The Army Rebellion of 1982

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The Army Rebellion of 1982 Empty The Army Rebellion of 1982

Post  Sirop14 on Tue Aug 16, 2016 12:24 pm

Paul B Chow
8 hrs
The Army Rebellion of 1982
34 years ago, on August 17 1982, the people of Seychelles woke up to learn that overnight a group of soldiers had taken control of the radio station at Union Vale and were making demands of the president of the Republic Mr Albert Rene.
The soldiers came from the Union Vale barrack, which was previously the island’s prison. The prison was cleared of convicts in November 1979 to hold 100 political prisoners guarded by these soldiers. The last political prisoner was released in August 1980 and the prison was turned into a fully-fledged army garrison.
On air, the rebels claimed they loved President Rene and that they wanted Mr Rene to dismiss some ministers from his Government. The announcer, who called himself Sergeant George, then opened the airwaves to all and sundry to speak directly to the people. For the first time since the coup d’etat in 1977, the people of Seychelles had a chance to air (literally) their grievances and they did not hesitate to do so. Anyone who called the radio station was given the airwaves without interruption to say anything they wanted and many chose to do so.
Throughout the morning the rebels would exhort Mr Rene to meet with them and hear their grievances. But it appeared that Mr Rene made no contact with the rebels and had no intention of doing so. Meanwhile the whole world had heard of the rebellion, which became headline news on radio and television stations in many countries. Some managed to get access to Sergeant George by telephone who availed of the opportunity to make a direct plea to Mrs Margaret Thatcher, the British prime Minister, for assistance.
By mid-morning Bishop Felix Paul intervened on air to urge Mr Rene to speak to the rebels and negotiate a peaceful end to the drama. But the authorities had other plans. The 100 or so Tanzanian soldiers stationed in Seychelles since dawn of 5th June 1997 had already started fighting skirmishes with groups of rebel soldiers in the streets of Victoria. Victoria hospital was beginning to receive the severely wounded. More Tanzanian soldiers were flown in from Dar es Salaam to reinforce the Seychelles garrison. The decision had been made to crush the rebellion without mercy.
As the Tanzanians took positions around Victoria, they started lobbing mortar bombs towards the radio station. But a few of the mortars fell short of their targets and one landed on the house of the Carpin family on the slope of English River killing Mrs Carpin and injuring other members of her family.
The family went on the air to exhort the authorities to hold fire because civilians were being killed. Bishop Felix Paul made another plea on air to Mr Rene to speak to the rebels to avoid further bloodshed. But his plea fell on deaf ears.
Instead the authorities rolled out Dr Maxime Ferrari, then the de-facto Vice-President with ambition to become president of Seychelles after Mr Rene would have finished his first mandate in 1983. Ferrari called the radio station and exhorted the rebels to lay down their arms and to trust Mr Rene because he was a man “of magnanimity”.
As night fell over the islands it was clear the rebellion had run out of steam. Most of the rebels scattered overnight hiding their weapons in the bush. Some went home while others hid in the mountains. It is said that the widespread use of drugs by the young soldiers was their undoing. When dawn broke, the Tanzanians had consolidated their hold over the country and started looting the shops around Victoria.
The following day the rebels were rounded up and taken to Bel Eau army camp where, according to reliable sources, the Tanzanians tortured many. Injured rebels were removed from hospital beds for interrogation. One prominent rebel, Lieutenant Rangassamy who was injured in a skirmish with Tanzanian soldiers opposite National House is reported to have shot himself while in hospital rather than suffer torture at the hands of the Tanzanians.
According to international press reports eight people were killed including five rebel soldiers, two civilians and a loyal soldier. It is not known how many Tanzanian soldiers were killed, although there are stories of a number Tanzanian soldiers being killed in a fire fights near Cable and Wireless.
The rebels were court-martialled and many were sentenced to long spells in prison on Coetivy Island. The “ring leaders” were released just before the return to multiparty system in 1991.
34 years on this episode in our political history is being conveniently covered up. Many who lived through the period say that the mercenary incident was nothing compared to the anxiety people suffered during the rebellion. A week after the incident The Times of London reported that a number of mutineers were unaccounted for.
No official report of the incident has ever been made public and it is not clear whether one was ever prepared.


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