The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar


TITLE:  SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                     
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE*


In 1991 Sao Tome and Principe became a multiparty democracy, 
and citizens changed their government through free and fair 
elections.  Independent candidate Miguel Trovoada became 
President, and the Party of Democratic Convergence (PCD) 
toppled the former single ruling party, the Movement for the 
Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe (MLSTP), in legislative 
elections to win control of the Government.  In 1993 the PCD 
continued to dominate the Government and the National Assembly, 
but there were new political tensions between the two parties 
and between the President and the PCD Prime Minister and his 
Government over interpretation of the separation of powers 
provisions in the 1990 Constitution.  In December 1992, the 
MLSTP came back to score a series of landslide victories in 
municipal elections, taking firm control of six of eight 
regional governing bodies.  The elections took place 
peacefully, and, after some initial disputes over transfer of 
government offices, the municipal committees began to work 
alongside the Government.

External and internal security is provided by a 300-person 
military force, composed mainly of part-time farmers or 
fishermen, and a 300-person paramilitary police force.  In 1993 
the Government began a process of shifting the police force fom 
the jurisdiction of the Minister of Defense to the Minister of 
Justice, Labor, and Public Administration.  There were no 
reports of abuses by military or police forces in 1993.

In contrast to progress on the political front, there was 
little improvement in 1993 in Sao Tome's export economy, which 
relies almost exclusively on a single cash crop, cocoa, and an 
archaic, state-run system of plantations (called "empresas").  
Almost all other production on the islands is for subsistence 
or local consumption.  In 1993 the Government continued to 
implement strict structural adjustment measures, emphasizing 
privatization, including of empresas, and currency reform to 
reduce the country's $200 million foreign debt.  However, by 
the end of 1993 only a handful of plantations had managed even 
the first small steps away from state control, and the 
structural adjustment program tended to exacerbate economic 
hardship.

               

*There is no American Embassy in Sao Tome and Principe.  
Information on the human rights situation is therefore limited.

The human rights situation continued to be encouraging in 
1993.  The Government showed a continued respect for the rights 
of its citizens, and the young multiparty political system 
operated well in the face of new challenges.  Nevertheless, 
there remained serious problems in the judicial system, notably 
long delays in bringing cases to trial, and societal 
discrimination against women.  Also, worker rights remained 
limited in practice with the economy dominated by the 
plantation system.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 
killing by the Government.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There were no reports of such abuses.  The Constitution, 
promulgated in 1990, states explicitly that no one shall be 
subjected to torture or cruel and inhuman punishment.  Prison 
conditions are harsh but did not result in any known deaths in 
1993.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

There was no evidence of arbitrary arrest or detention, but 
there was very little information available on the laws 
regulating these practices or the manner in which the 
authorities carry them out.  The Constitution provides for the 
right to challenge the legality of detention through habeas 
corpus procedures.

Exile is not used as a punishment in Sao Tome, and all those 
exiled under the former regime have been given the opportunity 
to return.  Former president Manuel Pinto da Costa, who 
voluntarily left the country following current President 
Trovoada's election in 1991, returned in 1993.  He was warmly 
received and was often seen in public.


     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

For civil cases, the Constitution states that all citizens 
shall have access to fair public trial and have the right of 
appeal.  For criminal cases, it provides for a public trial 
before a judge.  The accused are entitled to legal 
representation; however, there is a shortage of trained judges, 
lawyers, and judicial infrastructure.  The Government has been 
slow to institute reform, in part because of budgetary 
constraints.  As a result, there are long delays in bringing 
cases before the courts, and there were instances in 1993 of 
the authorities simply dismissing criminal cases.  In at least 
two confirmed cases, the Government did not bring to trial 
persons charged with assault because of insufficient personnel 
to conduct proper investigations.

There were no known political prisoners or detainees held 
during the year.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Constitution states that personal identity and the right to 
privacy are inviolable; it provides for privacy of the home, 
correspondence, and private communication.  In 1991 the new 
democratically elected Government ended the intrusive 
monitoring practices of the past.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression and freedom 
of the press.  The 1992 municipal elections were conducted 
freely, with opposition parties publicly campaigning and openly 
criticizing the Government.  The opposition had access to, but 
used sparingly, the limited facilities of the 
government-controlled national television and radio stations.  
Three newspapers appeared irregularly; one newspaper presents 
mainly the views of the Government and the others generally 
support opposition positions.  There was one report in 1993 of 
a minister warning an independent publisher about the content 
of certain critical articles.  However, the Government took no 
action against the publisher and did not attempt to censor the 
newspaper.


     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Under the Constitution, citizens have the right to associate 
freely and to demonstrate publicly, provided they obtain legal 
authorization 48 hours in advance of planned events.  This 
authorization is usually granted.  Although bureaucratic delays 
often hold up such authorizations, there were no known 
instances of authorizations being withheld for purely political 
reasons in 1993.  In December 1992, municipal elections took 
place nationwide; numerous rallies and demonstrations occurred, 
and even those that did not receive government sanction took 
place peacefully and without police restriction.

