Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinean.
a republic in W equatorial Africa, comprising the mainland province of Río Muni and the island province of Bioko: formerly a Spanish colony. 442,516; 10,824 sq. mi. (28,034 sq. km). Cap.: Malabo. Formerly, Spanish Guinea.

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Equatorial Guinea

Introduction Equatorial Guinea
Background: Composed of a mainland portion and five inhabited islands, Equatorial Guinea, which gained independence in 1968 after 190 years of Spanish rule, has been ruled by President OBIANG NGUEM MBASOGO since he seized power in a coup in 1979. Although nominally a constitutional democracy since 1991, the 1996 presidential and 1999 legislative elections were widely seen as being flawed. Geography Equatorial Guinea -
Location: Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Biafra, between Cameroon and Gabon
Geographic coordinates: 2 00 N, 10 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 28,051 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 28,051 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Maryland
Land boundaries: total: 539 km border countries: Cameroon 189 km, Gabon 350 km
Coastline: 296 km
Maritime claims: exclusive economic zone: 200 NM territorial sea: 12 NM
Climate: tropical; always hot, humid
Terrain: coastal plains rise to interior hills; islands are volcanic
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m highest point: Pico Basile 3,008 m
Natural resources: oil, petroleum, timber, small unexploited deposits of gold, manganese, uranium
Land use: arable land: 4.63% permanent crops: 3.57% other: 91.8% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: NA sq km
Natural hazards: violent windstorms, flash floods Environment - current issues: tap water is not potable; deforestation Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Ship Pollution signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: insular and continental regions rather widely separated People Equatorial Guinea
Population: 498,144 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 42.4% (male 106,061; female 105,071) 15-64 years: 53.8% (male 128,489; female 139,732) 65 years and over: 3.8% (male 8,385; female 10,406) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.45% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 37.33 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 12.83 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: NEGL migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/ female total population: 0.95 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 90.96 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 54.35 years female: 56.5 years (2002 est.) male: 52.26 years
Total fertility rate: 4.81 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.51% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 1,100 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 120 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Equatorial Guinean(s) or Equatoguinean(s) adjective: Equatorial Guinean or Equatoguinean
Ethnic groups: Bioko (primarily Bubi, some Fernandinos), Rio Muni (primarily Fang), Europeans less than 1,000, mostly Spanish
Religions: nominally Christian and predominantly Roman Catholic, pagan practices
Languages: Spanish (official), French (official), pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 78.5% male: 89.6% female: 68.1% (1995 est.) Government Equatorial Guinea
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Equatorial Guinea conventional short form: Equatorial Guinea local short form: Guinea Ecuatorial local long form: Republica de Guinea Ecuatorial former: Spanish Guinea
Government type: republic
Capital: Malabo Administrative divisions: 7 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia); Annobon, Bioko Norte, Bioko Sur, Centro Sur, Kie-Ntem, Litoral, Wele-Nzas
Independence: 12 October 1968 (from Spain)
National holiday: Independence Day, 12 October (1968)
Constitution: approved by national referendum 17 November 1991; amended January 1995
Legal system: partly based on Spanish civil law and tribal custom
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal adult
Executive branch: chief of state: President Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Teodoro OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO (since 3 August 1979 when he seized power in a military coup) elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term; election last held 25 February 1996 (next to be held NA February 2003); prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the president election results: President Teodoro OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO reelected with 98% of the popular vote in elections marred by widespread fraud cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president head of government: Prime Minister Candido Muatetema RIVAS (since 26 February 2001); First Deputy Prime Minister Miguel OYONO NDONG (since NA January 1998); Deputy Prime Minister Demetrio Elo NDONG NZE FUMU (since NA January 1998)
Legislative branch: unicameral House of People's Representatives or Camara de Representantes del Pueblo (80 seats; members directly elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms) elections: last held 7 March 1999 (next to be held NA March 2004) election results: percent of vote by party - PDGE 80%, UP 6%, CPDS 5%; seats by party - PDGE 75, UP 4 and CPDS 1 note: opposition parties have refused to take up their seats in the House to protest widespread irregularities in the 1999 legislative elections
Judicial branch: Supreme Tribunal Political parties and leaders: Convergence Party for Social Democracy or CPDS [Placido MIKO Abogo]; Democratic Party for Equatorial Guinea or PDGE (ruling party) [Teodoro OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO]; Party for Progress of Equatorial Guinea or PPGE [Severo MOTO]; Popular Action of Equatorial Guinea or APGE [Miguel Esono EMAN]; Popular Union or UP [Andres Moises Bda ADA]; Progressive Democratic Alliance or ADP [Victorino Bolekia BONAY]; Union of Independent Democrats of UDI [Daniel OYONO] Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization ACCT, ACP, AfDB, BDEAC, CEEAC,
participation: CEMAC, ECA, FAO, FZ, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAS (observer), OAU, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WToO, WTrO (applicant) Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Teodoro BIYOGO NSUE chancery: 2020 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 FAX: [1] (202) 528-5252 telephone: [1] (202) 518-5700 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador George
US: McDade STAPLES; note - the US does not have an embassy in Equatorial Guinea (embassy closed September 1995); the US ambassador to Cameroon is accredited to Equatorial Guinea; the US State Department is considering opening a Consulate Agency in Malabo
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red with a blue isosceles triangle based on the hoist side and the coat of arms centered in the white band; the coat of arms has six yellow six-pointed stars (representing the mainland and five offshore islands) above a gray shield bearing a silk-cotton tree and below which is a scroll with the motto UNIDAD, PAZ, JUSTICIA (Unity, Peace, Justice) Economy Equatorial Guinea -
Economy - overview: The discovery and exploitation of large oil reserves have contributed to dramatic economic growth in recent years. Forestry, farming, and fishing are also major components of GDP. Subsistence farming predominates. Although pre- independence Equatorial Guinea counted on cocoa production for hard currency earnings, the neglect of the rural economy under successive regimes has diminished potential for agriculture-led growth (the government has stated its intention to reinvest some oil revenue into agriculture). A number of aid programs sponsored by the World Bank and the IMF have been cut off since 1993 because of corruption and mismanagement. No longer eligible for concessional financing because of large oil revenues, the government has been unsuccessfully trying to agree on a "shadow" fiscal management program with the World Bank and IMF. Businesses, for the most part, are owned by government officials and their family members. Undeveloped natural resources include titanium, iron ore, manganese, uranium, and alluvial gold. Boosts in production and higher world oil prices stimulated growth in 2002, with oil accounting for 90% of increased exports.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $1.04 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 6% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $2,100 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 20% industry: 60% services: 20% (1999 est.) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 6% (2001 est.)
Labor force: NA
Unemployment rate: 30% (1998 est.)
Budget: revenues: $200 million expenditures: $158 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (2001 est.)
Industries: petroleum, fishing, sawmilling, natural gas Industrial production growth rate: 7.4% (1994 est.) Electricity - production: 22 million kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 90.91% hydro: 9.09% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 20.46 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: coffee, cocoa, rice, yams, cassava (tapioca), bananas, palm oil nuts; livestock; timber
Exports: $2.1 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: petroleum, timber, cocoa
Exports - partners: China 24%, Japan 7%, US 7%, South Korea 5% (1999)
Imports: $736 million (f.o.b., 2001)
Imports - commodities: petroleum sector equipment, manufactured goods and equipment
Imports - partners: US 60%, France 12%, Spain 8%, Italy 6% (1999)
Debt - external: $225 million (2000 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $33.8 million (1995)
Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XAF); note - responsible authority is the Bank of the Central African States
Currency code: XAF
Exchange rates: Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (XAF) per US dollar - 742.79 (January 2002), 733.04 (2001), 711.98 (2000), 615.70 (1999), 589.95 (1998), 583.67 (1997); note - from 1 January 1999, the XAF is pegged to the euro at a rate of 655.957 XAF per euro
Fiscal year: 1 January - 31 December Communications Equatorial Guinea Telephones - main lines in use: 4,000 (1996) Telephones - mobile cellular: NA
Telephone system: general assessment: poor system with adequate government services domestic: NA international: international communications from Bata and Malabo to African and European countries; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) Radio broadcast stations: AM 0, FM 3, shortwave 5 (2002)
Radios: 180,000 (1997) Television broadcast stations: 1 (2002)
Televisions: 4,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .gq Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 600 (2000) Transportation Equatorial Guinea
Railways: total: 0 km
Highways: total: 2,880 km paved: 0 km unpaved: 2,880 km (1996)
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: Bata, Luba, Malabo
Merchant marine: total: 6 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 14,413 GRT/16,251 DWT ships by type: bulk 1, cargo 3, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 3 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 2 2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 1 under 914 m: 1 (2001) Military Equatorial Guinea
Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, Rapid Intervention Force, National Police Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 112,664 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 57,194 (2002 est.)
service: Military expenditures - dollar $27.5 million (FY01)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 2.5% (FY01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Equatorial Guinea Disputes - international: tripartite maritime boundary and economic zone dispute with Cameroon and Nigeria is currently before the ICJ; maritime boundary dispute with Gabon because of disputed sovereignty over islands in Corisco Bay

