Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Rebel Police Officers Seize Sao Tome Department

A new development that could delay PSC signings once more erupted in the sleepy capital of Sao Tome this morning, where Angola-trained rebel officers seized the police department to demand back pay, the Portuguese agency Lusa is reporting.

Update, 5:25pm EST: Per Homeport:

STP News: Leader of mutineer police officers met today with Govt, later telling Lusa that "the national police service is already functioning normally."

Quaresma said the talks with Govt, led Tuesday by PM Silveira, would continue tomorrow. Described them as "open, cordial."

The only source of funds for their back pay is the government, which has resisted agreement on the Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Zone block awards to ERHC Energy and others that would produce a substantial inflow of cash for the poverty-stricken islands.

The delay has been abetted by Lusa, which invariably reports negatives about the oil awards, probably in support of a bid by national oil company Petrogal to get in on the action there.

The rebel officers were trained by Angola to prevent coups, and in at least this instance, seem more likely to be trying to foment one, at least at the police department.

While the complaints may well be genuine and the seizure an authentic protest, it nonethless smacks of another attempt to delay the PSC signings to us. It also succeeded in slowing ERHC Energy trading to a dead stop amid one of the sharpest price rallies in recent weeks. Perhaps that was its purpose.

Here is the Lusa report of minutes ago:

Sao Tome: Rebel officers seize police HQ in capital to protest unpaid salaries

Sao Tome, Jan. 17 (Lusa) - A group of police officers in Sao Tome and Principe stormed and occupied the capital's police headquarters Tuesday to demand unpaid salaries and other benefits, a leader of the protesters said.

Deputy-chief of police Wilson Quaresma, leader of the rebel officers, said the raiders fired shots into the air as they occupied the police command in Sao Tome city "without causing any casualties or material damage".

Declining to say how many dissident officers were involved in the assault, Quaresma said one of the protestors` demands was the sacking of the archipelago`s police chief, Superintendent Armando Correia.

Quaresma added that his rebel group, mainly members of Sao Tome's rapid reaction force that was recently trained in Angola, were demanding unpaid salaries and benefits and also protesting excessive working hours and irregular welfare discounts.

He accused Sao Tome's police force management of treating its officers like "slaves", rather than regular state employees.

Representatives from the group of agents occupying the police command could meet government officials later Tuesday in an attempt to end the occupation of the building, an official source said.

Army patrols were deployed around the police headquarters, situated in the center of the capital, media in the archipelago reported.



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