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The Historical Commission of Inquiry

Commission of Inquiry under resolution 496 (1981) in connection with the Republic of the Seychelles Commission of Inquiry under resolution 496 (1981) in connection with the Republic of the Seychelles

On 25 Nov 1981, a chartered Royal Swazi National Airways plane landed in Pointe La Rue, Mahé at the Seychelles International Airport. Forty-four men carrying bags of toys disembarked. They purported to be members of a rugby drinking club–the Ancient Order of Foam Blowers (AOFB)—traveling to deliver the toys they had purchased through the charitable giving of their club. During a routine baggage check at customs, a security guard noticed the barrel of a rifle sticking out from one of the bags of toys. Now discovered, the men armed themselves with additional munitions hidden within the toys. They took control of the air control tower and took hostage all persons in the airport. Within six hours, however, Seychelles defence forces had repelled the apparent organized attack. Four of the “AOFB members” were captured, but forty escaped by way of a hijacked Air-India aircraft headed to Bombay, instead rerouting the plane to Durban, South Africa. 

The archipelago is strategically located in the Indian Ocean, approximately 1,800 kilometers from the shores of Tanzania, 1,400 km from Mogadishu, Somalia, and 1,000 km from Madagascar. Though its existence was known for centuries, and it was claimed by France in 1756, the 115 islands of Seychelles remained entirely uninhabited until the first ship of colonists landed on 27 August 1770. England in particular desired the Seychelles for the role it could play in Indian trade routes. In 1794, England annexed Seychelles and managed the island from Mauritius (1,700 km to the south). In 1903 Seychelles became a separate British colony, and in 1948, amidst a worldwide movement of decolonization, Seychelles held its first elections for a legislative council. 

Seychelles became an independent republic within the British Commonwealth on 26 June 1976. The first independent government was formed with power shared between two parties. James Mancham’s pro-business Seychelles Democratic Party held the Presidency; France-Albert Rene’s socialist Seychelles People’s United Party (SPUP) held the Prime Minister’s post. The Republic of Seychelles became a United Nations Member State on 21 September 1976.

On 4 June 1977, dozens of SPUP-party supporters took over the government while President Mancham was attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London. Several party supporters had recently been trained in military tactics in Tanzania, indicating possible outside influence. The coup was nearly bloodless (one casualty on each side) and various officials advising the Seychelles government who were “on loan” from other countries to fulfill key positions (for example, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Adrien O’Brien Queen, from Ireland) were flown back to their home countries. 

Rene denied all knowledge of the coup. Nevertheless, after holding control of the government for 30 hours, he was sworn in as President. Rene formed a new government consisting entirely of SPUP-party members. Elections have been held since, but only officials within Rene’s party have run. Mancham remains in exile, living in London and traveling abroad to build international support against Rene’s government. 

The decidedly more socialist government has caused some friction domestically, but the country and government has remained stable since the 1977 coup, with quality of life improving and income inequality falling. The Seychelles government protected political opponents during and after the coup and kept international agreements in force. Internationally, Seychelles continues to be in good standing

Nearly a month has passed since the airport incursion on 24 November 1981. In that time, the insurgents were identified by Seychelles’ authorities as an international force of mercenaries, led by the internationally famous Michael “Mad Mike” Hoare. Hoare achieved the rank of Major in the British Army, fighting in World War II and India. When he began leading a band of white mercenaries throughout Africa, he self-styled as a Lieutenant Colonel. Hoare is most well known for leading mercenary units in the newly independent Republic of the Congo in the early 1960s. His exploits there involved crushing under-equipped rebellions with extensive western media coverage. A rabid anti-communist, Hoare insisted his men were not mercensaries (paid $1,100 U.S. dollars monthly) but rather “volunteers” waging an idealistic struggle against Communism in the Congo. 

In 1981, Hoare, now in his sixties, was last known as a technical advisor to The Wild Geese movie, loosely based on events his five Commando unit participated in, after which he retired to the small South African town of Hilton, where he worked as a stock broker and investment manager. 

Based on interrogations of the four mercenaries captured, Seychelles quickly accused South Africa of organizing the mercenary force as an attempted coup of Rene’s government. Increasing international tensions, while the mercenaries were initially held by South African authorities after landing in Durban, a South African court ruled that they had no authority over the events that occurred in Seychelles and released thirty-five of the mercenaries. South Africa has identified the white-goateed man who hijacked the Air-India aircraft and identified himself as Tom, as Mike Hoare. Hoare and four other mercenaries were charged with hijacking the plane, and were immediately released on bail. 

The Seychelles government has held regular press conferences since the coup, presenting evidence gathered, calling on the international community to bring the putschists to justice, and closing their air space. On 8 December 1981, the Charge D’Affaires of Seychelles addressed the General Assembly, and on 15 December the Security Council unanimously adopted a draft resolution to “send a commission of inquiry… in order to investigate the origin, background, and financing of the mercenary aggression of 25 Novbember 1981 against the Republic of Seychelles, as well as to assess and evaluate economic damages, and to report to the Council with recommendations no later than 31 January 1982.”