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officially Republic of Equatorial Guinea formerly Spanish Guinea

Republic on the western coast of equatorial Africa and including Bioko Island.

Area: 10,831 sq mi (28,051 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 498,000. Capital: Malabo. The majority of the mainland population are Bantu-speaking Fang people, with a minority of other Bantu-speaking ethnic groups (see Bantu languages). The majority on Bioko are Bubi, descendants of Bantu migrants from the mainland. Languages: Spanish, French (both official); pidgin English is commonly spoken. Religion: Roman Catholicism (four-fifths of the population); the Bubi retain their traditional religion. Currency: CFA franc. Bordered by Cameroon and Gabon, Equatorial Guinea's mainland region, Río Muni (Mbini), is separated by the Bight of Biafra from the island area of Bioko to the northwest. The mainland has a coastal plain some 12 mi (20 km) wide, with a long stretch of beach, low cliffs to the south, and hills and plateaus to the east. The Benito River divides the region. The island of Bioko consists of three extinct volcanic cones and has several crater lakes and rich lava soils. Dense tropical rainforest prevails throughout the mainland and includes valuable hardwoods. Animal life has been decimated by overhunting. Cacao, timber, and coffee are exported from the country, but since the 1990s petroleum is its major export. Equatorial Guinea is a republic with one legislative house; its chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. The first inhabitants of the mainland region appear to have been Pygmies. The now-prominent Fang and Bubi reached the mainland region in the 17th-century Bantu migrations. Equatorial Guinea was ceded by the Portuguese to the Spanish in the late 18th century; it was frequented by slave traders, as well as by British, German, Dutch, and French merchants. Bioko was administered by British authorities (1827–58) before the official takeover by the Spanish. The mainland (Río Muni) was not effectively occupied by the Spanish until 1926. Independence was declared in 1968, followed by a reign of terror and economic chaos under the dictatorial president Macías Nguema, who was overthrown by a military coup in 1979 and later executed. Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo became leader of the country in 1979. A new constitution was adopted in 1982, but political unrest persisted into the 21st century despite the country's oil wealth.

