News about Sao Tome
- [Jan Hartman, the Director of ECO-STP, a
Foundation partner NGO in the Republic of Sao
Tome e Principe, off the coast of Central Africa,
passed on this fascinating story about Sao Tome.
The stories of Sao Tome's "oil riches" are thus
far pure speculation, and it will be five years
or more before anyone has a real idea of the
amount or scope of the oil resources in the
offshore areas of the country.
For those interested in more about the country,
there's a great web site at
with lots of references and some of the pro bono
products of Island Resources and other
consultants who have been working through Jeffrey
Sachs Earth Institute at Columbia University on a
technical assistance project with Sao Tome since
>U.S. interests, worries rise in oil-rich W. Africa
>Security a top concern in region that could eclipse Mideast as oil producer
>The Associated Press
>Updated: 6:14 p.m. ET Aug. 7, 2005
>SAO TOME, Sao Tome and Principe - Far from home,
>a U.S. Coast Guard cutter plows its white bow
>through the seas of West Africa's Gulf of
>Guinea, where an oil boom could outpace Persian
>Gulf exports to America in a decade.
>The ship's presence here is a sign of U.S.
>military and financial interest in an
>increasingly strategic part of the world - one
>American officials say is vulnerable to piracy,
>political instability and terrorism.
>The potential dangers are clear with 3,000 miles
>of virtually unpoliced coastline that's home to
>billions of dollars in U.S. oil industry
>"It's a lot of water with not a lot of
>security," said Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Trott, a
>strategy specialist for U.S. Naval Forces
>Europe, whose area of responsibility includes
>most of Africa. "And where there's a lack of
>security, there's an opportunity for bad actors
>to show up."
>Though U.S. officials cite no current terrorist
>activity in the Gulf of Guinea, homegrown
>al-Qaida-linked groups or cells are thought to
>be active across Africa, especially in countries
>with large Muslim populations like Algeria, a
>longtime oil producer, and Mauritania, which is
>poised to start pumping crude next year.
>In U.S. plans, and terrorists'
>In Nigeria, the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil
>imports, a phoned-in terrorist threat in June
>forced the U.S. consulate in Lagos to close for
>several days. Al-Qaida chief Osama Bin Laden
>purportedly marked Nigeria for "liberation" in a
>release posted on the Internet.
>The United States is trying to ease its
>dependence on oil from the volatile Middle East
>by turning to West Africa, which produces about
>4.5 million barrels of light, sweet crude a day.
>Led by top African producer Nigeria, the Gulf of
>Guinea already delivers about 15 percent of
>America's oil supply. By 2015, that figure may
>swell to 25 percent, according to the U.S.
>National Intelligence Council, a CIA think-tank.
>The Persian Gulf, by contrast, accounts for
>about 22 percent of U.S. imports, according to
>the U.S. government's Energy Information
>$33 billion earmarked for region
>Over the next five years, 1 in 5 new barrels of
>oil on the global market will come from the Gulf
>of Guinea, and more than $33 billion will be
>invested in the region, 40 percent of it from
>American companies, the Washington-based Center
>for Strategic and International Studies
>Stretching roughly from Ivory Coast to Angola,
>the Gulf of Guinea is relatively unfamiliar to
>U.S. forces, and tours of the region such as
>last month's by the Coast Guard are aimed at
>shaking hands, gaining familiarity and assessing
>threats to oil access.
>The 100-man crew of the Portsmouth, Va.-based
>cutter, temporarily assigned to the Navy's 6th
>Fleet, paid brief visits to Cape Verde, Ghana,
>Benin, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and
>Principe, a tiny two-island republic whose
>capital's seaport is so small that the 270-foot
>vessel had to anchor offshore.
>One recent morning, half a dozen Sao Tomean
>sailors hopped aboard an orange American Zodiac
>boat, taking instruction from U.S. sailors on
>man-overboard lifesaving exercises. On land,
>another group gathered around a mustachioed
>American showing them how to repair an outboard
>No illusions about why Americans are there
>That afternoon at a peach-colored seaside high
>school, the only one in a country of about
>150,000 people that's roughly five times the
>size of Washington, D.C., a few U.S. crewmen
>fixed door hinges in what was clearly a public
>Sao Tomean officials warmly welcomed the
>three-day American presence, but they were under
>"Unfortunately, Americans are interested in Sao
>Tome because of oil, but Sao Tome existed before
>that," said Carlos Neves, national assembly vice
>Sao Tome doesn't have any proven reserves, but
>the search is under way and the government has
>awarded some exploration sectors to American and
>Think tanks like CSIS are pushing for a greater
>U.S. role in the region to protect American
>interests. But with its own military assets tied
>up elsewhere, including the Persian Gulf and
>Iraq, the United States is not looking to take
>the lead in the region - at least not yet.
