- Seychelles will rejoin the South African Development Corporation (SADC) next year because the Indian Ocean nation country is increasingly active in international relations, President James Michel said this week, delivering his year 2006 budget. The country quit SADC in July 2003, but the pull-out only became effective in July 2004.
Seychelles Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials said at the time that there was little justification for the US$ 550,000 Seychelles was expected to contribute to the regional organisation annually especially when the country was undergoing difficulties with the shortage of foreign exchange.
President Michel on Wednesday however said that with the increased participation in the country's economy by foreign investors, "the economy has improved." The new Seychellois President thus has changed his mind since March this year, when he outlined his new foreign policy and made it clear that the archipelago had now plans of rejoining SADC.
Now, however, President Michel claims to see the value of a SADC membership. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a key role to play in defending and promoting Seychelles' interests in an increasingly globalised world. In this context I am pleased to announce that Seychelles will be rejoining SADC in 2006." the Seychellois President said.
"I propose a budgetary allocation of rupees 10.4 million [US$ 1.9 million] for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," he said, delivering the 2006 budget. Last year the Foreign Ministry was allocated rupees 10 million (US$ 1.8 million) in the budget, the government of Seychelles informed today.
President Michel made no comments on whether Seychelles had already started membership negotiations with the Southern African regional body. Seychelles was the first nation ever to pull out of SADC; a decision that caused little joy in the body and which SADC officials generally rejected to comment on.
It is unclear whether Seychelles will have to start on membership negotiations from scratch or whether the ex-member may return to the fold under the same conditions as previously. A higher membership fee for this relatively rich nation cannot be ruled out. Seychelles in any case has incorporated most of the SADC's regulatives in its national legislation due to the island nation's long, previous membership. A long period of legislative adaptation therefore should not be necessary.
The change of heart of President Michel during the last nine months is not easy to explain. As the then newly installed President announced his "foreign policy shift", focus was to be on the Indian Ocean region, not with Southern Africa. President Michel hoped to revive "regional organisations that highlight Seychelles' small island specificities." Especially the Indian Ocean Commission (COI) was to be strengthened, Mr Michel had agreed with Prime Minister Paul Bérenger of Mauritius.
However, Mauritius is also a very active SADC member and has dedicated most of its foreign policy efforts towards Southern Africa. The rich island nation finds a significant market for its products in the region.
Since Seychelles announced its pull-out from SADC, the dominant nation in the African Indian Ocean region, Madagascar, announced it would join SADC. Malagasy President Marc Ravalomanana has since achieved full membership and the Antananarivo government now also has its main focus towards Southern Africa and SADC. The only remaining state focusing on a strong Indian Ocean cooperation is Comoros, a poor and unstable neighbour of Seychelles.
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