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▪ 2009

28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 616,000
Chief of state and head of government:
President Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, assisted by Prime Ministers Ricardo Mangue Obama Nfubea and, from July 8, Ignacio Milam Tang

      Though Equatorial Guinea Pres. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo ruled Africa's third largest oil producer (after Nigeria and Angola) dictatorially, in May 2008 parliamentary and local elections were held; the governing Democratic Party and its allies won an overwhelming victory, taking all but one of the 100 parliamentary seats. New attention was focused on Equatorial Guinea when British mercenary Simon Mann—who was accused of having led a coup in 2004 to topple Obiang Nguema and replace him with exiled opposition leader Severo Moto—was extradited secretly from Zimbabwe, where he had served four years in prison. Mann, a former officer in the British Special Air Service, was put on trial in Malabo, and the proceedings were broadcast internationally. He expressed remorse and revealed new details about the failed coup attempt, implicating the son of former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher and claiming that Spain, South Africa, and the U.S. knew of the plot and approved it. Mann was sentenced on July 7 to 34 years in prison. In addition to his prison sentence, Mann was fined some $24 million.

      In July 2008 Nguema replaced Prime Minister Ricardo Mangue Obama Nfubea, whom he accused of graft and security failings relating to the 2004 coup attempt, and installed Ignacio Milam Tang. A pressing issue for the new government was the maritime border dispute with Gabon over the island of Mbanie in the Gulf of Guinea, where oil had been discovered. The UN appointed a Swiss legal expert to try to resolve the dispute.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2008

28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 507,000
Chief of state:
President Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Head of government:
Prime Minister Ricardo Mangue Obama Nfubea

      Equatorial Guinea, sub-Saharan Africa's third largest oil producer, continued in 2007 to have one of the highest GDP growth rates in the world, estimated at more than 20%. The country was one of the members that participated in the 2006 inaugural meeting of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, which aimed to ensure that the energy resources of the region led to development and that Malabo's long-standing dispute with neighbouring Gabon over the status of the islands in Corsico Bay would at last be settled. In May it was announced that there would be a delay in the awarding of further offshore exploration blocks because the bids were not satisfactory, but in September seven new oil blocks were granted to companies from South Africa, India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland.

      Relations with Zimbabwe, which had become close in 2004 when Zimbabwe intercepted mercenaries bound for Equatorial Guinea to stage a coup, remained warm. In August 2007 Pres. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo made a state visit to Zimbabwe, where he opened the Harare Agricultural Show. Zimbabwean Pres. Robert Mugabe was keen to obtain oil from Equatorial Guinea, and Malabo wanted Zimbabwe to extradite Simon Mann, the leader of the mercenaries, who had completed a jail term in Zimbabwe.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2007

28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 515,000
Chief of state:
President Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Miguel Abia Biteo Boricó and, from August 14, Ricardo Mangue Obama Nfubea

      With the rise in oil prices in 2006, massive revenues flowed into the coffers of Equatorial Guinea, sub-Saharan Africa's third largest oil producer, but it was the elite—the family of Pres. Teodoro Obiang Nguema and government associates—who benefited, not the poor. While the president was received as a “friend” in Washington, his son Teodorin, the minister of forestry and likely successor, was sued in the Cape High Court in Cape Town for debts. The case revealed that while most of the people of Equatorial Guinea lived on $1 a day, Teodorin had spent almost $8 million on houses and cars in Cape Town.

      Despite continuing allegations of human rights abuses, the U.S. prepared to send an ambassador to Equatorial Guinea. U.S. foreign direct investment topped $10 billion, the fourth highest in sub-Saharan Africa. When the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries met in July, Equatorial Guinea was granted observer status, and ties with Angola were strengthened through numerous visits and agreements. In February Equatorial Guinea agreed to settle, through UN-brokered talks, a territorial dispute with neighbouring Gabon over three small islands in the Gulf of Guinea in potentially oil-rich offshore waters.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2006

28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 504,000
Chief of state:
President Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Head of government:
Prime Minister Miguel Abia Biteo Boricó

      In 2005 the consequences of the failed February 2004 coup continued to be felt in Equatorial Guinea. In November 2004 the conspirators held in Equatorial Guinea were sentenced to terms of up to 34 years in jail. Amnesty International condemned their trial as unfair and expressed alarm over the conditions under which they were imprisoned. Severo Moto, the exiled politician who was to have been installed as president in place of Teodoro Obiang Nguema, fled from Spain fearing assassination and in April 2005 was discovered to be in Croatia. Meanwhile, the boom in oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Guinea continued, and Equatorial Guinea was set to become the third largest producer in sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Angola. Output by the end of 2005 was projected to reach 380,000 bbl a day. With the rise in oil prices through the year, Equatorial Guinea's bonanza was even greater, with economic growth expected to be 50%. What did not go into the bank accounts of the leading politicians went mainly into infrastructure development, particularly the creation of a new city at the capital, Malabo. A dispute with Gabon over uninhabited islands in Corisco Bay remained unsettled, but there was talk of creating a joint development zone for the two countries to share the hydrocarbon wealth of the area.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2005

