afrol News, 22 September - President Fradique de Menezes of São Tomé and Príncipe last week fired Prime Minister Maria das Neves and her cabinet, alleging her involvement in a corruption scandal. As a new Prime Minister took over her offices, Ms das Neves hit back. In a statement, she insinuates that President Menezes is corrupt, personally was behind the allegations against her and seeks "totalitarian power."
After the short-lasting coup in São Tomé 14 months ago, Ms das Neves offered her resignation to President Menezes for the sake of national unity. The President declined, holding that the nation's first female PM was the best person to achieve national reconciliation. As an oil corruption scandal unfolded in March, President Menezes supported her decision to fire two ministers from his own party accused of signing oil contracts without her knowledge.
Ms das Neves has been São Tomé's Prime Minister since October 2002 and thus the longest serving PM under President Menezes' presidential term. During the last months, however, the seemingly warm relations between the two politicians came to an end. On Tuesday last week, Ms das Neves was ordered to step down and accused of involvement in the corruption scandal that caused her to fire two ministers earlier this year.
On Sunday, her former Labour Minister Damiao Vaz d'Almeida was ordered to form a new government by President Menezes. Mr d'Almeida is from the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP), the archipelago's largest party, which is in opposition to President Menezes. He is also the first PM from the smaller island of Príncipe, which claims to be marginalised by the São Tomé government.
As the outgoing PM left her offices this week, she however had no words of congratulations for Mr d'Almeida - she even refused to take part in the inauguration ceremony. In a statement, Ms das Neves however deplores the deteriorating political climate in São Tomé after Mr Menezes became President and oil started to play a major role in politics.
She repeated claims by other political observers, saying President Menezes was heading for "totalitarian power". In particular, Ms das Neves questioned the "instability and corruption" that had flourished since the President came to power in 2001. Four governments had already been fired during three years and President Menezes had been willing to take any personal blame for this instability and corruption, she noted.
President Menezes, she claimed, himself was behind the "political plot" to cause her downfall. By neglecting the parliamentary process of investigating the corruption scandal and assuming her guilt, the President had "assumed the role of judge" in the case. She went further in claiming President Menezes had personal motives in the alleged attack against her.
In the statement, she "challenged" President Menezes to explain São Toméans the background to "the US$ 100,000 that have been transferred by an oil company and ended up in the accounts of CGI, his private company." History would show, she claimed, that ills had not been done by her, but by the President himself.
Meanwhile, President Menezes and the new Prime Minister, Mr d'Almeida, are demonstrating their newfound good cooperation. Mr d'Almeida promised the São Toméan people that "honesty and transparency" would be the trademark of his new government, while strengthened social sectors and macro-economic stability would be his aims. The President promised his "understanding and mutual cooperation."
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