São Tomé and Principe

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Overview

São Tomé and Principe is comprised of two islands, along with a few smaller ones, in the Gulf of Guinea, off the eastern coast of Africa. They were originally discovered by Portuguese explorers, and employed slave labor to become one of the premier sugar exporters in Africa. During the early part of the 16th century, plantation owners introduced coffee and cocoa as new crops, and the rich volcanic soil made them flourish. By 1908, São Tomé had become one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa. Plantation owners had much power, which led to abuses against African farm workers. Forced labor continued, and Angolan contract workers were subjected to horrible working conditions. Riots broke out in the 1950s, leading to the Batepa Massacre, which is still observed by the government yearly. In 1975, São Tomé and Principe became independent after the Portuguese government was overthrown and a new regime took over, which set free all of the country’s remaining colonies. At first, the São Toméan government relied on the Communist model for its political and economic structure, but unrest in the 1980s eventually led to democratic reforms in 1990. São Tomé and Principe held its first free and fair elections in 1991, and power has shifted back and forth between the country’s two major political parties for the past two decades. But on May 20, 2008, the government collapsed after it lost a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

 
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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: The republic of São Tomé and Principe consists of those two islands, plus a few smaller ones, in the Gulf of Guinea about 125 miles off the African coast of Gabon in the Atlantic Ocean.

 
Population:  167,000
 
Religions: Catholic 72%, Protestant 23%, Muslim 2%, Baha’i 1.8%, non-religious 1.2%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Mestizo, Angolares (descendants of Angolan slaves), Forros (descendants of freed slaves), Servicais (contract laborers from Africa), Tongas (children of Servicais born on the islands), Europeans.
 
Languages: Sãotomense (official) 38.4%, Angolar 2.7%, Portuguese (official) 1.4%, Principense (official) 0.1%.
 
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History

The islands of São Tomé and Principe were originally discovered by the Portuguese in 1469 and 1472. In 1493, Alvaro Caminha established the first settlement in São Tomé. The Portuguese crown, interested in increased its territory, gave Caminha a grant. In 1500, Principe was settled under a similar arrangement.

 
The Portuguese used slave labor to turn the islands into one of the African continent’s largest sugar exporter. In 1522 and 1573, respectively, São Tomé and Principe were taken over by the Portuguese crown. Portugal cultivated sugar for the next 100 years, and by the middle part of the 1600s, São Tomé became primarily a port for exporting ships.
 
In the 1800s, São Tomé and Principe introduced two new crops: coffee and cocoa. The rich volcanic soil of the region made it possible for large plantations (“rocas”) to flourish. These were mostly owned by Portuguese landlords or absentee landlords, and occupied most of the arable farmland on the islands. By 1908, São Tomé had become the world’s largest producer of cocoa.
 
The roca system gave the plantation owners much authority, which led to abuses against the African farm workers. Though slavery had been abolished in 1876, forced labor continued. In the early 1900s, Angolan contract workers were subjected to forced labor and horrible working conditions. In 1953, riots broke out, during which several hundred African laborers were killed by Portuguese rulers. The “Batepa Massacre” remains a major event in the colonial history of the islands, and the government observes its anniversary each year.
 
In the late 1950s, a group of São Toméans formed the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Principe (MLSTP). The group made its base in Gabon. In April 1974, the dictatorship of Salazar and Caetano was overthrown in Portugal, and a new Portuguese regime devoted itself to dissolving the country’s colonies overseas. In November of that year, representatives from the new regime met with the MLSTP in Algiers and negotiated an agreement to transfer sovereignty over the islands.
 
After a period of transitional government, São Tomé and Principe became independent on July 12, 1975. MLSTP Secretary General Manuel Pinto da Costa became the country’s first president. For the next 15 years, the government followed the socialist political and economic model utilized by many Communist countries during that time. But economic decline and popular dissatisfaction led to a process of liberalization that started in 1985 and culminated in the establishment of a multiparty democracy in 1990. The constitution was changed to legalize opposition political parties, and led to free and fair elections in 1991. Miguel Trovoada, a former Prime Minister who had been in exile since 1986, returned as an independent candidate and was elected President. Trovoada was re-elected in São Tomé’s second multiparty presidential election in 1996.
 
The Party of Democratic Convergence (PCD) beat out candidates from the MLSTP to take a majority of seats in the National Assembly. Municipal elections followed in late 1992. The MLSTP took back a majority of seats of regional councils. During legislative elections in October 1994, the MLSTP won a plurality of seats in the Assembly, and regained a majority of seats during the 1998 elections.
 
São Tomé’s government functions with a multiparty system. The most recent presidential elections were held in July 2001. Fradique de Menezes, a candidate from the Independent Democratic Action Party, was inaugurated on September 3 of that year. In March 2002, parliamentary elections led to the formation of a coalition government when no one party gained a majority of seats.
 