28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 507,000
Chief of state:
President Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Cándido Muatetema Rivas and, from June 14, Miguel Abia Biteo Borico

      In December 2003 news of a power struggle in Equatorial Guinea began to emerge, which seemed to be related to the illness of Pres. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his plans to hand over power to his playboy son Teodorin. Various members of the armed forces, including relatives of the president, were sacked, and others were arrested. In March 2004 Obiang learned, probably from South African intelligence sources, that a coup was being planned to oust him. A group of alleged mercenaries were arrested and charged with plotting to install his rival, Severo Moto, who lived in exile. Another 70 members of the alleged plot were arrested in Zimbabwe en route to Equatorial Guinea. Efforts by Equatorial Guinea to have them extradited were not successful, perhaps in part because it was suspected that at least $35 million of oil revenues had been misappropriated by Obiang and his family and senior government officials. The mercenaries were brought to trial in August, but, after the arrest in South Africa of Mark Thatcher, son of the former British prime minister, for allegedly helping to finance the attempted coup, the trial was suspended indefinitely to allow for further investigation.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2004

28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 494,000
Chief of state:
President Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Head of government:
Prime Minister Cándido Muatetema Rivas

      Equatorial Guinea saw nearly 25% growth in the economy in 2002, the best economic performance of any African country; the rise was attributed to oil, which accounted for 90% of all wealth produced. Relations with the U.S. administration of George W. Bush, keen to reduce American dependence on Middle Eastern oil, grew more cordial in 2003. Pres. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo had met with Bush in September 2002, and the U.S. reopened its embassy in the capital, Malabo, which had been closed in 1995, before oil was discovered off Bioko island.

      The U.S. claimed that it could engage with Obiang's government and persuade it to improve its notorious political and human rights record. President Obiang, in power since 1979 and reelected in December 2002 in a poll rejected by the opposition as fraudulent, remained head of a highly corrupt administration, however. There was no proper accounting for the oil revenues that went to the state, and there was much evidence that most of the new oil wealth was being siphoned off by the ruling elite. A new airport opened in August, and construction began late in the year for a new capital city, Malabo 2. Meanwhile, new discoveries of oil and gas reserves were made, and in May the government approved the construction by Marathon of a natural-gas plant on Bioko.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2003

28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 498,000
Chief of state:
President Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Head of government:
Prime Minister Cándido Muatetema Rivas

      The discovery in 2002 of new offshore oil fields made Equatorial Guinea one of the most exciting countries anywhere for new oil production. Western oil companies increased production to over 200,000 bbl per day. While 70% of the population remained illiterate, the vast new wealth allowed the government to commit itself to providing basic education for all.

      The country remained notorious for its poor human rights record, however. The year was marked by mass arrests and numerous allegations of torture and mistreatment of political opponents of Pres. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea. Those arrested for an alleged conspiracy against Obiang included two founder-members of a clandestine opposition party, the Fuerza Democrática Republicana, a leader of the Popular Union (UP), and senior army officers from the president's home region. In April Fabian Nsue Nguema Obono, a lawyer and UP member, was charged with having slandered the president in a statement published by a UP exile in Spain. After allegedly having been severely tortured, Obono was tried and sentenced. Another opposition political activist died in jail in July, apparently from injuries inflicted during police torture, and an international outcry ensued. Some urged Spain to put pressure on Equatorial Guinea, but the government continued to deny that detainees were subjected to any ill treatment.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2002

28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 486,000
Chief of state:
President Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Ángel Serafín Seriche Dougan and, from March 4, Cándido Muatetema Rivas

      At the end of February 2001, the government of Prime Minister Ángel Serafín Seriche Dougan, which had been accused by the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea of corruption and mismanagement, resigned. Pres. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo then appointed a new prime minister, Cándido Muatetema Rivas, and cabinet.

      As President Nguema's health deteriorated in 2001, there was speculation about a contest for power between his two eldest sons. Teodorín Nguema Obiang Mangué spent much of his time abroad and was rarely seen in Malabo; his half brother, Gabriel Nguema Lima, had been an effective minister of mines and energy but lacked charisma. By mid-year the Nguema family, head of the dominant Mongomo clan, seemed to be looking to Gen. Agustín Ndong Ona, a conservative with close links to the president, as a possible successor.

      Oil production increased to almost 200,000 bbl a day, with Exxon Mobil the main producer. Other companies invested millions of dollars in oil exploration offshore. Although Equatorial Guinea had the world's fastest-growing economy in 2001, the bulk of the country's population had still to reap any benefits from the oil bonanza.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2001

28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 474,000
Malabo; announced capital designate: Bata
Chief of state:
President Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Head of government:
Prime Minister Angel Serafin Seriche Dougan

      Equatorial Guinea in 2000 continued to be affected dramatically by an oil boom, fueled by new discoveries in the Gulf of Guinea. No oil was produced there for some time yet by 2000 more than 130,000 bbl a day were being produced, and this was expected to double once the new field, La Ceiba, drilled by the U.S. company Triton Energy, came fully onstream. There were hopes of new finds in deeper waters off the mainland. The oil discoveries produced maritime boundary disputes with Nigeria and Gabon. An agreement signed with Nigeria in August held out some promise that the disputes with that country could be resolved amicably.

