Obituary: Sir James Richard Marie Mancham (August 11, 1939 – January 8, 2017)


Farewell Sir James…


Founding President of Seychelles, Sir James Richard Marie Mancham KBE, has passed away aged 77 years old.

Affectionately called Jimmy or Ton Jim by many, Sir James died peacefully in his sleep in the early morning of yesterday (Sunday January 8, 2017) at his home at Glacis Sur Mer.

The cause of death is not clear but he suffered a heart attack recently and spent time at the Seychelles Hospital to recover.

In a televised statement, President Danny Faure has described Mr Mancham as “a true patriot, a veteran politician, and a committed advocate of national reconciliation”.

“He was a defender of liberty and champion of human rights. The world has lost a global apostle of peace, understanding, and unity. Seychelles has lost a true patriot,” said President Faure.

“His dreams for a more united, peaceful Seychelles where there is true reconciliation, needs to be fulfilled by all of us here today,” said President Faure.

President Faure has said former President Mancham will receive a state funeral on Thursday January 12, 2017 and declared it national day of mourning.

Mr Mancham’s body will lie at the Palais des Sports followed by a private ceremony at State House. Following the church service at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, he will be laid to rest at the grounds of State House.

As for former President James Michel, he has described Mr Mancham as “a world statesman, a philosopher, a writer and a poet whose commitment and tireless contribution to the promotion of world peace, progress and reconciliation found resonance on the international scene and in Seychelles”.

“He was a pillar of the contemporary history of Seychelles and a central figure of our return to multi-party democracy. He was a true apostle of peace, national unity and reconciliation, and his achievements, vision and endeavours in that sense will remain his enduring legacy. I shared his principles and was proud to call him a friend and to avail myself of his wise counsel. We shall always remember Jimmy for the contribution he made to our country, for the patriot that he was – a man of uncompromising principles and conviction, the founding President of the Republic of Seychelles who shall continue to inspire us and many generations of Seychellois to come. We owe Jimmy a lot and we shall always be grateful to him,” added former President Michel.


Early years and involvement in national politics

Born in Seychelles on August 11, 1939, Sir James was the first President of Seychelles from June 29, 1976 to June 5, 1977.

His picture appeared on the averse of the Seychellois rupee silver coin in 1977.

The man has lived an intrepid life as he was a political leader, businessman, author and proud Seychellois. He followed a busy schedule of conferences, lectures and writing.

Founder of the Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP), Mr Mancham studied at the Seychelles College before his father sent him to London to study law at Wilson College before being called to the Bar (Middle Temple, London) in 1961. After additional studies in economics at the University of Paris, he returned to Seychelles and served as Barrister and Attorney-at-Law before the Supreme Court of Seychelles (1963 to 1967).

It was during that period, when he was first establishing himself as a member of the legal profession in the country that he began to involve himself in national politics. He made a steady rise in Seychelles politics, under British rule – as a legislator, party leader, Chief Minister, Prime Minister and then as first President of Seychelles on June 29, 1976.

As Chief Minister of the colony, Mr Mancham promoted tourism to the Seychelles and arranged for the building of the airport that was to make the Seychelles accessible to the rest of the world. Tourism increased and the economy developed.

After only 11 months in office, Mr Mancham was ousted by his former classmate and Prime Minister France Albert Rene, in a coup on June 5, 1977. The coup happened when he was in London attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference.

He remained in London where he lived in exile for 15 years. During this period, Mr Mancham was financially successful in several international business ventures and married Catherine Olsen, an Australian journalist working in London.

Following the lifting of the ban on opposition in 1992, Mr Rene invited Mr Mancham to return home and he did so in April 1992, greeted by an enthusiastic crowd which is still considered as one of the biggest gatherings of Seychelles citizens.

He was involved in the process that led to the country’s return to multi-party democracy in June 1993.

In 2005 he stepped down as leader of the Democratic Party which he had founded in 1962, and became a leading advocate for peace and reconciliation at international conferences.


