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The Turbulent and Tragic History of Equatorial Guinea



Equatorial Guinea is a small country in Central Africa, located on the west coast of the continent. It consists of a mainland region, called Río Muni, and five islands, collectively known as insular Equatorial Guinea. The largest and most populous island is Bioko, where the capital, Malabo, is situated. The other islands are Annobón, Corisco, and Great and Little Elobey. Equatorial Guinea has a rich and diverse history, marked by centuries of colonial domination by the Portuguese, British, and Spanish empires, and by the local kingdoms and ethnic groups.

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

The earliest inhabitants of Equatorial Guinea were probably Pygmies, who lived in the forests of Río Muni. They were later displaced or assimilated by the Bantu migrations that occurred between the 17th and 19th centuries. The Bantu brought different cultures and languages to the region, such as the Fang, the Bubi, the Ndowe, the Bujeba, the Balengue, and the Benga. The Fang are the dominant ethnic group in Río Muni, while the Bubi are the majority on Bioko Island.

The first European contact with Equatorial Guinea was made by the Portuguese explorer Fernão do Pó, who discovered Bioko Island in 1472. He named it Formosa, meaning “beautiful”, but it soon took on his name as Fernando Pó. The Portuguese also claimed Annobón island in 1474 and used both islands as bases for the transatlantic slave trade. They also established trade relations with some of the coastal kingdoms of Río Muni, such as the Aro Confederacy, which was founded by Igbo traders from Nigeria.

In 1778, Portugal ceded Fernando Pó and Annobón islands to Spain, in exchange for territory in South America. Spain also gained rights to the mainland coast between the Niger and Ogoue rivers. However, Spain did not effectively occupy or administer its new possessions until the late 19th century, when it faced competition from other European powers, especially France. In 1900, Spain and France signed the Treaty of Paris, which defined their respective spheres of influence in Central Africa. Spain retained Río Muni as a small enclave of about 26,000 square kilometers, while France expanded its territory to include most of modern-day Gabon and Congo.

Spain’s colonial rule over Equatorial Guinea was harsh and exploitative. The indigenous people were subjected to forced labor, taxation, land expropriation, cultural suppression, and racial discrimination. The Spanish also introduced Christianity and Spanish as official languages, while banning or restricting the use of local languages and religions. The colonial economy was based on the extraction of natural resources, such as cocoa, coffee, timber, and oil. The Spanish also encouraged immigration from other parts of Spain and its colonies, especially from the Canary Islands.

The first nationalist movements in Equatorial Guinea emerged in the 1940s and 1950s, inspired by the decolonization process in other parts of Africa and Asia. Some of the prominent leaders were Acacio Mañé Ela (Fang), Enrique Nvó Okenve (Bubi), Atanasio Ndongo Miyone (Fang), Bonifacio Ondó Edu (Fang), Edmundo Bossio (Bubi), and Francisco Macías Nguema (Fang). They formed various political parties and organizations that demanded greater autonomy or independence from Spain. Some of these parties were: Movimiento Nacional de Liberación de la Guinea Ecuatorial (MONALIGE), Unión Bubi (UB), Idea Popular de la Guinea Ecuatorial (IPGE), Movimiento de Unión Nacional de la Guinea Ecuatorial (MUNGE), Movimiento de Liberación Nacional de la Guinea Ecuatorial (MLNGE), Partido del Progreso de la Guinea Ecuatorial (PPGE), Unión Democrática Socialista de la Guinea Ecuatorial (UDS), Partido Socialista Autónomo de la Guinea Ecuatorial (PSAGE), Unión Popular de la Guinea Ecuatorial (UPGE), Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores de la Guinea Ecuatorial (PRTGE), Partido Socialista Unificado de la Guinea Ecuatorial (PSUGE), Partido Nacionalista de la Guinea Ecuatorial (PANGE), Partido Democrático de la Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), Partido Socialista Popular de la Guinea Ecuatorial (PSPGE), Partido Comunista de la Guinea Ecuatorial (PCGE), Partido Africano para el Desarrollo y el Progreso de la Guinea Ecuatorial (PADPGE), Partido Liberal Democrático de la Guinea Ecuatorial (PLDGE), Partido Socialdemócrata de la Guinea Ecuatorial (PSDGE), Partido Demócrata Cristiano de la Guinea Ecuatorial (PDCE), and Partido de la Unidad Nacional de la Guinea Ecuatorial (PUNGE).

In 1959, Spain granted Equatorial Guinea a limited degree of self-government, and renamed it as the Spanish Guinea. In 1963, it became an autonomous overseas province of Spain, with a legislative assembly and an executive council. In 1967, a referendum was held to decide the future status of Equatorial Guinea. The majority of the voters opted for independence, which was formally proclaimed on October 12, 1968. The first president of the independent Republic of Equatorial Guinea was Francisco Macías Nguema, who had led the MLNGE party. He changed his name to Masie Nguema Biyogo Ñegue Ndong, and adopted the title of “Unique Miracle”. He also renamed the country as the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, and the capital as Malabo.