In July 2003, a coup attempt led my members of the military and Christian Democratic Front was reversed by American and international meditation. In 2004, President de Menezes dismissed the prime minister and appointed a new cabinet.
 
In July 2005, the MLSTP, which had the largest number of seats in the National Assembly, threatened to resign from the government and force early parliamentary elections, following public discontent with oil exploration licenses granted in the Joint Development Zone (JDZ). After several days of negotiations, the president and the MLSTP agreed to form a new government and to avoid early elections. The new government included Maria Silveira, the well-respected head of the Central Bank, who served concurrently as prime minister and finance minister.
 
In March 2006, the country’s legislative elections led to President Menezes’ party, the Movement for the Democratic Force of Change (MDFM), winning 23 seats. The president also named a new prime minister and cabinet, in trying to form a new coalition government. On July 30 of that year, São Tomé and Principe held its fourth democratic, multiparty elections. Incumbent Fradique de Menezes won the election with approximately 60% of the vote.
 
In November 2007, President de Menezes dismissed and replaced several ministers in his government following public criticism of worsening economic conditions and repeated mutinies by corrupt police officers. The changes occurred peacefully. During another government shakeup, in February 2008, President de Menezes appointed Patrice Trovoada as prime minister.
 
On May 20, 2008, the government collapsed after losing a parliamentary vote of no confidence. The opposition Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Principe-Social Democratic Party (MLSTP-PSD), with the support of Party of Democratic Convergence (PCD), asserted that Prime Minister Trovoada had failed to deliver on reforms that he promised when he entered office. Joachim Rafael Branco became prime minister in June 2008.
 
In February 2009, Christian Democratic Front opposition party leader Arlecio Costa and 62 members of his party were arrested on suspicion of planning a coup d’etat. They are alleged to have planned to attack President Fradique de Menezes and seize power. The president pardoned Costa and the 62 members and cancelled their prison sentences in January of 2010.
 
Legislative elections were held August 1, 2010, with voter turnout at 88%. The opposition party, Independent Democratic Action ADI), won 26 of the 55 seats up for election. Prime Minister Joaquim Rafael’s MLSTP-PSD party came second with 21 seats, while President Fradique de Meneze’s MDFM-PL party one got one seat. Patrice Trovoada of the ADI took over as prime minister on August 14.
 
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São Tomé and Principe's Newspapers
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History of U.S. Relations with São Tomé and Principe

The United States was one of the first countries to accredit an ambassador to São Tomé and Principe when it became independent.

 
The US Ambassador based in Gabon is accredited to São Tomé on a non-resident basis, and the ambassador, as well as the embassy’s staff, makes regular visits to the islands. The first São Toméan Ambassador to the United States, resident in New York City, was accredited in 1985. In 1986, São Toméan President da Costa visited the United States and met with then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.
 
In 1992, the Voice of America (VOA) and the Government of São Tomé signed a long-term agreement for the establishment of a relay transmitter station in São Tomé. VOA currently broadcasts to much of Africa from this facility.
 
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Current U.S. Relations with São Tomé and Principe

Current relations between the United States and São Tomé are friendly.

 
In 2007, the Millennium Challenge Corporation approved a two-year threshold program to improve the capacity of the country’s tax administration and customs enforcement agencies. The US government also maintains a number of smaller assistance programs in São Tomé, administered through non-governmental organizations or the embassy in Libreville.
 
São Tomé and Principe and the US have also participated in joint maritime exercises to secure the Gulf of Guinea. The US also runs small assistance programs in the country.
 
In 2006, 277 Americans visited São Tomé and Principe, a decrease of 15.3% from the 327 that visited in 2005. The number of US visitors to the islands has fluctuated mildly with a low of 251 in 2002 and a high of 412 in 2004.
 
In 2006, 34 São Toméans visited the US. The number of visitors has remained within the tight range of 28 to 34 since 2002.
 
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Where Does the Money Flow

The US imports very little from São Tomé and Principe. Imports in 2010 totaled only $314,000. The top imports in s in 2010 were measuring, testing and control intruments ($153,000), and bakery and confectionary products ($41,000).

 
American exports totaled considerably more than imports, although compared to other countries, US trade with São Tomé and Principe is still quite modest. In 2010, exports were valued at $1.4  million. The leading US exports in 2010 were new and used passenger cars ($374,000), and generators and accessories ($217,000).
 
All of the $120,000 in US aid to São Tomé and Principe in 2006 went to International Military Education and Training. 
 
In 2007, the US sold $500,000 of defense articles and services to São Tomé and Principe. In September 2007, São Tomé and Principe signed a 2-year threshold country program for $8.7 million with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). Amongst other things, the program planned to increase tax revenue through encouraging higher voluntary compliance with tax laws.
 
In 2008 the US gave $687,000 to São Tomé and Principe, divided between Child Survival and Health ($496,000) and International Military Education and Training ($191,000). 
 
