Potential Hot Spots: July 17, 2003


: Predictably, ousted Sao Tome and Principe President Menezes claimed that the coup plotters did it for the island's oil. He then called on the international community to restore democracy without bloodshed (which would also put him back in control of the country's bank accounts). Foreign Minister Rita (who was in Portugal at the time) told the press that the coup was staged by leaders of the Christian Democrat Front, a small party with no parliamentary representation, and mercenaries (formerly with South Africa's Buffalo Battalion). Rita's accusations are conceivable, since the Buffalo Battalion was composed of Portuguese speaking Angolans.

Regional leaders are working to quickly clamp down on the problem, before anyone else gets ideas about regime change. Mozambican President Chissano, chairman of the African Union, flew to Nigeria for talks with President Obasanjo on possible military action to restore the islands' elected president to power. France, South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Senegal and Ghana have also condemned the coup. 

Nigeria also sent an envoy to meet with the rebellious soldiers, who claim that they have no desire to stay in power. They only wanted to set up a provisional government and create the conditions for free elections. Suspected coup leader Major Pereira, an artillery officer, told Portuguese state radio that they acted to save the impoverished country from social and economic decline.

Life was returning to normal in the capital, where shops and markets reopened. Members of the government detained overnight at an army barracks were released later in the day. - Adam Geibel

Sao Tome and Principe map, online at 


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