Equatorial Guinea’s original pygmy population was partially ousted from the 18th century by the agricultural farming bantu fang and from the 19th century by the bubi people, who then came to the island of Fernando Póo (now Bioko). This island had already been explored by the Portuguese Fernão do Pó in the 1400s. In 1778, Spain took over the islands of Fernando Póo and Annobón as well as the coastal areas, which were long hard hit by European slave hunting and slave trade. The British took over Fernando Póo in 1827 and used the island as a base in the work to stop the slave trade in the Gulf of Benin. The island became Spanish again in the mid-1800s, but only at the end of the 1920s did Spain gain full control over Río Muni (now Mbini) on the mainland. Equatorial Guinea’s parts were then united under the name of Spanish Guinea. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Equatorial Guinea. However, it was until the end of the Spanish Civil War (1939) before Equatorial Guinea became part of the colonial economy as an important producer of timber and cocoa. In 1959, the colony became an integral part of Spain.
In 1963, Equatorial Guinea gained some internal autonomy, and full independence was achieved on October 12, 1968, when the country adopted the name Equatorial Guinea. However, Spain was able to maintain its economic dominance. Francisco (from 1976 Beyogo Negue Ndong) Macías Nguema became the country’s first president, but his extremely brutal dictatorship isolated Equatorial Guinea, and about a third of the population fled the country. In August – September 1979, Macías Nguema was deposed and executed by a group of soldiers led by his nephew Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
All party politics were banned, and Obiang Nguema Mbasogo continued to govern dictatorially through a military council in the same way as his predecessor. Gradually, conditions in Equatorial Guinea began to arouse the world’s opposition, including through Alianza Nacional de Restauración Democrática (ANRD), an organization for exile students from Equatorial Guinea. In the parliamentary elections held in 1983 and 1988, all candidates were elected by the president. Obiang Nguema formed a “governing party” in 1987, Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial(PDGE), but still opposed an organized opposition. When multi-party systems were finally approved in a new constitution in 1991, it was made with such strong reservations that the opposition refused to approve the constitution. Among other things, an election candidate would have lived continuously in Equatorial Guinea for the past ten years, which would rule out any real opposition, and each new party would have to pay a high deposit fee. In addition, the President was granted total freedom of charge for life. In 1993, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo legalized dozens of parties, all under the chairmanship of his clan relatives. In the 1996 presidential election, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo received 99 percent of the vote. The election was preceded by intense repression by oppositionists, who had called for a boycott of voters.
In 1998, Biokoseparatists conducted several armed attacks on military facilities on the island. The separatists belonged to the island’s formerly dominant population bubi, which opposed the large move of prisoners from the mainland. Hundreds of people were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms. Fifteen death sentences, however, were converted to life imprisonment by foreign pressure. In March 2002, mass arrests of oppositionists were carried out following information on a coup attempt. In June, 68 people were sentenced to prison for up to 20 years. In the December presidential election of that year, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was re-elected with 97 percent of the vote, since the opposition candidates dropped out in the midst of ongoing elections in protest of cheating and threats and the lack of voting secrecy.
Another coup attempt was reported in early 2004. Foreign suspected mercenaries, most South Africans, were arrested in Equatorial Guinea and in Zimbabwe. Exile politician Severo Moto, leader of the banned opposition alliance Coordinadora de la Oposición Conjunta, was accused of lying behind the coup attempt and was sentenced in his absence to 63 years in prison. He had already been sentenced to 101 years in prison for treason in 1997. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo placed two of his sons in influential ministerial posts in 2003, which was seen as a preparation for continued family rule. The president was re-elected in 2009 with 96 percent of the vote.
Following constitutional changes in 2011, two vice presidential posts were set up, one of which went to President Zone Teodoro (“Theodorin”) Nguema Obiang. It has attracted attention through its luxury consumption and has been called for corruption crimes in both France and the United States. The president is also accused of corruption by the organization Transparency International (TI). When the constitution was amended in 2011, a rule was also introduced that states that the president may sit for a maximum of two terms of office, but the rule should not apply retroactively. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo ran for another term in 2016 and, according to the official election results, received 94 percent of the vote.
Equatorial Guinea’s large oil revenues have greatly increased the world’s interest in the country. Despite repeated criticism by the UN, the EU and Amnesty International of ongoing human rights violations, a number of countries have advanced their positions in Equatorial Guinea, including the United States, France and South Africa. Through loans for infrastructure expansion and foreclosed debt, China has also acquired shares in oil recovery.
In February 2009, the government claimed to have rejected an invasion attempt by the Nigerian rebel group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). The movement, however, denied involvement in the shootings that took place, among other things, near the presidential palace. The following year, four previously high-ranking military and civil servants were executed for lying behind the attack. Amnesty International claimed that the men were living in exile at the time and were kidnapped there by Equatorial Guinea’s security service.