Seychelles' first president Mancham dies

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Victoria - Seychelles' founding president James Mancham, who spent only a year in office before being ousted in a coup, died on Sunday aged 77, his nephew and staff said.

The former politician and lawyer, who spent his years in retirement writing several books and promoting his island nation, was found dead at home.

"This morning his wife told us that Mr Mancham was not moving and we did the necessary to get him transported to hospital," one of his security guards Philippe Figaro told AFP.

"Doctors confirmed he was dead," said the former president's nephew Derick Pothin.

Mancham, who initially opposed the Indian Ocean archipelago's breakaway from British rule, won the country's first election by a small margin in 1976.

A year later he was overthrown in a bloodless coup by his prime minister, France-Albert Rene, while he was attending a Commonwealth conference in London. Rene set up a one-party socialist state.

In 1981 South African mercenaries led by notorious British soldier-for-hire in Africa Colonel "Mad Mike" Hoare planned a coup to return the pro-Western Mancham to power.

The group entered the country disguised as a beer-drinking tourist party called "The Ancient Order of Froth-Blowers".

However their plan came undone when an airport inspector found a weapon in their luggage and a gunfight broke out.

The men then hijacked an Air India flight and forced the pilot to take them to Durban in South Africa to escape.

South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission later found the apartheid government - keen to do away with leftist powers on the continent - had been involved in planning the attack.

After his ouster, Mancham fled into exile until 1993, when multi-party democracy was restored in the islands.

Mancham again vied for the presidency in 1998 but lost to Rene.

The Seychelles comprise some 115 islands scattered off the east coast of Africa, whose white sandy beaches and turquoise waters have made it a magnet for wealthy foreigners, some of whom also enjoy the country's reputation as a tax haven.

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