The 2009 budget allocated $175,000 to the island nation, which was entirely dedicated to International Military Education and Training, and the 2010 budget allocated $180,000.
 
The 2011 Budget requested $200,000 for the nation, all of which was again be allocated to International Military Education and Training.
 
There is thought to be a significant amount of oil in São Tomé, between 6 and 10 million barrels. While there has been drilling since 2006, corruption allegations have surfaced regarding which countries have been granted oil blocks.
 
Oil Bids Presentation (ANP-STP) (pdf)
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Controversies

Resources Minister Resigns Amid Oil Controversy

Arlindo Carvalho resigned as minister of natural resources of São Tomé and Principe in 2005 amid allegations of irregular procedure and high-level corruption in the award of offshore oil exploration rights. Carvalho quit citing the existence of private interests in the oil business which had resulted in previous governments signing unfavorable accords with the Nigerian-controlled oil company Environmental Remediation Holding Corporation (ERHC). Obligations entered into by previous administrations were having a negative impact on current negotiations to award new offshore blocks for exploration, he added.

Two weeks earlier, President Fradique de Menezes sacked his personal adviser on petroleum issues, Patrice Trovoada. Menezes accused Trovoada of using his official post to further his own private business interests. The president said in a statement there was “a clear situation of conflict between his own interests and those of the country.” Another of Menezes’ former advisers, Manuel Rita, also was forced to quit after revelations that he owned shares in ERHC.

Menezes, meanwhile, had been accused of taking money from interests close to the Nigerian-controlled company in the past. São Tomé and Nigeria signed a first contract awarding exploration rights in their Joint Development Zone to a consortium led by US oil giants ChevronTexaco and Exxonmobil in February 2005. Menezes secured a loan to fund the Santa Amaro thermal power plant, which will cost more than $15 million, from the government of Taiwan.
 
While six firms competed for rights to São Tomé’s oil, (independent oil explorer Afex Global, Force Petroleum from Australia, Grupo Gema from Angola, O.G. Engineering from Sao Tome and Principe, and Nigerian firms Oranto Petroleum and Overt Energy), major oil companies were left out.
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Human Rights

Prison conditions in São Tomé and Principe were harsh but generally not life threatening, according to the State Department. “Facilities were overcrowded, sanitary and medical conditions were poor, and food was inadequate. Pretrial prisoners were held with convicted prisoners, and juveniles were held with adults. There was one prison and no jails or detention centers.” In general police stations had a small room or space to briefly incarcerate an offender.

 
The police were ineffective and widely viewed as corrupt. Impunity was a problem, and efforts to reform the Criminal Investigation Police, a separate agency under the Ministry of Justice, were unsuccessful primarily due to inadequate resources. Reports indicated that police corruption became worse during the year, likely due to continued low salaries and rampant inflation.
 
Severe budgetary constraints, inadequate facilities, and a shortage of trained judges and lawyers resulted in lengthy pretrial detention. At times the judicial system was subject to political influence or manipulation. Judicial salaries remained low, and credible suspicions persisted that judges were tempted to accept bribes.
 
Journalists also practiced self-censorship.
 
Official corruption was widespread. The World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators for 2008 reflected that corruption was a serious problem.
 
“Rape occurred occasionally, with prosecution most likely in cases where there was evidence of violent assault as well as rape, or if the victim was a minor.” Reports of domestic violence, including rape, against women increased.
 
“The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and it was a problem.”Women in general continued to encounter significant societal discrimination.
 
“There was societal discrimination based on sexual orientation. Persons with HIV/AIDS were often rejected by their communities and shunned by their families.”
 
Child labor was a problem. Children worked in subsistence agriculture, on plantations, in informal commerce, and in domestic work.
 
Working conditions on many of the cocoa plantations—the largest informal wage sector—were extremely harsh. The average salary for plantation workers did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family, and the purchasing power of their pay was further eroded by a high rate of inflation.
 
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

The US has not established an embassy in São Tomé and Principe. The Embassy in Gabon represents US interests in São Tomé and Principe. The ambassador resides in Libreville, Gabon.

 
Andrew L. Steigman
Appointment: Dec 11, 1975
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 14, 1976
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Aug 21, 1977
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Arthur T. Tienken
Appointment: Feb 2, 1978
Presentation of Credentials: May 26, 1978
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Jul 19, 1981
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Francis Terry McNamara
Appointment: Dec 11, 1981
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 26, 1982
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Aug 3, 1984
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Larry C. Williamson
Appointment: Aug 13, 1984
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 29, 1984
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Aug 21, 1987
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Warren Clark, Jr.
Appointment: Aug 10, 1987
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 19, 1987
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Aug 24, 1989
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Keith Leveret Wauchope
Appointment: Nov 6, 1989
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 5, 1990
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville July 13, 1992
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Joseph Charles Wilson IV  
Appointment: Jul 14, 1992
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 29, 1992
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Aug 4, 1995
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Elizabeth Raspolic
Appointment: Oct 3, 1995
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 10, 1995
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Jul 24, 1998
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
James Vela Ledesma
Appointment: Oct 22, 1998
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 27, 1999
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Jun 18, 2001
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Note: Thomas F. Daughton served as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Jun 2001-Jun 2002.
 
