Albert René, the former President of the Seychelles from 1977 to 2004, has died aged 83. Born on November 16 1935 and survived by his wife, Sarah Zarqani and her three sons, as well as a daughter from his first marriage, Albert René was the longest-serving president with a rich history to his name.
He thwarted at least three coup attempts after seizing power of the Indian Ocean archipelago thanks to his own coup, including the famous invasion by South African mercenaries led by Colonel “Mad Mike” Hoare.
His keen barrister’s mind paired with his strong belief that the Seychelles could, and would, create a place within the wider world, the qualified lawyer and hard-line communist nursed several foreign allegiances and received financial aid from the Eastern Bloc, US and British colonial authorities.
With a firm determination to transform the islands into a “socialist paradise”, René promoted the native Kreol language, wanting it to be used in place of French or English. He was an expert speechwriter, often making rousing speeches about his future vision of the Seychelles and Seychellois.
While in office, he held the titles of Minister for Defence, Legal Affairs, Tourism, Planning, Foreign Affairs and Finance.
After easily winning the first democratic elections on the island after the announcement of a multi-party constitution following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the former president stepped down in 2004, leaving his Vice President, James Michel, a socialist and member of the group who staged the original 1977 coup, in power. Michel served until 2016.
His clever home and foreign politics – as well as the ability to skillfully balance the two – and his long history of foiled counter-coup and coup attempts made him a powerful and long-standing influence on the history and future of the Seychelles.