      The municipal elections held at the end of May were boycotted by the main opposition parties—the Convergence for Social Democracy, the Popular Union, and the Democratic and Progressive Alliance. The ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea therefore scored an overwhelming victory, and the opposition lost the mayorship of Malabo, which had been won in the 1995 elections. As political tensions increased, some claimed that the president's clan was unduly enriching itself with the oil money.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 2000

28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 466,000
Chief of state:
President Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Head of government:
Prime Minister Angel Serafin Seriche Dougan

      In the parliamentary election held in March 1999, the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) gained another landslide victory. The opposition parties, having won only 5 of the 80 seats, protested unfairness in the process and demanded that the election be annulled. Pres. Obiang Nguema, who had first presented the PDGE's triumph as evidence of the country's political stability, in July gave in to pressure and agreed to form a government of national unity, including members of the opposition. The reality, however, was that he governed through a system of personal patronage. He unilaterally declared the country's maritime borders in March, a step that threatened to open new disputes with Gabon and Nigeria because of the potential oil wealth in the waters that Equatorial Guinea claimed.

      The expansion of oil production continued to transform what had been one of the poorest countries in Africa. By 1999 over 90,000 bbl of light crude a day were being produced, with 120,000 bbl a day expected by sometime in 2000. A small number of officials were the main beneficiaries of the new wealth. A vast palace of congresses outside Malabo and a $300 million methanol plant were among the new projects undertaken. France agreed to rebuild the airport terminal, but, sadly, the single aircraft operated by the state airline crashed in March.

Christopher Saunders

▪ 1999

      Area: 28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 454,000

      Capital: Malabo

      Chief of state: President Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

      Head of government: Prime Minister Angel Serafin Seriche Dougan

      The economic fortunes of Equatorial Guinea were being transformed in 1998 by the continued exploitation of the oil and gas discovered in 1991off the island of Bioko. During the year production increased, to 80,000 bbl of oil per day, double the amount produced in August 1996, when commercial operation began. Mobil Oil and United Meridian, the two American companies involved in the production of oil, began to construct a plant to convert gas to methanol, and other companies were involved in offshore prospecting. Much of the oil wealth, however, never reached the public treasury. The maritime border with Nigeria, the mainland of which was closer to the oil fields than mainland Equatorial Guinea, remained disputed.

      The country continued to be governed in a semidictatorial manner by Pres. Teodoro Obiang Nguema. His ruling Democratic Party was accused by the main opposition party, the Popular Union, of violating an agreement reached in March about the conduct of the elections scheduled for late in 1998. The government, meanwhile, was harshly criticized by Amnesty International and Spain for its treatment of separatists, who in January had attacked the military barracks on Bioko as part of their campaign for self-determination. After the attack a number of Bubis, the original population of Bioko, were detained under inhumane conditions, tortured, and then tried for treason; one of their leaders, Martin Puye, died after several weeks in prison.


▪ 1998

      Area: 28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 443,000

      Capital: Malabo

      Chief of state: President Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

      Head of government: Prime Minister Angel Serafin Seriche Dougan

      In May 1997 Spain's prime minister, José María Aznar, sent a message to Pres. Teodoro Obiang Nguema that urged him to make progress in the transition to democracy. Aznar called upon the president to implement the Document of Assessment of the National Pact and Legislative Agreement 1997, which had been signed in April by the government and 13 opposition parties. In June Spain agreed to investigate whether an Equatorial Guinean opposition leader, Severo Moto, then living in Spain, had been involved in a 1996 coup attempt in his country; if so, he would lose his status as a political refugee.

      When Spain decided to maintain Moto's status, Equatorial Guinea responded by placing a freeze on diplomatic relations with Spain. President Obiang banned the main opposition Progress Party, which had been led by Moto. This followed the interception by Angolan authorities in May of a Russian ship carrying arms apparently bound for Equatorial Guinea.

      In July President Obiang said it was possible he would share power with "an opposition government" following legislative elections scheduled for 1998. He had been urged to do so by both Spain and the U.S. At the beginning of September, the Ministry of Defense closed the country's mainland air and sea borders "until further notice" in order "to ensure" that the anniversary of independence on October 12 proceeded normally.

      In September the government announced that French would join Spanish as an official language of the country. Spain's foreign minister, Abel Matutes Juan, responded to the decision by stating that he respected Equatorial Guinea's right to introduce a second official language "in a region of Africa where French has a great presence." He said that Spain would continue to provide aid to the nation.


      This article updates Equatorial Guinea, history of (Equatorial Guinea).

▪ 1997

      The republic of Equatorial Guinea consists of Río Muni, on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, and the offshore islands of Bioko and Annobon. Area: 28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 406,000. Cap.: Malabo. Monetary unit: CFA franc, with a par value of CFAF 100 to the French franc and (as of Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of CFAF 518.24 to U.S. $1 (CFAF 816.38 = £1 sterling). President in 1996, Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo; prime ministers, Silvestre Siale Bileka and, from March 29, Angel Serafin Seriche Dougan.

      In the February 1996 presidential elections, Pres. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo claimed 99% of the vote, but observers and opposition groups described the elections as a farce and made numerous accusations of fraud and malpractices. Obiang had violated the constitution by calling the elections early in the hope of catching the opposition unprepared. The so-called independent electoral commission was headed by the interior minister, Julio Ndong Ela Mangue, who spent the election campaigning for the president, while the voters roll, which had been drawn up by the UN for the September 1995 municipal elections, was replaced by a government list that excluded blocks of votes from areas where the opposition had done well the previous September. Voting had to be done in public, in front of officials.

