afrol News, 4 October - The island state of São Tomé and Príncipe has gotten a new government headed by Prime Minister Maria das Neves Batista de Sousa, a 44-year old economist. Mrs Neves of the traditional MLSTP ruling party will be the first women to hold the PM office in São Tomé.
President Fradique de Menezes yesterday appointed Mrs Neves after a unity government had collapsed last week. The new PM was Minister for Trade, Industry, Tourism and Fisheries in the former administration and has served a Minister of Economy before that. She has also worked for the World Bank and UNICEF.
President Menezes had fired the three-party government of Prime Minister Gabriel Arcanjo Ferreira da Costa last week, following complaints from the army over recent promotions. The fragile government of the traditional ruling party São Tomé and Principe Liberation Movement (MLSTP) and two other parties was established after the elections on 3 March had failed to produce any clear majority.
The appointment of Mrs Neves will however not constitutes a change in the parties participating in government, as it merely was a reaction to the scandal over army promotions. Ex-Minister of Defence, Victor Tavares Monteiro, had promoted himself from reserve captain and was forced to resign last week.
Mrs Neves is member of the MLSTP party, which is in opposition to President Menezes. Her appointment therefore means that the President still respects the right of the biggest party to lead the government. An attempt by Mr Menezes to overlook the MLSTP had led to the anticipated March elections.
President Menezes yesterday said in a television address to the nation that he had asked Mrs Neves to form a new government. She had been proposed for the post by the MLSTP party.
According to the Portuguese news agency Lusa, Mrs Neves will begin consultations to form a new unity government today, where both her MLSTP party and the other two present government parties are expected to participate.
The new PM has on several occasions proven an impulsive and creative promoter of her country, urging all contacts to make good promotion of the tourism potential of her beautiful and exotic island state. Apart from her solid economic knowledge base, Mrs Neves is known to have an ample interest in environmental issues.
Maria das Neves also is known as a keen advocate of empowering women. She will certainly use her new power base to promote gender issues in São Toméan society. Together with Senegal's Prime Minister Mame Madior Boye and Uganda's Vice President Specioza Kazibwe, Mrs Neves is currently the highest female office bearer in Africa. There are no African female Heads of State.