Utafiti: Journal of African Perspectives

 

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African Studies

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This small country was again affected by political crisis and corruption scandals. A national forum to reconcile the various political groups in the interests of the country's development did not end the political instability. The emerging oil sector dominated economic development and attracted increasing international attention. Delays in the awarding of the first oil blocks, submitted to a bidding round in 2003, postponed the expected payment of signature bonuses to 2005.

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Following the controversial confiscation of two ships chartered by Stena Oil in March, the Swedish company accused São Tomé of state piracy. However, after eight months of mutual threats and tough negotiations the government emerged as the winner of the legal dispute. The country’s oil hopes suffered another blow in September, when the French Total pulled out of the Joint Development Zone (JDZ) with Nigeria. At the end of the year, Angola granted São Tomé a credit line of $ 180 m for a three-year period.

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In June, Taiwan formally expressed concern when President Pinto da Costa paid a private visit to China in search of private investments for his country. In October, Patrice Trovoada returned to power with an absolute majority in parliament when his ‘Acção Democrática Independente’ (adi) won a surprising landslide victory in the legislative elections. One of Trovoada’s first decisions was to cancel an agreement on a huge urbanisation scheme signed with a Chinese company by the previous government.

Author:

The first year of cohabitation between President Manuel Pinto da Costa and Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada (‘Acção Democrática Independente’; adi) was largely marked by mutual non-interference in each other’s affairs. Both politicians were engaged in strengthening South-South cooperation, particularly with Angola, Cabo Verde and Equatorial Guinea. Government officials were eagerly selling the significance of the country’s strategic location for maritime security and attracting more fdi.

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Presidential elections and the diplomatic turn to Beijing were the most important political events of the year. In August, Evaristo Carvalho, the ‘Acção Democrática Independente’ (adi) candidate, widely considered a close ally of Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada, was elected president. His election provided Trovoada’s adi with virtually absolute power, since the party now controlled the presidency, government, parliament and São Tomé’s district councils. In late December, the government cut off bilateral ties with Taiwan that had been established in 1997 and reinstated full diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

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The three opposition parties fiercely contested the presence of military instructors from Rwanda and legislation on the establishment of a new independent Constitutional Court and a restructured ‘Comissão Eleitoral Nacional’. Newly established relations with Beijing resulted in the signing of a five-year cooperation package worth $ 146 m. While the development assistance promised by China covered many areas, Beijing denied São Tomé funds for the construction of a deep-sea container transhipment port, which had for years been the Trovoada government’s top priority for local infrastructure development.

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On 3 December, Jorge Bom Jesus, new leader of the ‘Movimento de Libertação de São Tomé e Príncipe/Partido Social Democrata’ (mlstp/psd), was inaugurated as prime minister. His party and its coalition partner obtained a slender majority of 28 seats in the 55-member Assembleia Nacional (an) in the elections of 7 October. It was the seventh time since 1991 that elections resulted in a peaceful change of government. After having assumed power, the new coalition government revoked several controversial measures imposed by the former government party, ‘Acção Democrática Independente’ (adi).

Author:

Following several negotiation rounds, on 2 October the imf approved a new Extended Credit Facility (ecf) programme of $ 18.2 m for São Tomé. In return, the government of Prime Minister Jorge Bom Jesus and the ‘Movimento de Libertação de São Tomé e Príncipe/Partido Social Democrata’ (mlstp/psd) was committed to containing expenditure, increasing revenue, and reducing the huge public debt. The opposition ‘Acção Democrática Independente’ (adi), with 25 seats the largest party in the ‘Assembleia Nacional’ (an), was affected by internal strife and split into two rival factions.

Author:

Like everywhere else, the socioeconomic crisis provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic largely dominated domestic politics and foreign affairs. The cohabitation between President Evaristo Carvalho and the government headed by Prime Minister Jorge Bom Jesus was largely conflict free. Nevertheless, when the government meddled in presidential competences Carvalho forced a government reshuffle. Another headline story was that former prime minister Patrice Trovoada regained full control of the opposition Acção Democrática Independente (adi). However, the government-controlled constitutional court refused to recognise his election as party leader, in an obvious attempt to impede his political comeback.

Author:

In the run-off of the presidential elections in October, Carlos Vila Nova, the candidate of the opposition Ação Democrática Independente (adi), defeated Guilherme Pósser da Costa, nominee of the ruling Movimento de Libertação de São Tomé e Príncipe/Partido Social Democrata (mlstp/psd). The final ballot was delayed by a month due to a crisis in the constitutional court where the five judges issued contradictory verdicts in response to a recount request by the third most voted-for candidate in the first election round in July, who alleged irregularities during the ballot counting. Despite the failed implementation of similar agreements in the recent past, the government signed two ambitious agreements for the construction of a large free trade zone and a deep-sea container port, the futures of which were equally uncertain.