      Under those conditions the opposition candidates called upon their supporters to boycott the elections. On March 19 Amancio Nse, one of the opposition presidential candidates, was arrested after he had called on the president to form a government of national unity. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This article updates Equatorial Guinea, history of (Equatorial Guinea).

▪ 1996

      The republic of Equatorial Guinea consists of Río Muni, on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, and the offshore islands of Bioko and Annobon. Area: 28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 396,000. Cap.: Malabo. Monetary unit: CFA franc, with a par value of CFAF 100 to the French franc and (as of Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of CFAF 501.49 to U.S. $1 (CFAF 792.78 = £1 sterling). President in 1995, Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo; prime minister, Silvestre Siale Bileka.

      In March 1995 Severo Moto, the leader of the opposition Progress Party of Equatorial Guinea (PPGE), was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and fined CFAF 50 million after being found guilty of collusion in bribing a police officer and harming the reputation of the head of state. Spain protested his treatment, and there were fears for his safety when the deputy leader of the PPGE, Armengol Engonga, warned that the government was planning a treason trial accusing Moto of complicity in a coup attempt. On April 24 Moto was sentenced to 28 years in prison on treason and conspiracy charges with 12 others. Western governments, especially Spain, condemned the sentences as excessive.

      On August 3, the anniversary of the coup that had brought him to power in 1979, Pres. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo pardoned Moto for his part in the coup plot.

      In July the government arrested members of the Movement for the Self-Determination of Bioko, composed mainly of Bubi tribesmen. Bioko, formerly known as Fernando Po, is an offshore island of Equatorial Guinea. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Equatorial Guinea, history of (Equatorial Guinea).

▪ 1995

      The republic of Equatorial Guinea consists of Río Muni, on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, and the offshore islands of Bioko and Annobon. Area: 28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 386,000. Cap.: Malabo. Monetary unit: CFA franc, with (from Jan. 12, 1994) a par value of CFAF 100 to the French franc and (as of Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of CFAF 526.67 to U.S. $1 (CFAF 837.67 = £1 sterling). President in 1994, Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo; prime minister, Silvestre Siale Bileka.

      Official figures for the elections at the end of 1993 gave the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) 68 of the 80 seats in the House of Representatives and the three opposition parties the remaining 12. The election procedures were condemned by international observers, including the U.S. and Spanish governments. Pres. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo reappointed Silvestre Siale Bileka prime minister, and a Cabinet of 38 was then appointed from the PDGE.

      The expulsion of the Spanish consul general at Bata in December caused a breach with Spain, which announced that aid to Equatorial Guinea would be cut by half as of January 1994. With a debt of $210 million and gross national product of only $144 million, this was a major setback for the nation's economy.

      On Dec. 30, 1993, the Ministry of State for Information and Communication registered the newspaper El sol, the first private newspaper to be recognized by the government. In March the final contingent of the Spanish air force, which had been in Equatorial Guinea for 14 years, was withdrawn by Spain. (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Equatorial Guinea, history of (Equatorial Guinea).

▪ 1994

      The republic of Equatorial Guinea consists of Río Muni, on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, and the offshore islands of Bioko and Annobon. Area: 28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 377,000. Cap.: Malabo. Monetary unit: CFA franc, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a par value of CFAF 50 to the French franc and a free rate of CFAF 283.25 to U.S. $1 (CFAF 429.12 = £ 1 sterling). President in 1993, Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo; prime minister, Silvestre Siale Bileka.

      In 1993, for the second year, the United Nations Commission for Human Rights condemned violations of human rights in Equatorial Guinea and urged Pres. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo to set up an independent judiciary. The government was also suspected of having instigated a death threat against the U.S. ambassador, John Bennett, known for his staunch advocacy of human rights. A government decree freeing all political prisoners came into effect on March 30. It was issued under a National Democratic Pact signed by the government and the Joint Opposition Platform, which represented the legalized opposition parties. Also in March, the exiled opposition movements—the Christian Democratic Progress Party, led by Severo Moto, and the Guinean Popular Union, led by Armengol Engonga—signed a merger agreement in Madrid. Lieut. Pedro Motu Mamiaka, a member of the opposition Popular Union, was arrested in August and died in prison under suspicious circumstances. On July 16 the president announced that the first-ever legislative elections would be held on September 12. The 12 opposition parties threatened to boycott the elections, however, and outside backers refused to finance them because of continuing violations of human rights. The elections were eventually postponed to November 21. The president's party, the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea, won easily, but an alliance of opposition parties boycotted, voter turnout was low (about 20%), and international observers called polling procedures "a travesty."

      (GUY ARNOLD)

      This updates the article Equatorial Guinea, history of (Equatorial Guinea).

* * *

officially  Republic of Equatorial Guinea,  Spanish  República de Guinea Ecuatorial,  
Equatorial Guinea, flag of country located on the west coast of Africa. It consists of Río Muni (also called Mbini), on the continent, and five islands: Bioko (formerly Fernando Po), Corisco, Great Elobey (Elobey Grande), Little Elobey (Elobey Chico), and Annobón. The capital of the republic is Malabo on Bioko. Bata is the administrative capital of the mainland.

