- One week after the coup leaders in São Tomé and Príncipe handed control back to the civilian government, Prime Minister Maria das Neves today announced she was to step down as a consequence of the political crisis. Two Ministers had already stepped down before her in recent days.
Prime Minister Neves - the first woman ever to hold this post in São Tomé - had made a pale impression during the days the archipelago was under the control of a small group of military leaders. She reportedly was hospitalised at the mere sight of the coup makers when these men tried to seize her at her home.
After strong international pressure and civil disobedience in São Tomé, President Fradique de Menezes from his base in Nigeria managed to negotiate his return to power in São Tomé. Although the negotiated deal had implied changes in government and new elections, President Menezes after his return has signalled his support to the government led by Ms Neves.
Nonetheless, Energy Minister Rafael Branco and Defence Minister Fernando Danqua have already resigned during the last days, and it remains uncertain if this happened as a consequence of the deal between the President and the rebels, due to the pressure of President Menezes or solely due to personal desires of the ministers. The Energy Ministry had however been fiercely criticised by the coup leaders.
Prime Minister Neves informed the Portuguese news agency Lusa that she wanted to step down from government because of "the political crisis" in São Tomé. As she handed her resignation to President Menezes, she was however not available for further comments on the reasons behind this step.
Ms Neves has headed a government of national unity since last year, after parliamentary elections did not produce a clear result in the political crisis following a power struggle between the President and the previous government.
The outgoing Prime Minister was especially noted for her mediating skills between President Menezes - which has tried to increase his office's powers - and political parties opposing Mr Menezes. She was key to a solution to the constitutional crisis that shook the archipelago earlier this year.
Ms Neves was further noted for bringing gender issues on the São Toméan agenda - both by her own role of being a woman leader and by actively promoting women's rights on the islands. The ex-Minister of Tourism also plaid a strong role in promoting this industry on the archipelago.
She further was leading the small county in a decisive period of its history, as the recently discovered huge oil reserves off São Tomé's coasts are to bring wealth to the impoverished archipelago. It is still too early to say whether democratic structures are strong enough to secure that wealth will reach the entire population and not only its political or military leadership.
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