Remembering Gérard Hoarau: A Seychellois patriot assassinated for his beliefs
30 years ago yesterday, on Friday 29 November, 1985 young Seychellois exile Gérard Hoarau was gunned down in a hail of bullets on the front porch of his house in London’s Edgware district. He was only 35 years old.
30 years later the country still mourns the bright young man whose heart and soul remained Seychellois to the core and whose only dream was to restore democracy to his beloved country.
Gérard Hoarau was born on Praslin, on 7 December 1950, the fourth of seven children of health inspector Chanel Hoarau, and teacher Gabrielle, known affectionately as Gabute. Educated at Seychelles College Grammar School where he completed his ‘O’ Levels with the highest marks at the age of 16, he joined the Roman Catholic Church’s seminary at Mont Fleuri before leaving for Rome to study for the priesthood.
He enrolled at the Roman Catholic Church’s Pontificia Universitas Urbaniana University to study Philosophy graduating with summa cum laude and spending another year to study theology at post-graduate level. But after deciding that priesthood was not his true vocation, he returned to Seychelles in 1972.
By then fluent in Italian, Hoarau was recruited into the Seychelles Civil Service as an Executive Officer in the blossoming Department of Tourism and Information and in 1973 was promoted to Assistant Secretary in the Planning Department of, a key position at a time when Seychelles was experiencing a development boom following the opening of the international airport. In 1975 he was specially charged with the organisation of the independence celebrations scheduled for 29 June, 1976. Announcing the appointment the Prime Minister James Mancham attributed it to Hoarau’s organisational abilities.
Soon after independence, the 25-year old Hoarau was appointed the nation’s first Chief Protocol Officer – a position he held for only a short while as he was soon after appointed to the number two administrative position in the Foreign Affairs ministry of the newly-independent Seychelles under the presidency of James Richard Mancham. It was in that capacity that Hoarau accompanied the new President to London in June 1977 to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, where Seychelles was to be initiated as the newest member of the Commonwealth and.
The coup d’état of 5 June 1977, during the President’s absence during which the former President was to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee celebrations would forever change the course of Seychelles’ history and Gérard Hoarau’s life.
Unlike Mancham, Hoarau returned to Seychelles after the coup and was appointed Chief Immigration Officer. On 15 November 1979 he was arrested, and detained at the Union Vale Prison without charge or trial along with over 100 other detainees, guarded by soldiers of the newlyformed Seychelles People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Hoarau and 12 other detainees would spend nine months in detention before being released on 29 July, 1980 and kept under house arrest until he left Seychelles for South Africa three days later where he joined his parents.
A keen footballer, Hoarau had in the early seventies, soon after his return from Italy joined the struggling first division Rovers Football team, and soon became its player-coach as well as a regular of the newly-created Seychelles national Team. His claim to fame came after scoring a goal with a curved ball from a corner kick against East African champions –Young Africans of Tanzania. Hoarau became an outspoken opponent of the oneparty state zoning policy which outlawed all sports teams in Seychelles unless organised or approved by the SPPF.
From his South African exile Hoarau headed the Mouvement Pour La Resistance (MPR) which claimed responsibility for organising the failed mercenary attack of 25 November 1981. He moved to London in 1982 after the South African regime cancelled his resident permit. But the setback did not dampen his resolve and it was whilst he was living in London that Hoarau became even more vocal against the regime of former President Albert René. And London is where he met his death a little more than a week before his 35th birthday.
Hoarau’s assassin was never found – never brought to justice. It was established though that it was the work of a professional who fired a total of 11 bullets from the flower garden of the opposite house, in the quiet North West London suburb of Edgware. Three of the bullets hit Hoarau who died almost instantly, according to the Scotland Yard’s Anti-Terrorist Squad who took charge of the investigation shortly afterwards.
