Sao Tome and Principe country profile
- 27 July 2016
- From the section Africa
Sao Tome and Principe, once a leading cocoa producer, consists of two islands of volcanic origin and a number of smaller islets lying off the coast of Africa.
From the late 1400s Portugal began settling convicts on Sao Tome and establishing sugar plantations with the help of slaves from the mainland. The island was also important in the transshipment of slaves.
The colony's aspirations for independence were recognised after the 1974 coup in Portugal and at first the Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe was the country's sole political party. However, the 1990 constitution created a multi-party democracy.
The island of Principe assumed autonomy in 1995.
The country hopes to reduce its dependence on donors and cocoa exports by exploiting offshore oil.
The Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe
Capital: Sao Tome
Area 1,001 sq km (386 sq miles)
Major language Portuguese
Life expectancy 64 years (men), 66 years (women)
Outgoing president: Manuel Pinto da Costa
Prime minister: Patrice Emery Trovoada
Former strongman Manuel Pinto da Costa returned to power in elections in 2011, two decades after losing office.
Mr Pinto da Costa ruled Sao Tome with an iron fist for 15 years after independence from Portugal in 1975, and observers warned his return to power could herald a slide towards authoritarianism.
He lost the presidency after introducing reforms in 1990, including multi-party democracy.
Mr Pinto da Costa has a five-year mandate.
Under the democratic constitution adopted in 1990, the president shares power with a government headed by a prime minister, who needs the confidence of parliament to stay in power.
In October 2014, the opposition ADI party won parliamentary elections with an outright majority. Led by ex-prime minister Patrice Trovoada, the ADI won 33 of the 55 seats.
Freedom of expression, guaranteed by the constitution, is also respected in practice. There are three privately-owned newspapers and one which is state-run.
Some key dates in Sao Tome's history:
16th century - Sao Tome colonised by the Portuguese, who bring in slaves to work sugar plantations. Becomes important staging post for slave trade.
1800s - Cocoa introduced. Sao Tome develops into one of world's main cocoa producers.
1974 - Military coup in Portugal. Portuguese government recognises islands' right to independence.
1975 - Independence, with Manuel Pinto da Costa as president. Plantations nationalised, strong ties built up with communist countries.
1990 - New constitution allows opposition parties.