Kenneth Price Moorefield
Appointment: Jan 30, 2002
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 27, 2002
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Jan 31, 2004
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville.
 
R. Barrie Walkley
Appointment: Jul 2, 2004
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 11, 2004
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Apr 27, 2007
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville.
 
Eunice Reddick
Appointment: November 9, 2007
Presentation of Credentials: December 6, 2007
Termination of Mission: 2010
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville.
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São Tomé and Principe's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Neves, Carlos Agostinho das

 

Carlos Filomeno Agostinho das Neves presented his credentials as São Tomé and Principe’s ambassador to the United States to President Barack Obama on December 3, 2013. Neves is concurrently serving as his country’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, a position he took over in September 2012.

 

Located off the western coast of Central Africa, São Tomé and Principe has a population of about 188,000.

 

Neves was born June 20, 1953. He attended college in Portugal, the former colonial ruler of São Tomé and Principe, earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Classic University of Lisbon and a master’s degree in the same subject from the University of Lisbon. His dissertation was “São Tomé and Principe in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century,” published in 1989.

 

Neves was his country’s ambassador to Portugal from 1991 to 1994 and was credentialed as ambassador to Spain from 1992 to 1994.

 

He was general secretary of the moderate Acçao Democratica Independente party beginning in 1994 and was elected to his country’s assembly the same year and was president of its economic affairs commission until 1998.

 

Neves was vice president of the assembly from 2002 to 2006. As international oil companies began to show interest in drilling in São Tomé and Principe’s territorial waters, Neves served as president of the assembly’s increasingly important oil and gas commission from 2004 to 2006. He served as advisor to the assembly from 2008 to 2009.

 

Subsequent to that, Neves was director of the national petroleum agency’s administrative and public department until being named ambassador to the UN in 2012.

 

Neves is married.

-Steve Straehley

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São Tomé and Principe's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.

São Tomé and Principe Embassy in the United States

1211 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300
Washington DC 20036
1-202-775 2075
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Comments

Rose 2 years ago
From 2002 to 2006 I was keeping track of the oil exploration situation as well as the biodiversity in Sao Tome and Principe. Eventually I became less interested, but am sorry the islands I imagined as being prosperous never came to pass.

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U.S. Ambassador to São Tomé and Principe

Akuetteh, Cynthia
ambassador-image

The West African nation of Gabon and the island nation of São Tomé & Príncipe will soon have a new representative from the United States. Nominated September 12, Cynthia H. Akuetteh is deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State, a position she has held since 2012. If confirmed by the Senate as expected, Akuetteh would succeed Eric D. Benjaminson, who has served in the post since December 2010.

 

Born circa 1948, Akuetteh (née Cynthia Archie) graduated from Western High School in Washington D.C. in 1966. She earned a B.A. from C.W. Post College of Long Island University in 1970 and an M.A. in National Security Resource Policy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (now the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy) at the National Defense University. She also completed two years of graduate course work at Columbia University from 1971 to 1973. 

 

Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 1984 as an economic officer, Akuetteh was deputy director of the Peace Corps program in Ghana. Early career overseas postings included Niamey, Niger; Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; and service as a trade policy officer at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa, Canada. In Washington, DC, Akuetteh served as deputy division chief in the Office of Bilateral Trade Affairs and as economic/commercial officer in the Bureau of Economic Affairs; senior Venezuela desk officer in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs; international economist in the Office of Economic Sanctions, and international economist in the Office of Energy Policy.

 

From 2004 to 2005, Akuetteh was deputy director in the Office of Economic Policy Staff for the Bureau of African Affairs, where she focused on the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and other trade issues. 

 

Akuetteh then served two straight stints as embassy deputy chief of mission, first at the embassy in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from 2005 to 2007, and then at the embassy in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 2007 to 2009.

 

From 2009 to 2011, Akuetteh was the director in the Office of Central African Affairs, and from 2011 to 2012, she was the director in the Office of Europe, Middle East and Africa in the Bureau of Energy Resources. 

