James Mancham was the first President of the independent nation of Seychelles. He was born on August 11, 1939, the son of Richard and Evelyn (nee Tirant) Mancham, a wealthy family, on the island of Mahe, the largest island in the Seychelles archipelago which was then a colony of Great Britain. As a child and young man Mancham studied at schools in Seychelles and then later studied law in London and also at the University of Paris.
In 1961 Mancham passed the Bar examination in London and then returned to Seychelles. Between 1963 and 1967 he was a barrister and Attorney-at-Law before the Supreme Court of Seychelles.
In 1964 Mancham founded the Seychelles Democratic Party which was organized to further self-government under British rule. As more and more former colonies became independent from their colonial rulers the demand for independence grew in Seychelles. On June 29, 1976, Seychelles became independent with James Mancham as President. He had won the election against France-Albert Rene who then became Prime Minister.
Under his tenure as Chief Minister and then President, Mancham promoted tourism and arranged for the construction of an international airport in Seychelles. In June 1977 Mancham traveled to London to attend a meeting of the British Commonwealth Heads of State. While in London, France-Albert Rene led a coup on June 5 that toppled the Mancham government. Mancham settled in London for the next fifteen years while Rene set up a Soviet-backed government in Seychelles.
While in London Mancham engaged in several profitable international business enterprises but in 1992, he returned to the Seychelles where he worked with France-Albert Rene to help write a new constitution and establish a multi-party democracy. For his efforts, he was dubbed the “Apostle of National Reconciliation.”
Mancham ran for President in July 1993 and April 1998 but lost both contests. In 2005 he stepped down as leader of the Democratic Party.
In 1963 Mancham married Heather Jean Evans. They had two children: Caroline and Richard. The marriage was dissolved in 1974. He later married Catherine Olson, an Australian journalist, in 1985. They had a son, Alexander.
On January 8, 2017, Mancham died suddenly, possibly of a stroke, at the age of 77 in Victoria, the capital of Seychelles.