Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 157,000 (75,000 under 18)
Government armed forces: unknown
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 17, with parental consent
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: not signed
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II

National law provided for 17 year olds to enlist voluntarily in the armed forces, but it was not known how many were serving.


A military coup briefly overthrew the government of President Fradique de Menezes in July 2003. The elected government was restored within days, after the military junta signed an agreement with international mediators.1 In August a forthcoming military pact was announced between Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe, which are in partnership to develop expected offshore oil reserves.2


National recruitment legislation and practice

The 1990 constitution states that it is the "honour and supreme duty of citizens to participate in the defence of the sovereignty, independence and integrity of the state" (Article 63). The constitution defines the age of majority as 18.3 The law on obligatory military service states that the minimum age for recruitment is 18. Seventeen year olds may volunteer with the consent of a parent or legal representative. Military service is for two years.4 It was not known whether the age limit is strictly enforced, or how many under-18s are serving in the armed forces.

Armed political groups

Some of those involved in the July 2003 coup were reportedly former mercenaries in South Africa's Buffalo Battalion, created in the 1970s to fight in Angola and Namibia and disbanded in 1993.5 During the coup some were reported to have carried and used weapons. There were no reports of involvement by under-18s in the group.

1 IRIN, "Sao Tome and Principe, Coup leaders hand power back to civilian president", 5 August 2003,

2 IRIN, "Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe: Obasanjo reveals military pact with Sao Tome", 6 August 2003.

3 Constitution, at Law Library of Congress,

4 Initial report of Sao Tome and Principe to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/8/Add.49, 1 December 2003,

5 IRIN, "Sao Tome and Principe: Hopes rise for return of elected government", 21 July 2003; "Sao Tome and Principe, Coup leaders hand power back to civilian president", op. cit.


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