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Indian Ocean Politics Transparency

Wavel Ramkalawan Staffs His Military With Loyalists

There are some things that no longer come as a surprise to anyone. One of those is the ability of those in power to do everything and anything possible to cling to power. Such was the case with the recent appointment of the former Commander of the Seychelles Coast Guard, Colonel Jean Attala, as the new Chief of Staff of the Seychelles People’s Defence Force (SPDF).

Despite the fact that its name suggests that its purpose is to protect the interests of the people, President Wavel Ramkalawan has once again proven that the sole purpose of the military is to uphold his own personal interests. The long history of the Seychelles with political instability, means that the most important component of staying in power is ensuring a loyal military. And that is exactly what the President has done, filling the most senior ranks of the armed forces with loyalists.

This appointment follows a recent constitutional amendment according to which the government extended the powers of the military to domestic operations in times of peace. This constitutional amendment was decried by human rights organizations the world over, as well as by the country’s own Ombudsman, Bar Association and by the Seychelles Human Rights Commission who went so far as to take the issue to court in September, challenging the constitutionality of the proposed change. In this regard, they said in a joint press communiqué that the organisations assert their shared concerns that the change, known as the Tenth Amendment ,“undermines the democratic protections afforded by the Constitution, in particular due process, the rule of law and human rights”.

The direction which the country is going in is most concerning. Struggling for democracy after overcoming the rule of longtime strong man France-Albert René who ruled from 1977 till 2004, the gradual but certain process of democratic backsliding appears to only be worsening. The ongoing heavily covered trial surrounding 50 million dollars, and reported extensive human rights violations taking place against defendants, is a clear indication of the way in which business is conducted by the government. These individual actions, coupled with insidious Russian influence that appears to be continuously increasing, should only make us more concerned, particularly in light of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Do not be fooled. This is not a case of the boy crying wolf. The chance for Seychelles to degenerate into an autocratic government stuck in the stranglehold of Wavel Ramkalawan is very real. Without real change that is encouraged by international pressure, it is unreasonable to assume that things will get anything but worse.

By Kate Flask

Kate Flask is an American freelance writer and digital nomad who studied creative writing in the UK. She has a personal and professional interest in East Africa and Indian Ocean Islands and Runs Seychelles Watch.

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