four dead in coup attempt, two investigations opened

Four people died overnight from Thursday to Friday in Sao Tome and Principe during a failed coup attempt and two investigations were opened, the first concerning the attack on a military barracks and the another for “murder” and “torture” of four alleged perpetrators.

The army, which announced on Friday that it had foiled a coup attempt in this small Portuguese-speaking archipelago, considered a model of parliamentary democracy in Africa, announced on Sunday that “four human lives were lost”, three of them due to their “wounds”, after “exchanges of fire” in a military site, according to the chief of staff of the armed forces quoted by the government press agency STP-Press. The latter claimed that “twelve army soldiers” are involved in the coup attempt.

One of the victims is Arlecio Costa, a former Santomean mercenary from the sulphurous South African group “Bataillon Buffalo”, dismantled in 1993 by Pretoria. He is accused by the Prime Minister, Patrice Trovoada, of being one of the sponsors.

“Four citizens” and “12 soldiers from the army and the Buffalo battalion” attempted to occupy military installations and were “all neutralized and captured”, before three of them died from their “wounds “, assured the same source to the Santomean agency, affirming that the army tried “to the maximum” to “preserve” their lives by taking them to the hospital.

The arrest of Mr. Costa had been announced by the authorities on Friday and he died after having “jumped from a vehicle”, assures the army, without giving details.

A judicial source contacted by AFP could not indicate Mr. Costa’s whereabouts at the time of his arrest but confirmed the opening of two investigations, one aimed at the alleged attack on a military barracks in the capital, and the other for acts of “torture” and “murder” of four alleged perpetrators.

In February 2009, then leader of a small opposition party, Arlecio Costa had already been arrested and accused of being the leader of a thwarted coup attempt 12 days earlier.

– “cause of death” –

Four men, including the former number 1 of the Parliament, Delfim Nevès, were arrested on Friday after being denounced by a commando of four men captured after six hours of exchanges of fire at the headquarters of the army, which they had attacked during the night, said Mr. Trovoada after the events.

Mr. Nevès was the president of the outgoing National Assembly and lost this function on November 11 during the installation of the new chamber resulting from the legislative elections of September 25, won by an absolute majority by the center-right party of Mr. Trovoada, Independent Democratic Action (ADI).

“Some do not accept the will of the ballot box,” Mr. Trovoada had dropped.

At the end of a council of ministers held on Sunday, the government “firmly condemned” what it describes as a “violent attempt to subvert the constitutional order”, assuring that “all investigations will be carried out to determine the causes and circumstances of the deaths”, in addition to the investigations to determine the responsibilities during the failure of the coup attempt.

The government notably urged hospital services to “properly preserve the bodies” of the victims, adding that an “international team”, including a forensic doctor, must join the archipelago to support the teams of investigators.

The president of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Gilberto da Piedade Verissimo, and Abdou Abarry, head of the UN office for Central Africa, carried out a “fact-finding mission” this weekend -end in the archipelago, announced the two organizations in a joint press release.

Following several coup attempts, the last in 2003 and 2009, the parliamentary regime asserted itself in this poor archipelago, independent from Portugal since 1975, which allowed several alternations between two parties: the Movement of release of Sao Tome and Principe-Social Democratic Party (MLSTP-PSD, centre-left) and Mr. Trovoada’s ADI