Discovered and claimed by Portugal in the late 15th century, the islands' sugar-based economy gave way to coffee and cocoa in the 19th century - all grown with plantation slave labor, a form of which lingered into the 20th century. While independence was achieved in 1975, democratic reforms were not instituted until the late 1980s. The country held its first free elections in 1991, but frequent internal wrangling between the various political parties precipitated repeated changes in leadership and two failed coup attempts in 1995 and 2003. The recent discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea promises to attract increased attention to the small island nation.
mestico, angolares (descendants of Angolan slaves), forros (descendants of freed slaves), servicais (contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde), tongas (children of servicais born on the islands), Europeans (primarily Portuguese)
president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 30 July 2006 (next to be held in July 2011); prime minister chosen by the National Assembly and approved by the president
Fradique DE MENEZES elected president; percent of vote - Fradique DE MENEZES 60%, Patrice TROVOADA 38.5%
Force for Change Democratic Movement or MDFM [Tome Soares da VERA CRUZ]; Independent Democratic Action or ADI [Patrice TROVOADA]; Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe-Social Democratic Party or MLSTP-PSD [Rafael BRANCO]; New Way Movement or NR; Party for Democratic Convergence or PCD [Delfim NEVES]; Ue-Kedadji coalition; other small parties
three horizontal bands of green (top), yellow (double width), and green with two black five-pointed stars placed side by side in the center of the yellow band and a red isosceles triangle based on the hoist side; green stands for the country's rich vegetation, red recalls the struggle for independence, and yellow represents cocoa, one of the country's main agricultural products; the two stars symbolize the two main islands
note:uses the popular Pan-African colors of Ethiopia
This small, poor island economy has become increasingly dependent on cocoa since independence in 1975. Cocoa production has substantially declined in recent years because of drought and mismanagement. Sao Tome has to import all fuels, most manufactured goods, consumer goods, and a substantial amount of food. Over the years, it has had difficulty servicing its external debt and has relied heavily on concessional aid and debt rescheduling. Sao Tome benefited from $200 million in debt relief in December 2000 under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program, which helped bring down the country's $300 million debt burden. In August 2005, Sao Tome signed on to a new 3-year IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) program worth $4.3 million. Considerable potential exists for development of a tourist industry, and the government has taken steps to expand facilities in recent years. The government also has attempted to reduce price controls and subsidies. Potential exists for the development of petroleum resources in Sao Tome's territorial waters in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, which are being jointly developed in a 60-40 split with Nigeria, but any actual production is at least several years off. The first production licenses were sold in 2004, though a dispute over licensing with Nigeria delayed Sao Tome's receipt of more than $20 million in signing bonuses for almost a year. Real GDP growth averaged about 6% in 2006-07, as a result of increases in public expenditures and oil-related capital investment, but has been declining in the years since.
1 government-owned TV station; 1 government-owned radio station; 3 independent local radio stations authorized in 2005 with 2 operating at the end of 2006; transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are available (2007)
Sao Tome and Principe's army is a tiny force with almost no resources at its disposal and would be wholly ineffective operating unilaterally; infantry equipment is considered simple to operate and maintain but may require refurbishment or replacement after 25 years in tropical climates; poor pay, working conditions, and alleged nepotism in the promotion of officers have been problems in the past, as reflected in the 1995 and 2003 coups; these issues are being addressed with foreign assistance aimed at improving the army and its focus on realistic security concerns; command is exercised from the president, through the Minister of Defense, to the Chief of the Armed Forces staff (2005)