Republic in West Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea, consisting of five island s, of which Sao Tome and Principe are the most important. Sao Tome is the chief town and capital. The uninhabited island s were discovered in 1471 by Portuguese explorers Pedro Escobar and Joao Gomes. A settlement was founded on Sao Tome in 1483. The island s were declared a province of Portugal in 1522 and after a period of Dutch occupation between 1641 and 1740, they were recaptured by the Portuguese. They were an overseas province from 1951 until independence was granted on July 12, 1975. Manuel Pinto da Costa, leader of the Gabon-based Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe (MLSTP), became the country’s first president of a one-party state. The economy suffered during the late 1970s and 1980s as many foreign workers left after independence, and drought and low prices hurt cocoa exports.
A new constitution adopted in 1990 ended oneparty rule, and in 1991, the ruling party lost the legislative elections and Miguel Trovoada, running unopposed as an independent cand idate, won the country’s first free presidential election. In 1994, the island of Principe was granted local autonomy. In 1995, a military coup ended peacefully when Trovoada was restored to office and parliament granted the rebel soldiers amnesty. Trovoada was reelected in 1996. In 2001, Fradique de Menezes of the opposition Independent Democratic Action Party was elected president. There was another coup attempt in 2003, but Menezes was returned to office.
A plantation economy was established in the 18th century on these volcanic and highly fertile islands.
They continue to produce and export coffee, cacao, and coconuts.