Islands of Sao Tome and Principe map

Sao Tome flag

Flag description: three horizontal bands of green (top), yellow (double width), and green with two black five-pointed stars placed side by side in the centre of the yellow band and a red isosceles triangle based on the hoist side; uses the popular pan-African colours of Ethiopia.

Location: Western Africa, islands in the Gulf of Guinea, straddling the Equator, west of Gabon.

Geographic coordinates: 1 00 N, 7 00 E.

Climate: tropical; hot, humid; one rainy season (October to May).

Independence: 12 July 1975 (from Portugal).

Nationality: Sao Tomean(s).

Capital City: Sao Tome.

Population: 159,883 (July 2000 est.)

Head of State: President Miguel TROVOADA (since 4 April 1991).

Area: 1,001 sq km.

Type of Government: republic.

Currency: 1 dobra (Db) = 100 centimes.

Major peoples: mestico, angolares (descendants of Angolan slaves), forros (descendants of freed slaves), servicais (contract labourers from Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde), tongas (children of servicais born on the islands), Europeans (primarily Portuguese).

Religion: Christian 80% (Roman Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, Seventh-Day Adventist).

Official Language: Portuguese (official).

Principal Languages: Portuguese.

Major Exports: cocoa 90%, copra, coffee, palm oil (1997).

History: The uninhabited islands were discovered by the Portuguese in the late 15th century. The first Portuguese settlers arrived in 1493, and soon African slaves were imported to work on the large sugar plantations.

Sao Tome was taken over by the Portuguese crown in 1522, and Principe in 1573. The Portuguese kept Sao Tome and Principe under harsh colonial rule even after it became an overseas territory in 1951. In 1960 the Committee for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe was organized. In 1972, it renamed itself the Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe (MLSTP).

Following the overthrow of the Portuguese dictatorship in 1974, the new government in Lisbon recognized the MLSTP. The islands achieved independence on July 21, 1975.

A new constitution adopted in 1990 provided for a directly elected president who could serve no more than two terms and would share power with a prime minister. In 1991, Manuel Pinto da Costa, the country's first president, retired as head of the MLSTP after his party's defeat in the nation's first multiparty elections since independence.