      Continental Equatorial Guinea is a roughly rectangular territory bounded by Cameroon to the north and Gabon to the east and south. Near the continental coast are the small islands of Corisco and Great and Little Elobey. Bioko, by far the largest of the islands, lies off the coast of Cameroon. Annobón, a volcanic island, lies south of the equator almost 400 miles (640 kilometres) to the southwest of Bioko.

      Equatorial Guinea is beset by regional differences, geographic isolation, a fragile economy, and a lack of trained personnel, in part a legacy from the colonial era. Formerly a colony of Spain with the name Spanish Guinea, the country achieved its independence on Oct. 12, 1968.

The land

Relief, drainage, and soils

      Half of the continental enclave is covered with forests. A coastal plain about 12 miles wide abuts on the coastal hills, which lead to inland plateaus (called mesetas in Spanish) that rise toward the frontier with Gabon. There are several ranges of hills. The central range divides the Benito River basin to the north from the southern basin of the Utamboni River. The Niefang-Mikomeseng range north of the Benito River is somewhat lower. All these ranges form segments of the Cristal Mountains in Gabon. The region is divided by the Benito River (known as the Woleu River in Gabon), which runs generally from east to west and is nonnavigable except for the first 12 miles inland. To the north the Campo River (called the Ntem in French-speaking Africa) marks part of the frontier with Cameroon.

      In the south, the Muni is not itself a river but the estuary of various rivers of Gabon and southern Equatorial Guinea. To the east the de facto border with Gabon follows the meandering course of the Kié (Kyé) River rather than the legal frontier, which runs along a line 11° 20′ east of the Greenwich meridian. Except for limited hydroelectric power generation and the use of waterpower at some lumbering sites, the rivers of the mainland enclave are not exploited. The coast consists of a long stretch of beach with low cliffs toward Kogo to the south. Equatorial Guinea has no natural harbour, and Mbini and Kogo are no more than rudimentary ports of call for the ships that infrequently visit. Bata, on the other hand, has been enlarged artificially to become one of the country's main ports.

      The coastal plain is overlaid by sedimentary deposits. The hinterland is composed primarily of ancient metamorphic rocks that have undergone a lengthy process of leaching and erosion, so that the resulting soils are relatively infertile. Exploration in the waters off the mainland has revealed some reserves of petroleum and natural gas, and there are prospects for their development. Gold, manganese, iron ore, and uranium are thought to exist in commercially exploitable quantities inland.

      The main island, Bioko, is about 45 miles long and 22 miles wide. Its extinct volcanic cones, crater lakes, and rich lava soils form a contrast with the landscape of the mainland. In the north Mount Santa Isabel soars to a height of 9,878 feet (3,011 metres); this extinct volcano is the site of a television transmitter. In the centre of the island, Moca Peak and the Moca Heights present an alpine type of landscape. The southern part of the island, remote and scarcely developed, consists of the Gran Caldera range, which is rugged and indented by torrents and crater lakes.

      Despite its tortuous relief, Bioko can be productive agriculturally. Torrents are exploited for hydroelectric power; the Musola River provides electricity for much of Malabo. The coast is largely inhospitable, consisting for the most part of a cliff about 60 feet high, broken occasionally by small inlets and beaches. The southern coast is very steep and dangerous to shipping; San Antonio de Ureca, located along this stretch, is the most isolated settlement on the island. Malabo has a relatively good harbour, built on the partially sunken rim of a volcano.

      Annobón is an isolated fragment of the republic, about 93 miles southwest of the island of São Tomé in São Tomé and Príncipe and about 400 miles southwest of Bioko. Like the latter, it is a volcanic island but is less high; it consists of a conglomeration of cones of which Mount Santa Mina (about 2,460 feet) is the highest. Not quite four miles long by two miles wide, it is a rugged island with only one settlement of note. The inhabitants are mostly fishermen who speak a Portuguese patois.

      The climate of both the continental region and the islands is typically equatorial, with high temperatures, heavy rainfall, and much cloud cover most of the year. Local variations are due to differences in altitude and proximity to the sea. The wet seasons in the continental region are from February to June and from September to December. Rainfall is higher on the coast than inland. In Bata the rainiest months are September, October, and November, with rainfall averaging more than 94 inches (2,388 millimetres) a year. At Calatrava, farther south on the coast, it sometimes reaches 180 inches. Inland, however, rainfall diminishes; Mikomeseng, for example, receives only about 58 inches. The average annual temperature is about 79° F (26° C) and is fairly constant throughout the year. The temperature maxima are somewhat lower than in Bioko. The relative humidity, however, is higher than in Bioko.

      Bioko has a rather debilitating climate. The so-called dry season lasts from November to March, and the rest of the year is rainy. The average annual temperature of about 77° F (25° C) varies little throughout the year. Afternoon temperatures reach the high 80s F (low 30s C) and drop to only about 70° F (21° C) at night. Most of the time the sky is cloudy and overcast. Extreme rainfall occurs in the south, with rain brought by monsoon winds amounting to about 450 inches a year around San Antonio de Ureca.