 

Akuetteh is married to Nii Akuetteh, a Ghanaian-born policy analyst and activist who founded the Democracy and Conflict Research Institute in Accra, Ghana, and is executive director of the Scholars Council of the TransAfrica Forum. They have a daughter, Nueteki Akuetteh, who is vice president of Global Operations for Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

-Matt Bewig

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Bookmark and Share
News
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Overview

São Tomé and Principe is comprised of two islands, along with a few smaller ones, in the Gulf of Guinea, off the eastern coast of Africa. They were originally discovered by Portuguese explorers, and employed slave labor to become one of the premier sugar exporters in Africa. During the early part of the 16th century, plantation owners introduced coffee and cocoa as new crops, and the rich volcanic soil made them flourish. By 1908, São Tomé had become one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa. Plantation owners had much power, which led to abuses against African farm workers. Forced labor continued, and Angolan contract workers were subjected to horrible working conditions. Riots broke out in the 1950s, leading to the Batepa Massacre, which is still observed by the government yearly. In 1975, São Tomé and Principe became independent after the Portuguese government was overthrown and a new regime took over, which set free all of the country’s remaining colonies. At first, the São Toméan government relied on the Communist model for its political and economic structure, but unrest in the 1980s eventually led to democratic reforms in 1990. São Tomé and Principe held its first free and fair elections in 1991, and power has shifted back and forth between the country’s two major political parties for the past two decades. But on May 20, 2008, the government collapsed after it lost a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

 
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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: The republic of São Tomé and Principe consists of those two islands, plus a few smaller ones, in the Gulf of Guinea about 125 miles off the African coast of Gabon in the Atlantic Ocean.

 
Population:  167,000
 
Religions: Catholic 72%, Protestant 23%, Muslim 2%, Baha’i 1.8%, non-religious 1.2%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Mestizo, Angolares (descendants of Angolan slaves), Forros (descendants of freed slaves), Servicais (contract laborers from Africa), Tongas (children of Servicais born on the islands), Europeans.
 
Languages: Sãotomense (official) 38.4%, Angolar 2.7%, Portuguese (official) 1.4%, Principense (official) 0.1%.
 
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History

The islands of São Tomé and Principe were originally discovered by the Portuguese in 1469 and 1472. In 1493, Alvaro Caminha established the first settlement in São Tomé. The Portuguese crown, interested in increased its territory, gave Caminha a grant. In 1500, Principe was settled under a similar arrangement.

 
The Portuguese used slave labor to turn the islands into one of the African continent’s largest sugar exporter. In 1522 and 1573, respectively, São Tomé and Principe were taken over by the Portuguese crown. Portugal cultivated sugar for the next 100 years, and by the middle part of the 1600s, São Tomé became primarily a port for exporting ships.
 
In the 1800s, São Tomé and Principe introduced two new crops: coffee and cocoa. The rich volcanic soil of the region made it possible for large plantations (“rocas”) to flourish. These were mostly owned by Portuguese landlords or absentee landlords, and occupied most of the arable farmland on the islands. By 1908, São Tomé had become the world’s largest producer of cocoa.
 
The roca system gave the plantation owners much authority, which led to abuses against the African farm workers. Though slavery had been abolished in 1876, forced labor continued. In the early 1900s, Angolan contract workers were subjected to forced labor and horrible working conditions. In 1953, riots broke out, during which several hundred African laborers were killed by Portuguese rulers. The “Batepa Massacre” remains a major event in the colonial history of the islands, and the government observes its anniversary each year.
 
In the late 1950s, a group of São Toméans formed the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Principe (MLSTP). The group made its base in Gabon. In April 1974, the dictatorship of Salazar and Caetano was overthrown in Portugal, and a new Portuguese regime devoted itself to dissolving the country’s colonies overseas. In November of that year, representatives from the new regime met with the MLSTP in Algiers and negotiated an agreement to transfer sovereignty over the islands.
 
After a period of transitional government, São Tomé and Principe became independent on July 12, 1975. MLSTP Secretary General Manuel Pinto da Costa became the country’s first president. For the next 15 years, the government followed the socialist political and economic model utilized by many Communist countries during that time. But economic decline and popular dissatisfaction led to a process of liberalization that started in 1985 and culminated in the establishment of a multiparty democracy in 1990. The constitution was changed to legalize opposition political parties, and led to free and fair elections in 1991. Miguel Trovoada, a former Prime Minister who had been in exile since 1986, returned as an independent candidate and was elected President. Trovoada was re-elected in São Tomé’s second multiparty presidential election in 1996.
 
The Party of Democratic Convergence (PCD) beat out candidates from the MLSTP to take a majority of seats in the National Assembly. Municipal elections followed in late 1992. The MLSTP took back a majority of seats of regional councils. During legislative elections in October 1994, the MLSTP won a plurality of seats in the Assembly, and regained a majority of seats during the 1998 elections.
 
São Tomé’s government functions with a multiparty system. The most recent presidential elections were held in July 2001. Fradique de Menezes, a candidate from the Independent Democratic Action Party, was inaugurated on September 3 of that year. In March 2002, parliamentary elections led to the formation of a coalition government when no one party gained a majority of seats.
 
