Seven Seychellois hostages back home safe and sound-Joyful end to long ordeal


President Michel warmly welcomes the freed hostages as they set foot on Seychelles soil again

On hand at the airport to welcome them back were President James Michel, Vice-President Joseph Belmont, Minister for Community Development, Youth, Sports and Culture Vincent Meriton, Police Commissioner Ernest Quatre, and family members and friends.

It was shortly after 2.30pm when the seven men set foot on Seychelles’ soil again after being flown from Nairobi on an IDC (Island Development Company) plane sent to fetch them.

On board the plane were also members of the negotiating team – headed by Environment, Natural Resources and Transport Minister Joel Morgan – who had gone to the Kenyan capital to finalise the release of the hostages.

The men – Francis Roucou, George Bijoux, Patrick Dyer, Robin Songoire, Georges Guichard, Robert Naiken and Stephen Stravens – were on board the Indian Ocean Explorer on their way from Assumption to Mahe when it was seized by Somali pirates on March 27.

Since then they have been held captive in Somalia by the pirates, and intensive negotiations have been ongoing between the local negotiating team and the pirates for their release, which finally materialised on Monday this week.

After the seven men had been welcomed by President Michel and his entourage as soon as they got off the plane, they went to the airport’s CIP lounge where their families and close relatives were waiting for them.

Tears of joy flowed as mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children welcomed back their beloved sons, siblings and fathers, while others looked on, with hearts in mouths, at the deeply emotional tableau.

In a short statement to the media, President Michel described the moment as “a cause for celebration”.
“The entire Seychellois nation is overjoyed that our brothers who had been held captive by Somali pirates are back home today,” he said.

“It is with great emotion that myself, the family members of the former hostages and the entire Seychellois nation are living this moment.”

He recalled that on Easter Sunday, when he had to cut short his official visit to Japan to return to Seychelles, he visited all the homes of the families of the then hostages, promising them that he would do everything in his power to have them return home safe and sound.

 “Today I share in the joy of their families and the entire Seychellois nation on their release,” Mr Michel said, adding that this should be a moment of pride for every patriotic Seychellois.

He thanked all those who, in one way or another, have helped to make this moment a reality, with a special mention for Minister Morgan as head of the negotiating team, the police, the military, and foreign negotiators working on behalf of our team.

A group photograph of the seven freed hostages: (from l to r ) Robert Naiken, Georges Guichard, Stephen Stravens, Francis Roucou, Georges Bijoux, Robin Songoire and Patrick Dyer

Noting that the negotiations were at times very intense and difficult, Mr Michel said the important thing is that we have worked as a team and in the end we have succeeded.

He said this is a good example of what working in unity can achieve.
“We have come together, we have prayed together and God has answered our prayers,” he said.

He also said we should not forget the three other Seychellois hostages who are still being held captive in Somalia. They were captured on board the catamaran Serenity a few days before the attack on the Indian Ocean Explorer.

He said he has asked the negotiating team to intensify their negotiations so they too can be released soon.

The captain of the Indian Ocean Explorer, Francis Roucou, said it was with overwhelming emotion that he received news of their release, especially when arriving in Nairobi to see Minister Morgan and his team waiting to welcome them.

“I realised there and then that the Seychellois government had worked very hard to make this moment a reality, and for that I am very grateful,” he said.

He thanked President Michel, Minister Morgan and all those who have fought ceaselessly to secure their release, and the Seychellois nation for its support and prayers.

He urged the Seychellois people to continue to pray for the release of their three brothers who are still in captivity.

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