History of Equatorial Guinea

The History of Equatorial Guinea is diverse and varied.

Pre-colonial history

The first inhabitants of the region that is now Equatorial Guinea are believed to have been Pygmies, of whom only isolated pockets remain in northern Rio Muni. Bantu migrations between the 17th and 19th centuries brought the coastal tribes and later the Fang. Elements of the latter may have generated the Bubi, who emigrated to Bioko from Cameroon and Río Muni in several waves and succeeded former Neolithic populations. It is said the Igbo of Nigeria (mostly Aro) slave traders arrived and founded very few tiny settlements in Bioko and Rio Muni which expanded the Aro Confederacy in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Annobon population, native to Angola, was introduced by the Portuguese via São Tomé.

The Portuguese explorer, Fernão do Pó, seeking a route to India, is credited with having discovered the island of Bioko in 1471. He called it Formosa ("beautiful [isle] ", a name later applied to Taiwan), but it quickly took on the name of its European discoverer, albeit spelt "Fernando Poo". The islands of Fernando Poo and Annobón were colonized by the Portuguese in 1474. The Portuguese retained control until 1778, when the island, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger and Ogooué Rivers were ceded to Spain in exchange for territory in South America (Treaty of El Pardo).

From 1827 to 1843, Britain established a base on the island to combat the slave trade. The mainland portion, Río Muni, became a protectorate in 1885 and a colony in 1900. Conflicting claims to the mainland were settled in 1900 by the Treaty of Paris, and periodically, the mainland territories were united administratively under Spanish rule. Between 1926 and 1959 they were united as the colony of Spanish Guinea.During the First World War, German troops retreated into this territory from Kamerun because Spain was neutral during the war.

Colonial era

Spain developed large cacao plantations for which thousands of Nigerian workers were imported as laborers.

At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War the colony remained loyal to the Republican government. On July 24, 1936, the Republican cruiser "Méndez Núñez" arrived at Santa Isabel; on its way back to Spain the officers planned to join the rebellion, but the Spanish government, knowing this, ordered the ship to go back to the colony; on August 14 the "Méndez Núñez" was back in Fernando Poo, where the sailors took control of her; on September 21 the ship arrived in Málaga (Republican Spain). On September 19 the Colonial Guard and the Civil Guard began the rebellion and took control of the island of Fernando Poo, while the rest of the colony remained loyal to the Republic. On September 22 a clash took place between a rebel group from Kogo and a loyal detachment from Bata. Finally, on October 14 a force of 200 rebels arrived in the merchant "Ciudad de Mahón" and took control of Bata and the rest of the colony.

At independence in 1968 Equatorial Guinea had one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa (332 USD). The Spanish also helped Equatorial Guinea achieve one of the continent's highest literacy rates and developed a good network of health care facilities.However at the time of independence, the number of native doctors and lawyers was in the single digits" [http://laguineaecuatorial.iespana.es/textos/h1.pdf España - Guinea, 1969: la estrategia de la tensión] ", Xavier Lacosta, Historia 16, January 2001.] .

In 1959, the Spanish territory of the Gulf of Guinea was established with the same status as the provinces of metropolitan Spain. As the Spanish Equatorial Region, it was ruled by a governor general exercising military and civilian powers. The first local elections were held in 1959, and the first Equatoguinean representatives were seated in the "Cortes Generales" (Spanish parliament). Under the Basic Law of December 1963, limited autonomy was authorized under a joint legislative body for the territory's two provinces.A paradoxical effect of this autonomy was that Guineans could choose among several political parties while metropolitan Spaniards were under a single party regime.The name of the country was changed to Equatorial Guinea. Although Spain's commissioner general had extensive powers, the Equatorial Guinean General Assembly had considerable initiative in formulating laws and regulations.

Independence

In March 1968, under pressure from Equatoguinean nationalists and the United Nations, Spain announced that it would grant independence to Equatorial Guinea. A constitutional convention produced an electoral law and draft constitution. In the presence of a UN observer team, a referendum was held on August 11, 1968, and 63% of the electorate voted in favor of the constitution, which provided for a government with a General Assembly and a Supreme Court with judges appointed by the president.

In September 1968, Francisco Macías Nguema was elected first president of Equatorial Guinea, and independence was granted in October. In July 1970, Macias created a single-party state and by May 1971, key portions of the constitution were abrogated. In 1972 Macias took complete control of the government and assumed the title of President for Life. The Macias regime was characterized by abandonment of all government functions except internal security, which was accomplished by terror; this led to the death or exile of up to one-third of the country's population. Due to pilferage, ignorance, and neglect, the country's infrastructure--electrical, water, road, transportation, and health--fell into ruin. Religion was repressed, and education ceased. The private and public sectors of the economy were devastated. Nigerian contract laborers on Bioko, estimated to have been 60,000, left en masse in early 1976. The economy collapsed, and skilled citizens and foreigners left.

All schools were ordered closed in 1975, and the country's churches were closed in 1978. Nguema introduced a campaign of 'authenticity,' replacing colonial names with native ones: the capital Santa Isabel became Malabo, the main island of Fernando Poo was renamed Masie Nguema Biyogo after himself, and Annobón became Pagalu. As part of the same process, Nguema also ordered the entire population to drop their European names and adopt African ones. His own name underwent several transformations, so that by the end of his rule he was known as Masie Nguema Biyogo Ñegue Ndong.

In August 1979 Macias' nephew from Mongomo and former director of the infamous Black Beach Prison, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, led a successful coup d'état; Macias was arrested, tried, and executed. Obiang assumed the Presidency in October 1979. The islands were renamed Bioko and Annobón. The new ruler faced the challenge of restoring order in a country that was in shambles--by the end of Masie Nguema's dictatorship, the state coffers were empty and the population had been reduced to only one-third of what it was at independence.

1990s-2000s

The unsuccessful "Wonga Coup" was attempted by European and South African mercenaries in 2004 with the goal of replacing Obiang with a puppet ruler who would open the country's mineral wealth to the plotters. British aristocrat Simon Mann, a former officer in the Special Air Service, led the plot, which also included former members of the South African Army 32 Battalion. Financial backers included Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and possibly the British novelist Jeffrey Archer. Somewhere between $3 million and $20 million was expended on the failed coup, which is said to have had the tacit support of some Western governments and international corporations. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/13/books/review/Elkins.t.html?pagewanted=print] "Dogs of War: How a group of mercenaries tried to overthrow an African government", by Caroline Elkins, "New York Times Book Review," Sunday, August 13, 2006, p. 19, a review of "The Wonga Coup: Guns, Thugs and a Ruthless Determination to Create mayhem in an Oil-Rich Corner of Africa," by Adam Roberts, accessed August 12, 2006.]

Footnotes

External links

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4044305.stm BBC news article on the verdicts handed to the coup force]
* [http://www.historyofnations.net/africa/equatorialguinea.html History of Equatorial Guinea]
* [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/7221.htm Background Note: Equatorial Guinea]
* [http://www.oraclesyndicate.twoday.net/stories/2534432/ A Coup for a Mountain of Wonga]


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