Following its resounding victory in these elections, the MLSTP 
took control of the newly created municipal committees in six 
of eight districts.  The Government, under provisions in the 
Constitution, had called for formation of these municipal 
committees in order to add a measure of decentralization to 
government administration, and the elections determined their 
first members.  Tension arose in two districts--including Aguas 
Grandes, where Sao Tome City is located--when the police 
barricaded buildings in which the committees were to meet.  The 
committees, despite bitter complaints, were not afforded a 
place to meet for 2 months.  In May, however, the 
PCD-controlled Government relented, and the committees began 
meeting regularly.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Religious freedom is provided for in the Constitution and in 
practice.  The three major religious communities--Roman 
Catholic, Protestant, and Seventh-Day Adventist--are allowed to 
practice freely.  There are no restrictions on the activities 
of foreign clergy.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens move freely around the island of Sao Tome, as well as 
between it and the smaller island of Principe, 90 miles away.  
Interisland transport, however, is infrequent and slow.  Under 
the Constitution, citizens have the specific right to move 
freely to any part of the national territory and are free to 
emigrate and to return.  In July the Government repealed a law 
that required Sao Tomeans who wished to travel abroad to obtain 
exit visas.


Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens have this right.  Less than 2 years after ousting the 
MLSTP from power, Sao Tomean voters peacefully returned to the 
polls in December 1992 to give the former single ruling party 
an overwhelming victory in municipal elections.  The MLSTP took 
the majority of seats in six of eight municipal districts, 
forming new committees that were designed to improve citizen 
participation in government administration at the village level.

Throughout 1993 there were serious political differences 
between the opposition and the Government, initially when the 
PCD Government withheld budgets and refused to allow two of the 
MLSTP-dominated municipal committees to meet for 2 months.  In 
the National Assembly, the PCD Government of Prime Minister 
Norberto Costa Alegre defeated the MLSTP's efforts to institute 
a vote of no confidence.  The disputes were conducted and 
resolved entirely within the existing constitutional framework.

Other constitutional disputes arose in 1993, notably between 
the independent President and the PCD Prime Minister over 
authority for handling foreign and internal economic policies.  
According to the findings of a panel of Portuguese jurists 
brought in to assist in interpreting the Constitution, foreign 
policy is solely the domain of the Chief of State, while 
economic policy is the province of the Prime Minister and his 
Cabinet.  Nevertheless, given the close interrelationship of 
the two responsibilities, the controversy continued throughout 
much of the year and led to new discussions concerning 
amendment of the Constitution's separation of powers 
provisions.  By year's end, however, there had been no action 
toward amending the Constitution.

There are no restrictions in law or practice on the 
participation of women in politics.  Women currently occupy 
important posts in the National Assembly, the Cabinet, and the 
municipal committees.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Since the elections of 1991, a few small domestic groups have 
formed with various objectives, including the protection of 
human and civil rights.  Traditionally, Sao Tome and Principe 
has had limited contact with international human rights groups, 
mainly due to its small population and the absence of 
allegations of human rights abuses.  In a report published in 
1993, Amnesty International named Sao Tome and Principe as one 
of three countries worldwide in which there were no serious 
government-sponsored violations of human rights.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution states that all citizens, regardless of sex, 
race, social origin, political tendency, creed, or philosophic 
conviction, are equal under the law.  With more than 80 percent 
of the population (estimated at 94,000 on Sao Tome and 20,000 
on Principe) able to understand Portuguese, the country also 
enjoys the advantages of being a relatively homogeneous society.

     Women

The Constitution stipulates that women and men have equal 
rights to full political, economic, social, and cultural 
participation.  Women have access to opportunities in 
education, business, and government.  However, in practice 
women encounter substantial discrimination.  In particular, 
traditional beliefs concerning the division of labor between 
men and women leave women with much of the hard labor in 
agriculture, most of the child-rearing responsibilities, and 
less access to education and the professions.  In addition, the 
general lack of public services and health care serve to 
disadvantage women more than men in these traditional roles.

Violence against women in Sao Tome and Principe is believed to 
be infrequent.  However, there is no specific information 
available on domestic violence, including data on instances of 
wife-beating and rape, and the small media rarely cover cases.  
Women have the right to legal recourse against men--including 
spouses--in cases of rape, domestic violence, and other 
abuses.  In practice, however, police rarely intervene, and 
tradition and/or ignorance of the law may keep women from 
filing complaints or seeking outside intervention.  The 
Government is actively trying to address women's issues through 
various programs.