In July 2003, a coup attempt led my members of the military and Christian Democratic Front was reversed by American and international meditation. In 2004, President de Menezes dismissed the prime minister and appointed a new cabinet.
 
In July 2005, the MLSTP, which had the largest number of seats in the National Assembly, threatened to resign from the government and force early parliamentary elections, following public discontent with oil exploration licenses granted in the Joint Development Zone (JDZ). After several days of negotiations, the president and the MLSTP agreed to form a new government and to avoid early elections. The new government included Maria Silveira, the well-respected head of the Central Bank, who served concurrently as prime minister and finance minister.
 
In March 2006, the country’s legislative elections led to President Menezes’ party, the Movement for the Democratic Force of Change (MDFM), winning 23 seats. The president also named a new prime minister and cabinet, in trying to form a new coalition government. On July 30 of that year, São Tomé and Principe held its fourth democratic, multiparty elections. Incumbent Fradique de Menezes won the election with approximately 60% of the vote.
 
In November 2007, President de Menezes dismissed and replaced several ministers in his government following public criticism of worsening economic conditions and repeated mutinies by corrupt police officers. The changes occurred peacefully. During another government shakeup, in February 2008, President de Menezes appointed Patrice Trovoada as prime minister.
 
On May 20, 2008, the government collapsed after losing a parliamentary vote of no confidence. The opposition Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Principe-Social Democratic Party (MLSTP-PSD), with the support of Party of Democratic Convergence (PCD), asserted that Prime Minister Trovoada had failed to deliver on reforms that he promised when he entered office. Joachim Rafael Branco became prime minister in June 2008.
 
In February 2009, Christian Democratic Front opposition party leader Arlecio Costa and 62 members of his party were arrested on suspicion of planning a coup d’etat. They are alleged to have planned to attack President Fradique de Menezes and seize power. The president pardoned Costa and the 62 members and cancelled their prison sentences in January of 2010.
 
Legislative elections were held August 1, 2010, with voter turnout at 88%. The opposition party, Independent Democratic Action ADI), won 26 of the 55 seats up for election. Prime Minister Joaquim Rafael’s MLSTP-PSD party came second with 21 seats, while President Fradique de Meneze’s MDFM-PL party one got one seat. Patrice Trovoada of the ADI took over as prime minister on August 14.
 
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São Tomé and Principe's Newspapers
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History of U.S. Relations with São Tomé and Principe

The United States was one of the first countries to accredit an ambassador to São Tomé and Principe when it became independent.

 
The US Ambassador based in Gabon is accredited to São Tomé on a non-resident basis, and the ambassador, as well as the embassy’s staff, makes regular visits to the islands. The first São Toméan Ambassador to the United States, resident in New York City, was accredited in 1985. In 1986, São Toméan President da Costa visited the United States and met with then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.
 
In 1992, the Voice of America (VOA) and the Government of São Tomé signed a long-term agreement for the establishment of a relay transmitter station in São Tomé. VOA currently broadcasts to much of Africa from this facility.
 
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Current U.S. Relations with São Tomé and Principe

Current relations between the United States and São Tomé are friendly.

 
In 2007, the Millennium Challenge Corporation approved a two-year threshold program to improve the capacity of the country’s tax administration and customs enforcement agencies. The US government also maintains a number of smaller assistance programs in São Tomé, administered through non-governmental organizations or the embassy in Libreville.
 
São Tomé and Principe and the US have also participated in joint maritime exercises to secure the Gulf of Guinea. The US also runs small assistance programs in the country.
 
In 2006, 277 Americans visited São Tomé and Principe, a decrease of 15.3% from the 327 that visited in 2005. The number of US visitors to the islands has fluctuated mildly with a low of 251 in 2002 and a high of 412 in 2004.
 
In 2006, 34 São Toméans visited the US. The number of visitors has remained within the tight range of 28 to 34 since 2002.
 
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Where Does the Money Flow

The US imports very little from São Tomé and Principe. Imports in 2010 totaled only $314,000. The top imports in s in 2010 were measuring, testing and control intruments ($153,000), and bakery and confectionary products ($41,000).

 
American exports totaled considerably more than imports, although compared to other countries, US trade with São Tomé and Principe is still quite modest. In 2010, exports were valued at $1.4  million. The leading US exports in 2010 were new and used passenger cars ($374,000), and generators and accessories ($217,000).
 
All of the $120,000 in US aid to São Tomé and Principe in 2006 went to International Military Education and Training. 
 
In 2007, the US sold $500,000 of defense articles and services to São Tomé and Principe. In September 2007, São Tomé and Principe signed a 2-year threshold country program for $8.7 million with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). Amongst other things, the program planned to increase tax revenue through encouraging higher voluntary compliance with tax laws.
 
In 2008 the US gave $687,000 to São Tomé and Principe, divided between Child Survival and Health ($496,000) and International Military Education and Training ($191,000). 
 
