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Friday, March 2, 2018

Sao Tome and Principe History of the Smallest Country in Africa

Sao Tome island was named after Saint Thomas the Apostle by the Portuguese who discovered the island on December 21, 1470, the saint's feast day; Principe island name is a abridging of the original Portuguese name of Ilha do Principe, Isle of the Prince referring to the Prince of Portugal to whom duties on the island's sugar crop were paid.

Sao Tome and Principe History of the Smallest Country in Africa

Sao Tome and Principe History of the Smallest Country in Africa

Playing soccer on the island of Sao Tome Central Africa
Playing soccer on the island of Sao Tome Central Africa 

Sao Tome and Principe is located in Central Africa and is islands in the Gulf of Guinea, just north of the Equator, west of Gabon. Hailed as the smallest country in Africa the two main islands form part of a chain of extinct volcanoes and both are mountainous. Sao Tome, the capital city, has roughly a quarter of the nation's population; Santo Antonio is the largest town on Principe; the northern areas of both islands have the highest population densities.

More than 60 percent of the population is under the age of 25 and descends are primarily from the islands’ colonial Portuguese settlers, who first arrived in the late 15th century, and the much larger number of African slaves brought in for sugar production and the slave trade. For about 100 years after the abolition of slavery in 1876, the population was further shaped by the widespread use of imported unskilled contract laborers from Portugal’s other African colonies, who worked on coffee and cocoa plantations.

In the first decades after abolition, most workers were brought from Angola under a system similar to slavery. While Angolan laborers were technically free, they were forced or coerced into long contracts that were automatically renewed and extended to their children. Even though Portugal officially abolished slavery in 1876, the plantations (rocas) system continued to abuse workforce well into the 20th century. This led to an outbreak of riots in 1953 the Batepa Massacre, where many workers were killed in clash with their Portuguese rulers.

When the Portuguese dictator Marcello Caetano was overthrown in the Carnation revolution in 1974, Portugal was committed to dissolve its overseas colonies and the São Toméan party MLSTP (Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe) negotiated with the Portuguese authority and worked out an agreement for the transfer of sovereignty. São Tomé and Principe achieved independence on July 12, 1975.

The 2003 São Tomé and Príncipe coup d'état was an attempted coup by rebels on July 16, 2003. It was led by Major Fernando Pereira of the military. President Olusegun Obasanjo De Menezes had been attending the Leo Sullivan Summit in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, when a group of military officers led by Major Fermando Pereira seized power.

The coup leaders claimed that they had acted to overthrow the government to help stop poverty in the region. Negotiations between the government and the coup leaders began on the second day of the coup. According to terms of the settlement, Menezes, who has fired four prime ministers and dissolved parliament once since his five-year term began in September 2001, is also obliged to respect his nations separation of powers.

The coup leader, Major Fernando Pereira, has however cautioned President Menezes to abide by the terms of the restoration. He warned that the military could rebel again if the government violates the agreement, which also grants them amnesty.  International mediators, including Nigeria, Portugal, Angola, Gabon, United States and the United Nations, and coup leaders in the island-nation and South African diplomats were involved in the negotiations.

Today’s Sao Tomean population consists of mesticos (creole descendants of the European immigrants and African slaves that first inhabited the islands), forros (descendants of freed African slaves), angolares (descendants of runaway African slaves that formed a community in the south of Sao Tome Island and today are fishermen), servicais (contract laborers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde), tongas (locally born children of contract laborers), and lesser numbers of Europeans and Asians.

Did you know?
The languages of Sao Tome and Principe are Portuguese 98.4 percent (official), Forro 36.2 percent, Cabo Verdean 8.5 percent, French 6.8 percent, Angolar 6.6 percent, English 4.9 percent, Lunguie 1 percent, and other 2.4 percent.
Women of the island of Principe Central Africa
Women of the island of Principe Central Africa

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