>"We don't have the resources to provide maritime
>security here. We're not going to be the force
>in the Gulf of Guinea," Trott told The
>Associated Press at a hotel in palm-fringed Sao
>Tome, capital of the archipelago perched on the
>"But we are looking to increase our involvement
>right now - not to send ships on patrols, but to
>develop partnerships and develop capacities," he
>said. "If the Navy had more assets, would they
>send them here? Probably. But our first choice
>is to use what we have to facilitate training
>and regional cooperation."
>Cutter Cmdr. Bob Wagner described the mission to
>develop African maritime security as "preventive
>work to keep terrorists from the seas."
>The only U.S. military base in Africa is in the
>Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, the hub of
>anti-terrorism efforts on the continent.
>U.S. base for Sao Tome?
>Sao Tome has been touted as the possible site
>for a new U.S. naval base, but officials from
>both countries said no such plans were in the
>A top U.S. diplomat said U.S. forces may use
>storage facilities on Sao Tome as they do in
>other parts of Africa: to preposition equipment
>and supplies for emergencies, but no more.
>U.S. involvement today is limited mainly to a
>yet-to-be-completed feasibility study on
>expanding the airport and building a deep-water
>port in Neves, north of the capital, in
>anticipation of a massive local oil boom.
>The U.S. isn't offering to construct either,
>however, and deeply impoverished Sao Tome can't
>do it alone.
>Showing Sao Tome lawmakers around the cutter's
>bridge, Wagner spread out a large map of the
>country, its maritime boundaries highlighted
>with a black pen. Underlining Sao Tome's
>desperate state, local coast guard chief Capt.
>Joao Idalecio asked if he could have a copy.
>So much oil, so little protection
>The tiny size and inexperience of Africa's
>maritime forces, and the lack of cooperation
>between them, are chief concerns.
>Sao Tome and Principe's coast guard is just 50
>men and two inflatable zodiacs - clearly
>inadequate to patrol a vast, yet-to-be-exploited
>zone it shares with Nigeria that's believed to
>contain up to 11 billion barrels of oil.
>Petrol facilities and oil rigs in other places
>are also vulnerable. In Equatorial Guinea, for
>example, some U.S. oil platforms are protected
>not by that government's minuscule navy but by
>private, unarmed guards.
>Fostering political stability and keeping oil
>flowing are key U.S. goals, particularly in
>Nigeria, which exports about 2.5 million barrels
>daily, half of it to the United States.
>Militia attacks and threats against foreign oil
>workers in Nigeria's oil-rich delta have cut
>hundreds of thousands of barrels of daily oil
>production. Muslim-Christian violence in the
>volatile country's north has killed thousands.
>On Wednesday, army officers overthrew the
>U.S.-allied president of Islamic Mauritania,
>which had been increasingly looking to the West
>and citing a growing threat from al-Qaida-linked
>Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome have both been
>struck by coups and attempted coups over the
>past few years.
>Washington had in the past shunned Equatorial
>Guinea, run by Teodoro Obiang, a longtime
>dictator who had his predecessor - his uncle -
>executed by firing squad. But with the tiny
>nation's newfound oil wealth, that has begun to
>change. The visit to Equatorial Guinea was the
>first by U.S. forces in 13 years.
>U.S. officials said most countries welcomed the
>American visits, though one officer described
>Equatorial Guinea military officials as "distant
>and standoffish," speculating their estrangement
>was because of growing Chinese influence there.
>Encouraging intelligence-sharing and helping
>nations prepare for potential terrorist threats
>is another U.S. strategy.
>'Have to start somewhere'
>It's similar to what the U.S. is trying to do
>elsewhere on the continent, particularly the
>vast, ungoverned stretches of open desert that
>sweep across northern Africa, where U.S. forces
>conducted joint training exercises with African
>armies this summer.
>In October, the U.S. Navy hosted a first-ever
>gathering in Italy of Gulf of Guinea naval
>officials. A similar conference is planned for
>Ghana in December.
>Idalecio said Sao Tome hoped to expand its own
>coast guard, mainly to protect against illegal
>fishing and piracy.
>Wagner acknowledged the monumental task
>under-equipped African naval forces face.
>"You have to start somewhere," he said, watching
>a friendly soccer match pitting U.S. sailors
>against their Sao Tome counterparts on a dusty
>pitch overlooking the city. "But there's a
>recognition that they need to improve."
>© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights
>reserved. This material may not be published,
>broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
>© 2005 MSNBC.com
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