Run for presidency

In the first multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections of the Third Republic on Friday July 23, 1993, Sir James lost to Mr Rene who was elected for a first five-year term with 59.50% of the votes (25,627 out of over 43,500 voters) and was sworn in as the first President in the Third Republic on Monday July 26, 1993.

Sir James won 15,815 votes (36.72%) in the Presidential election.

Five years later, in 1998, Mr Mancham finished third in the election  for the presidency with 6,427 votes (13.80%) behind Mr Rene who was re-elected for another five-year-term with 31,048 votes (66.67%) of the 46,573 valid votes cast. Wavel Ramkalawan got 9,098 votes (19.53%) to finish second.


Mancham the writer

Mr Mancham is the author of several books among those Paradise Raped about the 1977 coup, Call for the Restoration of Multiparty Democracy (London: Crusade for Democracy of Seychelles, 1990) and In the Seychelles: Democracy on the Horizon (Washington, DC: Heritage Foundation, 1990), War on America: Seen from the Indian Ocean, written after the September 11 attacks in the United States, his memoirs Seychelles Global Citizen: The Autobiography of the Founding President, and Seychelles – The Saga of a small nation navigating the cross-currents of a big world.

The publishing of his last book – Seychelles – The Saga of a small nation navigating the cross-currents of a big world – coincided with his 75th birthday.

“I received a phone call from the publishers of Global Citizen [Paragon House], telling me that this book (Global Citizen) was published when I was 70 years old and they felt now that I am 75 it would be timely to publish a new one. At the same time, I was speaking to my son Richard, who didn’t understand my politics of national reconciliation. After I explained it to him, he said, ‘Dad, I believe it is your duty to posterity to tell these stories, because, out there, there are a lot of people who don’t know and others who are confused’. So, I decided I should come to an agreement with the publishers for this book about the Seychelles.”

Having retired from political life for several years, he was a regular contributor the Seychelles NATION newspaper and media and has penned a number of opinion pieces about lasting global peace, reconciliation, national unity, inter-religious and inter-cultural harmony, non-proliferation, and statesmanship.

His last piece entitled ‘A focus on the Seychelles National Assembly’ which you can read on page 5 in today’s issue, was sent to us in the afternoon of Saturday January 7, 2017.

He had his own magazine VIOAS (Voice of the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea) which focuses on international geo-political developments.

Mr Mancham has always been a vocal critic of nuclear arms and warfare, but took a gentle and diplomatic approach.

And despite leaving office, he continued his struggle for global peace and tirelessly promoted the message to leaders and organisations worldwide.

He founded the Centre for Peace Studies and Reconciliation within the University of Seychelles.

Addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations as the President of Seychelles in 1976, Mr Mancham said: “I think the time has come when we must ask ourselves what will make the world a sane world. The answer is only sane people. What will make the world peaceful? The answer is only peaceful people. For too long the strange notion has persisted in human beings that a state of sanity and peace can somehow be produced by arms struggle and violence. That the end justifies the means is a lie which has been swallowed by almost everyone. It would be much more accurate to say that the end reveals the means.

“We do not have to look very far or very closely to see that there are simple and natural laws which work as surely in human affairs as they do in the rest of creation.”


Awards won

In his lifetime, Mancham was the recipient of a number of awards among those the prestigious International Jurists Award for world peace at the International Conference of Jurists 2010, the Gusi Peace Prize in 2011, the URI-Africa Peace Award (2016), the GEP Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. In fact he was the first recipient of the award.

He was a member of many organisations, including the Club de Madrid, the World Future Council, and the European Centre for Peace and Development, Royal Society for Manufacturer Arts and Commerce, Board of Advisors of the World Entrepreneurial Forum and Institute of Cultural Diplomacy.

A man full of anecdotes, one of Mr Mancham’s most notable quotes when talking about the future of Seychelles is “Nous ne voulons pas de Bamako, nous voulons de Monaco.”

Sir James is survived by his wife Lady Catherine, his sons Richard and Alexander as well as daughter Caroline.

A good heart has stopped beating, a good soul has ascended to heaven.

The Seychelles NATION newspaper extends its deepest sympathies to the family of Sir James.

Rest in peace Sir James!


Source: NATION 1-9-17