Ballistics analysis confirmed the bullets came from a Britishmade Sterling sub-machine gun, a rapid-fire close-combat weapon developed initially for Special Forces but which was also used by the paramilitary Police Mobile Unit (PMU) of the Seychelles Police Force, which at Independence was under the command of serving British police officers, who were all deported on the afternoon of the coup. In the early hours of Sunday 5 June 1977 the PMU armoury at Mont Fleuri was the coup’s perpetrators’ first target. They took away all the weapons and ammunition. Albert René’s bodyguards during the Independence Cup Final football match on 29 June 1978 were seen holding Sterling machine guns.
Hoarau’s assassination made news in all the UK newspapers and in the New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Le Monde, Le Figaro and in South Africa where his parents were still living.
In Seychelles, though it never made the pages of the statecontrolled Seychelles Nation nor was it reported on the state-controlled radio station, although many learned about the killing from the BBC world service.
Following the investigation by Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist squad, three men, all British nationals, including a British Telecom employee, were arrested. They were later convicted of obstruction of justice and corruption for their parts in bugging the house telephone where Hoarau was killed and in trying to remove the equipment after the murder. On sentencing the British Telecom engineer, London’s Central Criminal Court judge Justice Potts said “until the killing occurred you had no knowledge that the operation you had arranged in Edgware would have that result. But by the evening of the day Mr Hoarau was killed you knew, I have no doubt whatsoever, that the operation you had set up had played a part or was likely to have played a part in the death of the man.”
At the beginning of the trial the prosecution underlined that the bugging had been carried out on behalf of the Seychelles government, according to the Times of London. The Times also reported that former British policeman turned private detective Ian Withers had admitted working for the Seychelles government and for initiating the bugging. In an interview on 6 September 1986 with the international Paris-based publication Indian Ocean Newsletter, Albert Renéis reported as saying: “I myself have listened to the last cassette, including the telephone call from the owner of Gerard Hoarau’s home, when he phoned the police to say that gunshots had just been fired”.
Gérard Hoarau’s murder remains an open case file, according to the British police, but in Seychelles, his death is an open wound that can never heal until the truth is told, said one commentator.
“A heroic son of Seychelles, Gérard is never forgotten. His legacy and his dreams live on. Today, on the anniversary of his untimely death, I feel his spirit will continue to guide us until full democracy is restored to his Beloved Seychelles,” his long-time friend Lewis Betsy said in 2013.
Hoarau may have sensed his fate. He once said: ‘’They may kill me, but they will never kill the idea of freedom.’’ And as the country prepares for Presidential election, his words and legacy ring loud in the minds of all Seychellois.
Source: Today.sc 11-30-15
In Memory Of Our Fallen Heroes
You killed us in our youthfulness and prime of our lives,
You took us from the love of our families, friends and Nation,
You denied us our dreams and aspirations of the present and future.
In a swift and single moment you wrenched us from our freedom and liberty.
Your actions fuelled by evil thoughts and intents,
Deranged by malice, hatred, vengeance and violence.
The author and authority of evil, orchestrated by wicked men, empowered you to violate and desecrate
God’s given right to life.
You chose the gun you held against us, to carry out your murderous intent and will.
In that timeless moment of solitude, our hearts beat and raced with rage and panic.
Our minds desperately sought to grasp and hang on to those final precious moments of our lives.
We finally succumbed to the violence you mercilessly unleashed upon us.
As our lips trembled in prayer our lives flashed in front of us.
Suddenly the beauty and love of life was abruptly shattered by the sound of an exploding blast.
Our skulls shattered with such intensity and excruciating pain.
The last emotion and feeling ebbed away from our stricken bodies, as solitary tears rolled down our cheeks.
As we fell to the earth, blood trickled from our open wounds, only to be soaked by the very ground that would become our graves.
As our eyes finally closed, we saw the eternal vision given to those who die in the sacrifice of love, for the good of our brothers and sisters.
We died for the love of our families, our friends, and our Nation.