- The President of São Tomé and Príncipe, Fradique de Menezes, has returned to the island state after coup leaders gave in to the demands of international mediators. The deal however involves an amnesty for the coup leaders, a new government and fresh elections.
Coup leader Major Fernando "Cotó" Pereira this afternoon announced that the week-long coup on São Tomé was over and that powers would be returned to the democratically elected President, Mr Menezes. Major Pereira had been under tremendous pressure from an international team of mediators, representing all of São Tomé's main international contacts.
President Menezes, who was in Gabon at the time Major Pereira made his announcement, immediately made arrangements to fly home to nearby São Tomé. He was picked up by a Nigerian aircraft that was said to carry Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, accompanying him to São Tomé.
Although the deal between the São Toméan military junta and the international negotiators has not been made public, several sources have leaked details. Major Pereira told the press in São Tomé parliament was to reconvene and grant amnesty to the military behind the coup and its supporting political party, the Christian Democratic Front (FDC).
The coup leader also mentioned there was an agreement to form a new government, while President Menezes would stay in power. Further, there were to be held new legislative elections under international monitoring within short time.
The military coup leaders initially said they were to take total control over the archipelago during a transition period. They described themselves as a "National Salvation Junta" that was to take all powers. After giving in to the demands of the international mediators, however, Major Pereira got more modest and described the coup as a "wake up call" for the "criminal government."
The rebel soldiers last week had made several statements condemning the enduring poverty in São Tomé while certain political leaders were enriching themselves. Their demand for the government - a union of all parties represented in parliament - to leave was therefore granted, it seems. There was however no mention on whom was to take over São Tomé's executive.
The international mediators have been in close contact to President Menezes while dealing with the junta in São Tomé. Mr Menezes therefore moved from Nigeria - where he was visiting President Obasanjo when the junta took power - to Gabon, whose government played a key role in the mediation.
It was also the Gabonese Foreign Minister, Jean Ping, who announced the agreement on behalf of the mediators. "The president has signed an accord restoring legality and democratic rule," Mr Ping told the press in Libreville, adding this had been a great "victory" for democracy and peace.
Among the first demands of the international mediators had been allowing President Menezes to return to the island. In accordance with the mediators, however, Mr Menezes then refused to return to São Tomé before the constitutional order had been re-introduced.
After it was known that most of the military forces behind the coup had belonged to the infamous "Buffalo Batallion", mercenaries fighting for the interests of Apartheid-led South Africa in Angola, the South African government rapidly sent a delegation to assist the international negotiators.
According to South African sources, former members of the "Buffalo Batallion" had been met with condemnation ever since they returned to São Tomé in the late 1980s. They were demanding to be reintegrated into society and also wanted a repatriation of the bodies of their fallen comrades from Angola. It is still unknown whether the South African delegation was able offer its ex-mercenaries any allowance.
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