Foreign policy and defense
São Tomé and Príncipe have good relations
with the former colonial power Portugal, which is the
country's largest trading partner and donor. Contacts
with France, Angola and Brazil are also important. In
2016, diplomatic relations with China were restored.
São Tomé and Príncipe participated in the founding of
the Portuguese-speaking community CPLP (Comunidade dos
Países de Língua Portuguesa) in 1996. The following
year, the country participated in the cooperation of the
French-speaking countries OIF (Organization
Internationale de la Francophonie). São Tomé and
Príncipe were also involved in the formation of the Gulf
of Guinea Commission in 1999 with a view to preventing
conflicts between the eight Member States Angola,
Cameroon, Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial
Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria and São Tomé and Príncipe.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Sao Tome and Principe for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Oil deposits in the sea off São Tomé and Príncipe
have added strategic importance to the small island
state. The United States has set up a radar station on
the island of São Tomé to monitor ship traffic in the
oil-rich Guinea Bay.
Relations with Nigeria have been tense because of a
dispute over the territorial water boundary. In 1998,
Parliament passed a law stipulating that a certain sea
area would be an economic zone of São Tomé and Príncipe.
But Nigeria claimed large parts of the same sea zone. In
August 2000, the two countries reached an agreement to
extract oil together in the disputed border area between
Nigeria has a great influence over the oil sector and
to safeguard its interests, the country has intervened
in São Tomé and Príncipe's internal affairs. For
example, Nigeria mediated at the military coup in July
2003, and helped restore power to President Menezes (see
São Tomé and Príncipe are dependent on good relations
with Angola which has given the country large loans and
engaged in the upgrading of one of the country's ports
and the larger airport. The countries also cooperate in
education, health care, agriculture and more.
The need for foreign investment has forced the
government to strike a balance between China and Taiwan.
In 1997, São Tomé and Príncipe chose to establish
diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The decision, which
was rewarded with plentiful assistance from Taiwan, led
to China closing its embassy in the country. (Beijing
does not accept that the countries with which China has
diplomatic relations also have the same with Taiwan,
since Beijing sees Taiwan as part of China.). Under
Pinto da Costa's successor Evaristo Carvalho, São Tomé
and Príncipe changed their foot completely and left
Taiwan. In 2016, São Tomé established diplomatic
relations with China.
Relations with South Africa have developed in recent
years. South Africa has been involved in projects to
develop São Tomé's infrastructure, including an
expansion of the drinking water supply. South African
investment in the country has increased, and at the end
of 2013, increased defense and security cooperation was
The country's defense force consists of about 800
soldiers. Although the defense force is small, it has
had a great influence on politics and even in modern
times carried out coup attempts (see Modern history).
Conscription is mandatory and lasts for 30 months.
Women should also do military service. Especially the US
and Portugal, but also other countries contribute
military expertise and some equipment. Angola has built
up the semi-military force "ninjas" comprising 200 men.
The President's bodyguard consists of 160 people.
There is no Air Force, and no regular fleet. The
Coast Guard, supported by the United States, Portugal
and Brazil, patrols the country's territorial waters.