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Forcas Armadas de Sao Tome e Principe, FASTP

São Tomé and Príncipe's military is reputedly the smallest in Africa. The Ministry of Defense and Sea has responsibility in law and practice for the military and coast guard. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has responsibility in law and practice for the national police and the immigration service. Despite an increase in the number of police officers, many citizens continued to view police as ineffective and corrupt notwithstanding increased professional training offered throughout the year. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the national police, customs and immigration authorities, and the military and coast guard. The infantry equipment is considered simple to operate and maintain but may require refurbishment or replacement after 25 years in tropical climates; poor pay, working conditions, and nepotism in the promotion of officers have been problems in the past, as reflected in the 1995 and 2003 coups.

While the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, impunity was a problem. Inadequate resources hampered efforts to reform the Criminal Investigation Police, a separate agency under the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. In 2010 the government placed the national police and the immigration service under the control of the Ministry of Defense and Internal Affairs. The ministry also supervises and controls the military. Despite increased personnel and training offered throughout the year, police were viewed widely as ineffective and corrupt.

Military branches are the Armed Forces of Sao Tome and Principe (Forcas Armadas de Sao Tome e Principe, FASTP): Army, Coast Guard of Sao Tome e Principe (Guarda Costeira de Sao Tome e Principe, GCSTP); also called "Navy"), and the Presidential Guard. There is no air force. Military service age and obligation: 18 is the legal minimum age for compulsory military service; 17 is the legal minimum age for voluntary service.

The entire military consisted of about 300 soldiers. Most look barely 18. Only one armored vehicle worked. Sao Tome and Principe's army is a tiny force with almost no resources at its disposal and would be wholly ineffective operating unilaterally; infantry equipment is considered simple to operate and maintain but may require refurbishment or replacement after 25 years in tropical climates; poor pay, working conditions, and alleged nepotism in the promotion of officers have been problems in the past, as reflected in the 1995 and 2003 coups; these issues are being addressed with foreign assistance aimed at improving the army and its focus on realistic security concerns; command is exercised from the president, through the Minister of Defense, to the Chief of the Armed Forces (infantry, technical issues) and the Chief of the General Staff (logistics, administration, finances).

A 2004 estimate put military manpower availability (males age 15–49) at 38,347, with a "fit for military service" estimate of 20,188. In 2009 it was reported the FASTP consisted of a total of just 300 soldiers, which was a reduction from 600 after an unsuccessful coup attempt in 2003 resulted in a reorganization aimed at ensuring an apolitical military that is subordinated to civilian political structures. It is believed that the Army is formed into two companies, headquartered on the main island of Sao Tome, with a detachment on the smaller island of Principe.

In the tasks of the army, the new vision calls for a greater presence throughout the national territory, in order to ensure the defence of critical infrastructure in the country and combat any threats to sovereignty and independence Nacional, in a posture of prevention and deterrence of acts which may jeopardize Homeland Security. Taking into account the actual tasks of the FASTP requires about 800 military personnel, distributed, approximately between 700 men in the army and 100 in the coast guard.

The political scene has been marked by frequent changes in Government, including two short- lived and bloodless military uprisings. Frequent internal wrangling between the various political parties precipitated repeated changes in leadership and four failed, non-violent coup attempts in 1995, 1998, 2003, and 2009.

  • In 1953 serious disturbance, motivated chiefly by fear of an extension of the contractual system to non-indígenas', was followed by a stiffened military control. For an account from the nationalist side, which put the number of Africans killed by troops under the orders of Governor Carlos Gorgulho at 1052 persons, see: CONCP , Ulle de Sâo Tomé (Algiers, 1968), 65. A Protestant missionary account at the time put the number of Africans killed at about 200 : quoted in Davidson, The African awakening, 229-30. No official report, so far as is known, was ever published.
  • In July 1977 an alleged coup plot was linked with the "Cobra '77" conspiracy against the MLPA Government of Angola (backed by Zaire). STP Minister of Social Affairs, da Graca, was later charged with complicity.
  • On 14 February 1978 Sao Tome informed the UN Security Council that unidentified ships and aircraft had been violating its territorial waters and airspace, and called on Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau for military aid against threatened invasion by foreign mercenaries. In March 1978, the government suppressed an attempted mercenary invasion led by former Minister of Social Affairs Carlos da Graça, one of the co-founders of the MLSTP who had been exiled from the country in 1977. Although Sao Tome and Principe reported violations of its sea and airspace to the United Nations Security Council in 1978, alleging an imminent attack by foreign mercenaries, it was the other former Portuguese colonies in Africa to whom it turned for protection. The governments of Angola and Guinea-Bissau deployed some 1,500 troops in support of the government in March 1978. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) sent a fact-finding mission to investigate the attempted mercenary invasion of São Tomé and Príncipe. On July 18, 1978, the OAU Council of Ministers condemned the attempted mercenary invasion in São Tomé and Príncipe. President Manuel Pinto da Costa dismissed Prime Minister Miguel Trovoada and abolished the office of prime minister on April 9, 1979.
  • in November 1980 an alleged coup conspiracy saw two Portuguese arrested.
  • The year 1988 saw a coup attempt. The government suppressed a rebellion by members of the São Tomé and Príncipe National Resistence Front (Frente da Resistencia Nacional de São Tomé e Príncipe – FRNSTP) on February 25-March 8, 1988. The failed invasion by rightist opponents of government and foreign mercenaries resulted in the deaths of three rebels.
  • In February 2009 the Government said a coup plot was foiled. Eighteen individuals were brought to trial in October 2009 for their involvement in an alleged coup plot uncovered in February. Two of the defendants were convicted on charges of illegal weapons possession, including Arlecio Costa, the leader of the Christian Democratic Front, an opposition party. Costa received a five-year prison sentence, but was pardoned by the president in January 2010. In January 2011, President Fradique de Menezes pardoned one of the two people convicted in connection to an alleged coup plot uncovered in February 2009.

A total of 38 new sergeants were graduated in February 2004 to be integrated into the armed forces Are-Sao Tome within the framework of the restructuring process started after the military coup of July 2003. With military-technical assistance, the new sergeants received six months of training in combat techniques, assault on the enemy camp, rescue of hostages as well as personal and homeland defense. The Commander of the armed forces in the archipelago, Hendrick Pachire, used the occasion to remind the new sergeants of the importance of their role for the army, since "they are in direct contact with the troops [" praças"]". For Pachire, good behavior of the sergeants and the entire army is also a reflection on civil society, "increasingly dipping into generalized indiscipline". The 38 men who passed this third sergeants course will stay in the army for a period of at least four years of compulsory military service which could leave later if they wish.

The reorganization of the armed forces of Sao Tome and Principe was the result of the military uprising of 16 July 2003 which tried to remove the organs of sovereignty elected by the people, and which forced the intervention of the international community to restore constitutional order. The reform process of the Sao Tome Army had the support of friendly countries such as the United States of America, Portugal, Angola and Nigeria.

In the meantime, the STP president built up a menacing-looking presidential guard. It is present both at the presidential palace and at his heavily protected estate up in the hills of the main island of Sao Tome. It seemed that for a time, only the president has adequate security, while a new oil era, fraught with new realities and dangers, loomed ahead for the rest of the population.

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