Sao Tomé & Principe
Sao Tome unity government dissolved

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São Tomé e Príncipe Homepage / IRIN, 1 October - President Fradique de Menezes of Sao Tome and Principe dissolved the nation's government of national unity on Friday following complaints from the army over recent promotions, diplomats said.

De Menezes announced the removal of the three-party government of Prime Minister Gabriel Costa but left it to continue in office until a new prime minister is named to form a government, diplomats told IRIN.

The Portuguese news agency, Agencia de Noticias de Portugal (Lusa), reported on Tuesday that the dismissal announcement came shortly after Costa denied a presidential statement on Friday, in which it was said that he had resigned.

Media reports said the removal of the government would help preserve stability. 

The President was quoted on Monday by the Portuguese TV Channel SIC Noticias, as saying he had sent letters to political parties in an attempt to form a new government. 

On 24 September, de Menezes downplayed differences within the archipelago's army, while admitting that there had been some unease over his promotion of two officers to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel on 5 September.

It was said he made the promotions without the approval of a senior defence committee which has the mandate to promote officers.

Minister of Defence Victor Tavares Monteiro was one of the officers promoted from reserve captain. The other was Major Luiz Maria, who held the defence portfolio in de Menezes' government before elections in March this year.

Monteiro resigned on Friday after military officers complained over his promotion, saying a reserve captain could not be promoted in this way, Lusa reported.

This led to a political crisis that has been continuing for two weeks, with regular army officers protesting that they were sidelined in the promotions.

Political analysts have suggested that former finance minister Acacio Elba Bonfim could be the next prime minister, according to Lusa.

De Menezes appointed Costa to head the coalition government after elections on 3 March left the country's 55-seat parliament without a majority party. He had been Ambassador to Portugal before his appointment. 

Sao Tome and Principe is an island chain just off the West African country of Gabon, and has a population of some 150,000 people. 

Source: By UN agency IRIN


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