Equitorial Guinea: History

Figure 1.--Here we have a photograph showing the king (chief) of Rebola with his wives and some of his countless children. The great number of wives and children were a sign of his wealth and power. Rebola is located on the island of Bioko, Equatorial Guinea. The photos came from postcards issued about 1900, but they could be taken some year earlier.

Equatorial Guinea is a small, oil-rich, country on the western coast of central Africa at the apex of the Gulf of Guinea. The mainland known as Rio Muni is located south of Cameroon where the African coast turns south. Pygmies were the first known population on the mainland. Now they remain in only a few isolated pockets in the north. More advanced Bantu tribes, including the Bubi, entered the the mainland. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach the area, part of their voyages of discovery south along the African coast. For security reasons, they were primarily interested in the offshore islands. They visited Anobón (1470). They subsequently settled Anobóón and the other islands in the Gulf of Guinea (Bioko, Săo Tomé and Príncipe). The Portuguese founded the Atlantic slave trade and these islands were used in that enterorise. The Fang, a branch of the Beti, migrated into the area and establish a dominant position (about 17th century). They not only conquered the area, but intermarried with the Bantu. The Bubi are believed to have fled to Bioko to escape the Fang. There are, however, no written records. Some believe that the Bubi were indigenous to the island). The Portuguese and Spanish gradually establisged a presence on the mainland, but were resisted by the Fang. The country was a former Spanish colony known as Spanish Guinea. Fernando Po was initially a Portuguese possession ceded to Spain (1778). Bioko, Anobón and parts of the mainland were traded to Spain in exchange for regions in Latin America. Bioko ly became an important base for slave-trading for several European nations (early-19th century). Britain subsequently used also used it as a naval base as part of its campaign to end the slave trade. The mainland boundaries were established by the Treaty of Berlin (1885). Spanosg settlers founded cocoa plantations on Malabo (late-19th century) which made the colony Spain’s most valuable possession in equatorial Africa. The Fang resisted European colonization, but more than two centuries of European slaving drove them away from the coast. With the end of the slave trade and abolition, the Fang and other Africans moved back into coastal areas. Spain granted internal self-government (1964) and full indeopendence (1968). Francisco Macias Nguema at independence launched a reign of terror. A third of the population fled. The Fang still dominate Equatorial Guinea, now by their control of the country's Army. Macias Nguema initiated a genocide against the Bubi ethnic minority. He also ordered the death of thousands of suspected opponents, closed down churches, and presided over the an economic collapse. He was overthrow after a decade of bloody rule and economic failure (1979). Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo seized power in a coup. He has not roven as murderous, but has shown little tolerance for criticism and opposition. And thanks to oil discoveries, he but not the people has become very rich. The country is theoretically a multi-party constitutional republic. All branches of government are, however, controlled by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who first elected (1979). He was declared the winner of the latest presidential election with over 95 percent of the vote (November 2009). Equatorial Guinea was one ranked as one of the poorest countries in Africa. With the discovey of oil it has become one of the richest, in terms of percapita income. Very little of that wealth has trickled down to the peope, many of which live desperately poor lives little changed from centurues ago.


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Created: 1:55 AM 11/13/2012
Last updated: 1:55 AM 11/13/2012