São Tomé e Príncipe (STP) has not yet extracted a single drop of oil and is not expected to do so until 2007. Even so, because of its potential oil wealth the recent military coup in the small island-republic has attracted a lot of international attention. Many foreign observers are convinced that oil politics are at the bottom of the takeover. Some have suggested that it was only matter of time before competition for power ahead of the oil rush would degenerate into political instability. There is no doubt that the prospect of oil wealth has been uppermost in the minds of the islanders and has created great hope among them. However, while oil has certainly played a role in recent events, it cannot be regarded as the dominant cause of the coup. Such a view would overlook the role of other domestic factors in the genesis of the coup. This article draws attention to the political developments in STP that formed the background to the coup of 16 July 2003, as well as to the increasing regional and international importance of the tiny country as a future oil producer.