Foreign policy and defense
Sao Tome and Principe is a nation in Central Africa. Its capital city is Sao Tome. São Tomé and Príncipe have good relations with the former colonial power Portugal, which is the country’s largest trading partner and donor. Contacts with France, Angola and Brazil are also important. In 2016, diplomatic relations with China were restored.
São Tomé and Príncipe participated in the founding of the Portuguese-speaking community CPLP (Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa) in 1996. The following year, the country participated in the cooperation of the French-speaking countries OIF (Organization Internationale de la Francophonie). São Tomé and Príncipe were also involved in the formation of the Gulf of Guinea Commission in 1999 with a view to preventing conflicts between the eight Member States Angola, Cameroon, Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria and São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Sao Tome and Principe for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Oil deposits in the sea off São Tomé and Príncipe have added strategic importance to the small island state. The United States has set up a radar station on the island of São Tomé to monitor ship traffic in the oil-rich Guinea Bay.
Relations with Nigeria have been tense because of a dispute over the territorial water boundary. In 1998, Parliament passed a law stipulating that a certain sea area would be an economic zone of São Tomé and Príncipe. But Nigeria claimed large parts of the same sea zone. In August 2000, the two countries reached an agreement to extract oil together in the disputed border area between the countries.
Nigeria has a great influence over the oil sector and to safeguard its interests, the country has intervened in São Tomé and Príncipe’s internal affairs. For example, Nigeria mediated at the military coup in July 2003, and helped restore power to President Menezes (see Modern History).
São Tomé and Príncipe are dependent on good relations with Angola which has given the country large loans and engaged in the upgrading of one of the country’s ports and the larger airport. The countries also cooperate in education, health care, agriculture and more.
The need for foreign investment has forced the government to strike a balance between China and Taiwan. In 1997, São Tomé and Príncipe chose to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The decision, which was rewarded with plentiful assistance from Taiwan, led to China closing its embassy in the country. (Beijing does not accept that the countries with which China has diplomatic relations also have the same with Taiwan, since Beijing sees Taiwan as part of China.). Under Pinto da Costa’s successor Evaristo Carvalho, São Tomé and Príncipe changed their foot completely and left Taiwan. In 2016, São Tomé established diplomatic relations with China.
Relations with South Africa have developed in recent years. South Africa has been involved in projects to develop São Tomé’s infrastructure, including an expansion of the drinking water supply. South African investment in the country has increased, and at the end of 2013, increased defense and security cooperation was initiated.
The country’s defense force consists of about 800 soldiers. Although the defense force is small, it has had a great influence on politics and even in modern times carried out coup attempts (see Modern history).
Conscription is mandatory and lasts for 30 months. Women should also do military service. Especially the US and Portugal, but also other countries contribute military expertise and some equipment. Angola has built up the semi-military force “ninjas” comprising 200 men. The President’s bodyguard consists of 160 people.
There is no Air Force, and no regular fleet. The Coast Guard, supported by the United States, Portugal and Brazil, patrols the country’s territorial waters.