The withdrawal information on Seychelles’ bid was made public on Wednesday January 13, 2016 by the country’s Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs Maurice Loustau-Lalanne. The Seychelles official confirmed to the Seychelles News Agency (SNA), “The official announcement of Seychelles’ withdrawing in favour of Ethiopia will be done at the next African Union summit for heads of state,” which would convene at the end of this month in Addis Abeba.
While that has come out loud and clear, Principal Foreign Secretary Maurice Loustau-Lalanne also knows full well that his country’s withdrawal justification: “For solidarity reasons” would be hard put to convince the diplomatic world and UN observers, especially aware that Victoria started its for membership in UNSC campaign in earnest and in 2012
The SADC body provided its support and endorsement twice to Seychelles: in March 2015 at ministerial level and in July from the candidature committee. SADC at the time reported that it had conducted discussions on Seychelles’ request in an informed manner and “on a wide array of matters which are of interest to the archipelago and the region, especially in line with the maintenance of peace and stability within the SADC, and the development of an even more secure and integrated region.”
The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO) on January 8, 2016 boldly linked its suspicion of the then alleged withdrawal, as announced by Ethiopia'a Foreign Minister to “a mysterious horse trading” between the two countries.
TEO’s view, which has now been corroborated, is predicated on the fact of, firstly, Seychelles’ decision became sudden, after a prolonged campaign – in the words of its President James Michel – basing it in 2012 on the theme of: “We have values that we can share with and impart to the rest of the world. These values are solidly anchored in our abiding faith in the inherent goodness of humanity.”
TEO continues to maintain that Ethiopia’s bargaining chip is the weekly flights by the Ethiopian Airlines to the island nation, for which the two countries have ample experiences in that regard.
Note that the Seychelles has two major islands as tourist attraction with airports: Mahé, it being the largest about 155 sqkm and 79,000 residents and home to the capital city Victoria. The other is Praslin island and 38 sqkm, home for about 6,500 people is known as “a wicked seductress”, because of its attraction to tourists – serviced through chartered flights by Air Seychelles (AS) only.
Ethiopian airlines makes three weekly flights to Mahé, the largest island, using Boeing 737-800 jests, with carrying capacity of 154 persons.
As discussed in the above-mentioned TEO article, Ethiopian resumed its flight in October 2014, after a six-month interruption, sending Victoria delegations to scramble in every direction. Even during the interruption of Ethiopian flights to Seychelles, the island nation had made it public that its tourism business was severly affected, tourists from the Americas, China and Europe totally cut off, according to Transport and Home Affairs Minister Joel Morgan.
We are also aware that since December 1, 2015, there have been fresh terms and conditions Ethiopian Airlines has imposed on the Seychelles concerning “discounted fare and other privileges”.
While there are a number of internationally known names of airlines companies flying to Seychelles, because of its widespread reach in five continents, it is possible that there is a covert blackmail to which the island nation has been subjected by the TPLF regime. In fact, an Ethiopian official in December 2015 told the Seychelles Tourism Academy, “I would like to affirm the Ethiopian Airlines commitment to offer convenient and seamless connections to and from our more than 92 international destinations across five continents using modern and youngest fleet in Africa.”
At the moment, Ethiopian flies four times a week to Mahé as of September 2015, revising the October 2014 agreement of three weekly connections between the two countries.
Who would tell the international community – Ethiopia or the Seychelles – the truth of what transactions took place between the TPLF regime in Addis Abeba and the Seychelles’ officials for the latter to hold back its aspirations for which it had spent several man hours and hard won resources fishing the goodwill of nations dispatching delegations to capitals to secure their support?