Macías Nguema’s regime was one of the most brutal and repressive in Africa. He abolished the constitution, banned all political parties except his own, dissolved the parliament, and established a one-party dictatorship. He also persecuted and killed thousands of his opponents, especially those from the Bubi ethnic group, whom he accused of being separatists and traitors. He also isolated the country from the rest of the world, and destroyed its economy and infrastructure. He declared himself president for life, and appointed his relatives and cronies to key positions in the government and the army. He also developed a personality cult, and claimed to have supernatural powers.

In 1979, Macías Nguema was overthrown by a military coup led by his nephew, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who was then the commander of the National Guard. Obiang Nguema became the new president of Equatorial Guinea, and promised to restore democracy and human rights. However, he soon consolidated his power by eliminating his rivals, and creating a new one-party system under his own party, the Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE). He also changed his name to Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo Eyang Nchama. He maintained a close relationship with Spain, France, and the United States, and allowed foreign companies to exploit the country’s oil and gas reserves, which were discovered in the 1990s.

Obiang Nguema’s rule has been characterized by corruption, nepotism, authoritarianism, and human rights violations. He has faced several coup attempts and assassination plots, some of which were allegedly supported by foreign mercenaries or governments. He has also faced opposition from various political parties and civil society groups that demand political reforms and social justice. Some of these parties are: Convergencia para la Democracia Social (CPDS), Unión Popular (UP), Fuerza Demócrata Republicana (FDR), Acción Popular de Guinea Ecuatorial (APGE), Unión Democrática Nacional (UDENA), Movimiento para la Autodeterminación de la Isla de Bioko (MAIB), Partido del Progreso (PP), Unión Socialista Democrática (USD), Partido Liberal (PL), Partido Socialista de Guinea Ecuatorial (PSGE), Partido Demócrata Popular (PDP), Partido del Centro Democrático (PCD), Partido Socialdemócrata Independiente (PSDI), Partido del Renacimiento Social de Guinea Ecuatorial (PRSGE), Partido de la Coalición Socialdemócrata (PCSD), Partido Republicano de Guinea Ecuatorial (PRGE), Partido Democrático Social de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDSE), Partido Liberal Progresista de Guinea Ecuatorial (PLPGE), Partido Nacionalista Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (PNDE), Partido Democrático Independiente de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDIGE), Partido Socialista Obrero Español en Guinea Ecuatorial (PSOE-GE), Partido Comunista Obrero Español en Guinea Ecuatorial (PCOE-GE), Partido Comunista de los Pueblos de España en Guinea Ecuatorial (PCPE-GE), Partido Obrero Socialista Internacionalista en Guinea Ecuatorial (POSI-GE), Partido Revolucionario Obrero y Campesino en Guinea Ecuatorial (PROC-GE), Partido Obrero Revolucionario en Guinea Ecuatorial (POR-GE), Partido Comunista Internacionalista en Guinea Ecuatorial (PCI-GE), Liga Comunista Revolucionaria en Guinea Ecuatorial (LCR-GE), Movimiento Revolucionario Socialista en Guinea Ecuatorial (MRS-GE), Movimiento Izquierda Unida en Guinea Ecuatorial (MIU-GE), Movimiento Alternativa Republicana y Socialista en Guinea Ecuatorial (M

Equatorial Guinea (MARS-GE), and Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores en Guinea Ecuatorial (MST-GE).

In 1991, Obiang Nguema introduced a new constitution that allowed for a multi-party system and a presidential term limit of seven years. However, he has repeatedly amended the constitution to extend his term and increase his powers. He has also won every presidential election since then, with dubious results and allegations of fraud and intimidation. He has faced several challenges from other candidates, such as Severo Moto Nsá (PP), Plácido Micó Abogo (CPDS), Celestino Bonifacio Bacalé Obiang (FDR), Andrés Moisés Mba Ada (UP), Carmelo Mba Bacale (APGE), Avelino Mocache Mehenga (UDENA), Martín Puye Topepe (MAIB), Felipe Ondo Obiang (PDSE), Gabriel Nsé Obiang Obono (CI), Agustín Masoko Abegue (PRSGE), Benedicto Obiang Mangue (PUNGE), and Aitor Elicegui Esono (PSOE-GE).

In 2012, Obiang Nguema appointed his son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, as the vice president of Equatorial Guinea, and the heir apparent to the presidency. He is also known as Teodorín, and is in charge of defense and security. He has been accused of corruption, money laundering, human rights abuses, and drug trafficking by several countries, such as France, Switzerland, and the United States. He has also been criticized for his lavish lifestyle and extravagant spending, while most of the population lives in poverty and underdevelopment.

Equatorial Guinea is one of the richest countries in Africa in terms of GDP per capita, thanks to its oil and gas revenues. However, it is also one of the most unequal and undemocratic countries in the world, according to various indicators and rankings. It has a low human development index, a high poverty rate, a low literacy rate, a high infant mortality rate, a low life expectancy, a high corruption perception index, a low democracy index, a low press freedom index, a low human rights index, and a high environmental degradation index. It also faces several challenges and threats, such as ethnic tensions, social unrest, political instability, regional conflicts, climate change, pandemics, and terrorism.