Scramble for the spoils

Published: Friday 15 August 2003

Oil politics has reared its ugly head yet again. This time in the tiny twin island African state of Sao Tome and Principe -- a former Portuguese colony banking on future prosperity from offshore oil reserves. An army major, Fernando Pereira, seized power in a pre-dawn coup even as President Fradique de Menezes was on a visit to Nigeria. Pereira was aided by the opposition party. Most elected leaders of the country's government, including Prime Minister Maria das Neves, defence minister Fernando Daqua and minister for natural resources Rafael Branco were held captive for about a week before they were released following mediation by Congo's foreign minister, Rodolphe Adada. Branco, it may be added, is responsible for negotiating the development of Sao Tome's large but still untapped offshore oil reserves. Significantly, President Menezes has been accused of corruption while dealing with the industry majors.

Oil companies ExxonMobil and Shell expect to produce one million barrels a day in 10 years. In 2001, Sao Tome and Principe signed a deal with Nigeria agreeing to split all revenue from offshore oil found in shared waters. Also hopping on the bandwagon are the us and Angola.

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