The 2009 budget allocated $175,000 to the island nation, which was entirely dedicated to International Military Education and Training, and the 2010 budget allocated $180,000.
 
The 2011 Budget requested $200,000 for the nation, all of which was again be allocated to International Military Education and Training.
 
There is thought to be a significant amount of oil in São Tomé, between 6 and 10 million barrels. While there has been drilling since 2006, corruption allegations have surfaced regarding which countries have been granted oil blocks.
 
Oil Bids Presentation (ANP-STP) (pdf)
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Controversies

Resources Minister Resigns Amid Oil Controversy

Arlindo Carvalho resigned as minister of natural resources of São Tomé and Principe in 2005 amid allegations of irregular procedure and high-level corruption in the award of offshore oil exploration rights. Carvalho quit citing the existence of private interests in the oil business which had resulted in previous governments signing unfavorable accords with the Nigerian-controlled oil company Environmental Remediation Holding Corporation (ERHC). Obligations entered into by previous administrations were having a negative impact on current negotiations to award new offshore blocks for exploration, he added.

Two weeks earlier, President Fradique de Menezes sacked his personal adviser on petroleum issues, Patrice Trovoada. Menezes accused Trovoada of using his official post to further his own private business interests. The president said in a statement there was “a clear situation of conflict between his own interests and those of the country.” Another of Menezes’ former advisers, Manuel Rita, also was forced to quit after revelations that he owned shares in ERHC.

Menezes, meanwhile, had been accused of taking money from interests close to the Nigerian-controlled company in the past. São Tomé and Nigeria signed a first contract awarding exploration rights in their Joint Development Zone to a consortium led by US oil giants ChevronTexaco and Exxonmobil in February 2005. Menezes secured a loan to fund the Santa Amaro thermal power plant, which will cost more than $15 million, from the government of Taiwan.
 
While six firms competed for rights to São Tomé’s oil, (independent oil explorer Afex Global, Force Petroleum from Australia, Grupo Gema from Angola, O.G. Engineering from Sao Tome and Principe, and Nigerian firms Oranto Petroleum and Overt Energy), major oil companies were left out.
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Human Rights

Prison conditions in São Tomé and Principe were harsh but generally not life threatening, according to the State Department. “Facilities were overcrowded, sanitary and medical conditions were poor, and food was inadequate. Pretrial prisoners were held with convicted prisoners, and juveniles were held with adults. There was one prison and no jails or detention centers.” In general police stations had a small room or space to briefly incarcerate an offender.

 
The police were ineffective and widely viewed as corrupt. Impunity was a problem, and efforts to reform the Criminal Investigation Police, a separate agency under the Ministry of Justice, were unsuccessful primarily due to inadequate resources. Reports indicated that police corruption became worse during the year, likely due to continued low salaries and rampant inflation.
 
Severe budgetary constraints, inadequate facilities, and a shortage of trained judges and lawyers resulted in lengthy pretrial detention. At times the judicial system was subject to political influence or manipulation. Judicial salaries remained low, and credible suspicions persisted that judges were tempted to accept bribes.
 
Journalists also practiced self-censorship.
 
Official corruption was widespread. The World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators for 2008 reflected that corruption was a serious problem.
 
“Rape occurred occasionally, with prosecution most likely in cases where there was evidence of violent assault as well as rape, or if the victim was a minor.” Reports of domestic violence, including rape, against women increased.
 
“The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and it was a problem.”Women in general continued to encounter significant societal discrimination.
 
“There was societal discrimination based on sexual orientation. Persons with HIV/AIDS were often rejected by their communities and shunned by their families.”
 
Child labor was a problem. Children worked in subsistence agriculture, on plantations, in informal commerce, and in domestic work.
 
Working conditions on many of the cocoa plantations—the largest informal wage sector—were extremely harsh. The average salary for plantation workers did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family, and the purchasing power of their pay was further eroded by a high rate of inflation.
 
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

The US has not established an embassy in São Tomé and Principe. The Embassy in Gabon represents US interests in São Tomé and Principe. The ambassador resides in Libreville, Gabon.

 
Andrew L. Steigman
Appointment: Dec 11, 1975
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 14, 1976
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Aug 21, 1977
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Arthur T. Tienken
Appointment: Feb 2, 1978
Presentation of Credentials: May 26, 1978
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Jul 19, 1981
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Francis Terry McNamara
Appointment: Dec 11, 1981
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 26, 1982
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Aug 3, 1984
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Larry C. Williamson
Appointment: Aug 13, 1984
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 29, 1984
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Aug 21, 1987
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Warren Clark, Jr.
Appointment: Aug 10, 1987
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 19, 1987
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Aug 24, 1989
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Keith Leveret Wauchope
Appointment: Nov 6, 1989
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 5, 1990
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville July 13, 1992
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Joseph Charles Wilson IV  
Appointment: Jul 14, 1992
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 29, 1992
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Aug 4, 1995
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Elizabeth Raspolic
Appointment: Oct 3, 1995
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 10, 1995
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Jul 24, 1998
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
James Vela Ledesma
Appointment: Oct 22, 1998
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 27, 1999
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Jun 18, 2001
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville. No mission has been established at São Tomé.
 
