Sao Tome president ousted by military

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The Independent Online
Sao Tome (Reuter) - A five-man commission of young army officers seized control of the African state of Sao Tome and Principe in a bloodless coup and arrested President Miguel Trovoada.

"We want to recover the dignity of the country", said the self-styled leader of the commission, Lieutenant Manuel Quintas de Almeida. He said he was referring to the dire economic and social conditions in the former Portuguese colony, which lies 125 miles off the coast of Gabon.

Inflation is running at 40 per cent and the foreign debt of the impoverished country of 130,000 people, who depend on agriculture and tourism, is about $260m (pounds 160m). Unemployment is 38 per cent.

Asked if his group planned to stay in power, Lt Quintas de Almeida said: "Now we have time to think and then decide." But he said that Mr Trovoada, seized with the Defence Minister, Alberto Paulino, and detained at a military barracks in the capital, would not return to power.

Young officers also arrested the Prime Minister, Carlos Graca. Soldiers later accompanied him to Sao Tome, where he was held under house arrest.

Mr Graca, contacted by a Portuguese radio station, said: "I went to a summer party in Principe. Then the military came this morning and very gently brought me here."

Lt Quintas de Almeida said a new government would include both military and civilians and that no one had been hurt in the coup.

The rebel soldiers said that they would "try to impose the order and discipline that this country never had".