The Commission is anticipated to convene for the first time on 24 December 1981. 

Questions to Consider:

  • What roles have mercenaries in Africa played in the past?
  • What motivation would another Member State have to back a coup in Seychelles? 
  • If a coup in Seychelles was backed by another Member State, what should be the international response? 

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The Situation in the Occupied Arab Territories The Situation in the Occupied Arab Territories

The conflicts between Israel and Palestine, and between Israel and the broader Arab world have been ongoing since the mid-20th century. The passage of UN Resolution 181 which called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, led to the 1947-1949 Palestine war. This was known in Israel as the War of Independence and in Arab states as the Nakba (“Catastrophe”). The players in the first Arab-Israeli War were Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Transjordan (Jordan), and Syria. They, with the help of the United Nations, reached an armistice agreement between February and July 1949. Israel gained some territory formerly granted to Palstinian Arabs under the UN resolution in 1947, while Egypt and Transjordan remained in control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, respectively. 

Conflict arose again on 29 October 1956 when Israeli armed forces entered Egypt near the Suez Canal after Egyptian President nationalized the canal for Egypt. The French and British quickly sided with Israel, while Egypt received some aid from the Soviet Union. In order to put an end to the crisis before events escalated, the first UN Emergency Force (UNEF) was stationed in the Sinai Peninsula. The Suez Crisis (also called the Second Arab-Israeli war) ended on 7 November 1956 with Israeli, British and French forces withdrawing from the area. The UN peacekeeping force remained in the area as a buffer between Israel and Egypt. 

Arab and Israeli forces clashed for a third time from 5-10 June 1967 in what came to be called the Six-Day War or the Third Arab-Israeli War. The Six-Day War was the result of rising tensions between Israel and Syria, with Egypt and Jordan later joining forces with Syria. On 5 June 1967, the Israel Defense Forces coordinated an aerial and ground attack on Egypt which, by the end of the day, won them full control over the skies. A United Nations-brokered ceasefire took effect on 10 June 1967 and the Six-Day War came to an end. The War had huge geopolitical consequences in the Middle East. Israel had tripled in size with the occupation of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt; the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. The displacement of civilian populations also had long-term consequences as Palestinians fled the territories now controlled by Israel, while the Jewish minorities in the Arab world fled or were exiled. 

On 6 October 1973, Egypt and Syria formatted an attack towards Israel on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur in order to win back territory lost during the Six-Day War. Egypt and Syria won the first few battles, but lost the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, or the Yom Kippur War, to Israel. On 25 October, a ceasefire between Egypt and Israel was secured by the United Nations which led to tensions de-escalating between the two States. In early 1979 Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement resulting in the return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. The Israeli and Syrain ceasefire agreement of the Yom Kippur War led to even more territory being controlled by Israel in the Golan Heights. In 1979, Syria voted with other Arab States to expel Egypt from the Arab League due to its peace treaty with Israel. The lands that Israeli seized during the Third and Fourth Arab-Israeli Wars have been the center of tension between the Arab States and Israel, and have been the focus of efforts by third-parties to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

Due to the aftermath of the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars, the Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations on 23 February 1979 sent a letter (S/13115) to the President of the Security Council to convene a meeting of the Council to “consider the most ominous and accelerating erosion of the status of Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Arab territories in consequence of the Israeli occupation authorities’ systematic, relentless and deliberate policy and practice of settlements and colonization of those territories which constitute a grave threat to world peace and security.” On 2 March 1979, the acting Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People sent a letter (S/13132) addressed to the President of the Security Council stating the Committee’s concern of the actions taken by Israel towards the Palestinian people in the occupied territories. Another letter (S/13149) from the Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations was addressed to the Secretary-General on 7 March 1979. The letter contained maps and documents about Israeli occupation in the Arab territories. In response to the letters, the Security Council considered the topic “The situation in the occupied Arab Territories” at its 2123rd, 2124th, 2125th, 2126th, 2127th, 2128th, 2131st and 2134th meetings held between 9 and 22 March 1979. 

At the 2124th meeting on 22 March 1979, the Council established and adopted Resolution 446 (1979) which created a Commission of Inquiry with the mandate: “To examine the situation relating to settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem.” Thus, the Commission is to investigate what is happening in the Arab territories that Israel has occupied since the end of the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, specifically in the creation and expansion of Israeli settlements.

Questions to Consider:

  • What States are concerned in the current situation and why? 
  • What are the cultural and historical connections that both Israel and the Palestinian people have with the territoroes in question?
  • What types of settlements have been established and how have they changed over time?
  • How have the people/citizens/refugees been affected by the settlements? 

 

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