Note: Thomas F. Daughton served as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Jun 2001-Jun 2002.
 
Kenneth Price Moorefield
Appointment: Jan 30, 2002
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 27, 2002
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Jan 31, 2004
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville.
 
R. Barrie Walkley
Appointment: Jul 2, 2004
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 11, 2004
Termination of Mission: Left Libreville Apr 27, 2007
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville.
 
Eunice Reddick
Appointment: November 9, 2007
Presentation of Credentials: December 6, 2007
Termination of Mission: 2010
Note: Also accredited to Gabon; resident at Libreville.
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São Tomé and Principe's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Neves, Carlos Agostinho das

 

Carlos Filomeno Agostinho das Neves presented his credentials as São Tomé and Principe’s ambassador to the United States to President Barack Obama on December 3, 2013. Neves is concurrently serving as his country’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, a position he took over in September 2012.

 

Located off the western coast of Central Africa, São Tomé and Principe has a population of about 188,000.

 

Neves was born June 20, 1953. He attended college in Portugal, the former colonial ruler of São Tomé and Principe, earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Classic University of Lisbon and a master’s degree in the same subject from the University of Lisbon. His dissertation was “São Tomé and Principe in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century,” published in 1989.

 

Neves was his country’s ambassador to Portugal from 1991 to 1994 and was credentialed as ambassador to Spain from 1992 to 1994.

 

He was general secretary of the moderate Acçao Democratica Independente party beginning in 1994 and was elected to his country’s assembly the same year and was president of its economic affairs commission until 1998.

 

Neves was vice president of the assembly from 2002 to 2006. As international oil companies began to show interest in drilling in São Tomé and Principe’s territorial waters, Neves served as president of the assembly’s increasingly important oil and gas commission from 2004 to 2006. He served as advisor to the assembly from 2008 to 2009.

 

Subsequent to that, Neves was director of the national petroleum agency’s administrative and public department until being named ambassador to the UN in 2012.

 

Neves is married.

-Steve Straehley

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São Tomé and Principe's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.

São Tomé and Principe Embassy in the United States

1211 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300
Washington DC 20036
1-202-775 2075
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Comments

Rose 2 years ago
From 2002 to 2006 I was keeping track of the oil exploration situation as well as the biodiversity in Sao Tome and Principe. Eventually I became less interested, but am sorry the islands I imagined as being prosperous never came to pass.

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U.S. Ambassador to São Tomé and Principe

Akuetteh, Cynthia
ambassador-image

The West African nation of Gabon and the island nation of São Tomé & Príncipe will soon have a new representative from the United States. Nominated September 12, Cynthia H. Akuetteh is deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State, a position she has held since 2012. If confirmed by the Senate as expected, Akuetteh would succeed Eric D. Benjaminson, who has served in the post since December 2010.

 

Born circa 1948, Akuetteh (née Cynthia Archie) graduated from Western High School in Washington D.C. in 1966. She earned a B.A. from C.W. Post College of Long Island University in 1970 and an M.A. in National Security Resource Policy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (now the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy) at the National Defense University. She also completed two years of graduate course work at Columbia University from 1971 to 1973. 

 

Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 1984 as an economic officer, Akuetteh was deputy director of the Peace Corps program in Ghana. Early career overseas postings included Niamey, Niger; Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; and service as a trade policy officer at the U.S. embassy in Ottawa, Canada. In Washington, DC, Akuetteh served as deputy division chief in the Office of Bilateral Trade Affairs and as economic/commercial officer in the Bureau of Economic Affairs; senior Venezuela desk officer in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs; international economist in the Office of Economic Sanctions, and international economist in the Office of Energy Policy.

 

From 2004 to 2005, Akuetteh was deputy director in the Office of Economic Policy Staff for the Bureau of African Affairs, where she focused on the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and other trade issues. 

 

Akuetteh then served two straight stints as embassy deputy chief of mission, first at the embassy in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from 2005 to 2007, and then at the embassy in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 2007 to 2009.

 

From 2009 to 2011, Akuetteh was the director in the Office of Central African Affairs, and from 2011 to 2012, she was the director in the Office of Europe, Middle East and Africa in the Bureau of Energy Resources. 

 

Akuetteh is married to Nii Akuetteh, a Ghanaian-born policy analyst and activist who founded the Democracy and Conflict Research Institute in Accra, Ghana, and is executive director of the Scholars Council of the TransAfrica Forum. They have a daughter, Nueteki Akuetteh, who is vice president of Global Operations for Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

-Matt Bewig

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