History in Sao Tome and Principe

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The islands were first discovered by Portuguese navigators between 1469 and 1472. The first successful settlement of Sao Tome was established in 1493 by Avaro Caminha who received the land as a grant from the Portuguese crown. Principe was settled in 1500 under a similar arrangement. By the mid-1500s with the help of slave labor the Portuguese settlers had turned the islands into Africa's foremost exporter of sugar. Sao Tome and Principe were taken over and administered by the Portuguese crown in 1522 and 1573 respectively.

Sugar cultivation declined over the next 100 years and by the mid-1600s Sao Tome was little more than a port of call for bunkering ships. In the early 1800s two new cash crops coffee and cocoa were introduced. The rich volcanic soils proved well suited to the new cash crop industry and soon extensive plantations (rocas) owned by Portuguese companies or absentee landlords occupied almost all of the good farmland. By 1908 Sao Tome had become the world's largest producer of cocoa still the country's most important crop.

The rocas system which gave the plantation managers a high degree of authority led to abuses against the African farm workers. Although Portugal officially abolished slavery in 1876 the practice of forced paid labor continued. In the early 1900s an internationally publicized controversy arose over charges that Angolan contract workers were being subjected to forced labor and unsatisfactory working conditions. Sporadic labor unrest and dissatisfaction continued well into the 20th century culminating in an outbreak of riots in 1953 in which several hundred African laborers were killed in a clash with their Portuguese rulers. This "Batepa Massacre" remains a major event in the colonial history of the islands and its anniversary is officially observed by the government.

By the late 1950s when other emerging nations across the African continent were demanding independence a small group of Sao Tomeans had formed the Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe (MLSTP) which eventually established its base in nearby Gabon. Picking up momentum in the 1960s events moved quickly after the overthrow of the Caetano dictatorship in Portugal in April 1974. The new Portuguese regime was committed to the dissolution of its overseas colonies; in November 1974 their representatives met with the MLSTP in Algiers and worked out an agreement for the transfer of sovereignty. After a period of transitional government Sao Tome and Principe achieved independence on July 12 1975 choosing as its first president the MLSTP Secretary General Manuel Pinto da Costa.

In 1990 Sao Tome became one of the first African countries to embrace democratic reform and changes to the constitution--the legalization of opposition political parties--led to elections in 1991 that were nonviolent free and transparent. Miguel Trovoada a former prime minister who had been in exile since 1986 returned as an independent candidate and was elected president and was re-elected in Sao Tome's second multiparty presidential election in 1996. The Party of Democratic Convergence (PCD) toppled the MLSTP to take a majority of seats in the National Assembly with the MLSTP becoming an important and vocal minority party. Municipal elections followed in late 1992 in which the MLSTP came back to win a majority of seats on five of seven regional councils. In early legislative elections in October 1994 the MLSTP won a plurality of seats in the Assembly and retained a plurality in the 1996 elections. The Government of Sao Tome fully functions under a multiparty system. GOVERNMENT

Under the new constitution passed by the National Assembly in April 1990 which was approved in an August public referendum and promulgated in September Sao Tome and Principe held multiparty elections for the first time since independence. Shortly after the constitution took effect the National Assembly formally legalized opposition parties and permitted independent candidates to participate in the January 1991 legislative elections. The National Assembly is the supreme organ of the state and the highest legislative body. Its members are elected for a four-year term and meet semi-annually.

The president of the republic is elected to a 5-year term by direct universal suffrage and a secret ballot. Candidates are chosen at their party's national conference (or individuals may run independently). A presidential candidate must obtain an outright majority of the popular vote in either a first or second tour of voting in order to be elected president. The prime minister is named by the president but must be ratified by the majority party and thus normally comes from a list of its choosing. The prime minister in turn names the 14 members of the cabinet. The National Assembly is made up of 55 members all of whom must stand for reelection every five years.

Justice is administered at the highest level by the Supreme Tribunal. Formerly responsible to the National Assembly the judiciary is now independent under the new constitution.

Administratively the country is divided into seven municipal districts six on Sao Tome and one comprising Principe. Governing councils in each district maintain a limited number of autonomous decision-making powers and are reelected every five years.

Principal Government Officials

President--Miguel Trovoada

Prime Minister--Raul Wagner Conceicao Braganca Neto

Deputy Prime Minister--Armindo Vaz D'Almeida

Charge d'affaires--Domingo Ferreira

Ambassador to the United Nations--Domingo Ferreira


Justice Labor and Public Administration--Amaro Pereira De Couto

Foreign Affairs and Sao Tomean Communities Overseas--Homero Jeronimo Salvaterra

Defense and Internal Order--Captain Joao Quaresma Viegas Bexigas

Planning and Finances--Acacio Elba Bonfim

Education Culture and Sports--Albertino Homem dos Santos Sequeira Braganca

Equipment and the Environment--Arlindo Afonso de Carvalho

Health--Dr. Eduardo do Carmo Ferreira de Matos

Agriculture and Fisheries--Hermenilgido de Assuncao Sousa e Santos

Commerce Industry and Tourism--Cosme Afonso da Trindade Rita

The Sao Tome and Principe Mission to the United States which also is the Sao Tomean Embassy to the United Nations is located at 801 Second Avenue Suite 1604 New York New York 10017 (tel.

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