     Children

There are a number of government and donor-funded programs 
aimed at improving conditions for children, and great strides 
have been made in pre- and post-natal care, infant nutrition, 
and access to basic health services.  Family planning practices 
have not changed significantly, though, and Sao Tome may soon 
face more serious challenges to limited resources.  According 
to recent estimates, nearly half the population is under the 
age of 15, and documented research in some rural areas 
indicates the percentage may be as high as 75.  According to 
health officials, the Government is beginning to make efforts 
to include family planning in its maternal and child health 
care programs, but traditional beliefs and cultural practices 
inhibit acceptance.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There are two minority groups which speak their own dialects: 
the Angolares, who are distant descendants of an Angolan ethnic 
group, and ethnic Cape Verdians, most of whom are second- or 
third-generation Creole speakers.  The Angolares principally 
inhabit the south of Sao Tome Island, making their living 
through subsistence fishing; the Cape Verdians still mainly 
work on the cocoa plantations, where they were brought by the 
Portuguese during colonial times.  Both of these principally 
rural groups enjoy fewer opportunities in terms of health care, 
education, and social advancement than urban Sao Tomeans, 
although this is not due to any specific government action 
against them.  Lack of government resources has also 
contributed to continuing complaints from inhabitants of 
Principe of governmental neglect.  However, the newly named 
Minister for the Region of Principe--a cabinet-level post--has 
specifically addressed some of these issues.

     People with Disabilities

There is no officially sanctioned discrimination against 
physically handicapped individuals.  As far as known, there is 
no law specifically mandating accessibility to buildings for 
the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of association and the 
right to strike, and a newly formed union federation, the 
Independent Union Federation (IUF), began to take advantage of 
these provisions.  However, the formation of unions remained at 
an early stage, and in 1993 there was a significant increase in 
the activities of cooperatives, many of which began independent 
activities on formerly state-owned land.  These cooperatives 
tended to represent more tangible goals and results than 
unions, thus attracting greater participation on the part of 
plantation and other wage workers.

Unrelated to the former sole union and unaffiliated with any 
political party, the IUF is still in its organizational stages 
and hobbled by the country's general poverty.  Nevertheless, it 
seeks to represent workers in all sectors, including the large 
state-owned plantations (empresas) which employ a majority of 
the working population.  It made only slight organizational 
progress in this respect in 1993.  Workers do not often leave 
the estates, which generally provide all community facilities.

Essential workers are allowed to strike in practice, and in 
November 1993, midlevel functionaries in the Ministries of 
Health and Justice briefly went on strike to demand higher 
wages.

In 1992 the Government announced an ambitious plan to privatize 
most of the state-owned industries, including the cocoa 
empresas.  This move was seen as a positive step not only for 
the economy as a whole, but also as part of the effort to 
improve the lot of workers, especially on the large 
plantations.  At year's end, however, only one of these 
state-owned enterprises, the National Printing Press, had 
actually been privatized.

In March workers at the largest state-run empresa, Monte Cafe, 
staged a strike to demand higher wages and more time off.  
Plantation managers requested government intervention, and 
there were reports of minor clashes between police and 
strikers.  However, there were no reports of serious injuries 
or arrests, and, after 4 days, work was resumed.  Sporadic 
strikes by government employees were less common in 1993 than 
in previous years.

There are no restrictions barring trade unions from joining 
federations or becoming affiliated with international bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers may organize and bargain collectively under the 
Constitution.  However, in practice, since privatization steps 
have not yet reduced the relative role of the Government as 
employer, the Government remains the key interlocutor for labor 
on all matters, including wages.  As far as is known, there are 
no laws prohibiting antiunion discrimination.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law and is not 
practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The legally mandated minimum employment age of 18 years in the 
modern wage economy is generally respected in practice.  The 
Ministry of Justice, Labor, and Public Administration is 
responsible for enforcing this law.  However, in the 
subsistence agricultural sector, children work on family plots 
from an early age.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Work conditions on the state-owned empresas--the biggest wage 
employment sector--border on medieval.  There is no legally 
mandated minimum wage, and the average salary for empresa 
workers does not permit a decent standard of living.  Workers 
are, however, provided free (but poor) housing, rudimentary 
education and health care, and--in theory--the right to reduced 
prices and credit at the "company store."  Clothes and 
foodstuffs are subsidized, but corruption at all levels is 
rampant, and the parallel market finds goods selling for far 
above the prices stipulated by the Government.

Recently, in conjunction with the Government's privatization 
efforts, some empresas allotted workers small plots to raise 
noncash crops for their own consumption or sale.  Nevertheless, 
most empresas still do not allow private farming on company 
land.  The current system of state control, and the corruption 
associated with it, is so entrenched that on most plantations, 
privatization is still a long way off.

Implementation of an International Monetary Fund structural 
adjustment program continues to cause hardship for workers, 
both on and off the empresas.

Basic occupational health and safety standards are contained in 
the Social Security Law of 1979, which is loosely enforced by 
inspectors from the Ministry of Justice, Labor, and Public 
Administration.



[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.