Nouveau Seychelles Weekly, has also faced state interference. Freedom of speech has improved since one-party rule was abolished in 1993. Steep licensing fees have discouraged the growth of private broadcast media.
The constitution endorses freedoms of assembly and association. Human rights groups and other non-governmental organisations operate in the country.
Human rights and children's rights
Concerns have been raised regarding the judiciary, for example poor detention and prison conditions and police abuse of power, as well as the fight against organised crime, corruption and discrimination against minorities.The Seychelles acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 7 September 1990, ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict on 10 August 2010, and signed, but has not ratified, the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography on 23 January 2001.
- BBC Country Profile: Seychelles
- Freedom House, Country Report 2010: Seychelles
- UNICEF, Seychelles Country Page
- US Department of State, 2010 Human Rights Report: Seychelles
- World Bank, Seychelles Country Profile