Plant and animal life
      Continental Equatorial Guinea is covered by dense tropical rain forest that is exploited by the lumbering industry. More than 140 species of wood are found, of which the most important commercially are okume (Aucoumea klaineana), African walnut, and various mahoganies. Intensive exploitation close to the coast led the Spanish timber companies to venture deeper into the interior. Reforestation is minimal, and a secondary forest growth has replaced the virgin rain forest. African subsistence farmers clear the land by burning off the vegetation cover, after which they grow cassava, beans, yams, roots, and some cash crops such as coffee and cocoa, to the extent that the heavily leached soils allow. Mangroves fringe long stretches of the coast as well as riverbanks.

      Bioko has a greater variety of tropical vegetation, including mangroves, and—at higher altitudes—vegetable gardens and pastureland.

      The continental region has a rich animal life that includes gorillas, chimpanzees, various rare species of monkeys, leopards, buffalo, antelope, elephants, hippopotamuses, crocodiles, and various species of snakes, including pythons. Insects, including the tsetse fly and the malaria-bearing Anopheles mosquito, as well as hosts of ants, beetles, spiders, and termites, abound. Bioko has no big game but has various monkeys, dwarf antelopes, and rodents, as well as the mosquito and other insects.

Settlement patterns
      The mainland is sparsely settled by coffee and cocoa farmers who practice traditional methods of agriculture. During the colonial period, Roman Catholic missions did much to encourage the population to construct “corridor” villages by the sides of roads; in most villages the church and the school figure prominently. The region was never a settler colony, and the few European plantations—mostly Spanish or German—that survived the colonial era have been abandoned. After independence an exodus of Spanish technicians occurred, so that the mainland has largely reverted to a subsistence economy. The modern sector of the economy is represented by lumbering and coffee and oil palm cultivation.

      Bioko, by contrast, is a plantation island; it retained for several years a larger number of plantation owners and managers and consequently withstood longer than the continental region the effect of independence upon its economy. Before independence there were about 1,900 plantations (known as fincas), which ranged in size from 0.4 acre (one hectare) to more than 4,900 acres. The Bubi people, the indigenous population, live for the most part in mission villages in the northern part of the island on the lower slopes of Mount Santa Isabel, as well as in their traditional homeland, the Moca Heights. Unused to plantation labour, they gain their living mostly as small farmers and minor civil servants. The workers on the fincas were for many years migrant labourers from Nigeria, who served under contract. During the 1960s the Nigerian workers often brought their families, settling in numbers believed to have reached 50,000 to 80,000 by the end of the decade. Political and economic conditions after independence gradually reduced these numbers, despite an agreement with Nigeria in 1972 for the recruitment of new labourers. Reports of virtual slave-labour conditions on plantations and of repressive killings by authorities in the mid-1970s turned this gradual exodus into a flood, further impoverishing Equatorial Guinea's economy.

      Many of the formerly European-owned plantations were extensive; in 1962 more than 300 plantations occupied over 148,000 acres, leaving about 2,800 acres in the possession of 1,600 African farmers grouped in cooperatives. Some of the larger plantations, employing hundreds of Nigerian labourers and occupying the most fertile land, were local economic powers whose political influence, if subdued, was nevertheless felt by the local Bubi population.

      Malabo, the national capital, is a small city standing behind its crater harbour. Created by the British in the 19th century, it was remodeled and developed by the Spanish. A rambling tropical city, it has a distinctly Spanish atmosphere—especially in the European district near the cathedral, the mission, and the government house. Farther inland, the African districts were inhabited mostly by Nigerian and other workers who first chose not to return to the mainland. Another town of some importance is Luba, on the southwest coast, linked with the capital by a good paved road that runs through a series of Bubi settlements. Basilé, on the slopes of Mount Santa Isabel, provides a cool refuge for heat-weary residents of the capital.

      The continental region was settled much later by the Spanish, so that Bata, the main settlement, lacks the amenities of Malabo. Fang migrants from the interior have built new suburbs around this sprawling port city.

The people

Ethnic composition
      The majority of the population (Equatorial Guinea) is African, but its composition is complex for a political unit so small in size. The Fang people, who fought their way to the sea in the 19th and early 20th centuries by subjugating the weaker ethnic groups in their path, form about 80 or 90 percent of the population of the mainland region. North of the Mbini River are the Ntumu Fang, and to the south of it are the Okak Fang. Holding political power on the mainland, the Fang tend to migrate to Bioko, where their leaders hold most of the levers of political control. Coastal groups, such as the Kombe, Mabea, Lengi, Benga, and others, have been in contact with European traders much longer, and a limited amount of intermarriage between European and African ethnic groups has taken place, especially on the island of Corisco. Spanish ethnographers refer to these coastal tribes as playeros (literally, “those who live on the beach”). Both the Fang majority and the playero minority are Bantu (Bantu peoples).

      The original inhabitants of Bioko are the Bubi, descendants of Bantu migrants from the mainland. Contacts with Europeans decimated them, and only a few thousand remained early in the 20th century. They became the most pro-Spanish element of the African population, viewing the end of Spanish rule as a signal for the invasion of their island by the Fang. Certainly, numbers of mainlanders, most of them Fang, have flocked to the island since the mid-1960s, seeking to join the civil or military forces or to receive political patronage. In addition to these two groups, there are Fernandinos, descendants of former slaves liberated by the British during the 19th century who mingled with other emancipated Africans from Sierra Leone and Cuba as well as with immigrants from other western African countries. Formerly constituting an influential bourgeoisie, they lost much of their status both when the Spanish acquired the island and after independence. The inhabitants of Annobón are descended from slaves imported by the Portuguese when the island was a dependency of São Tomé; some of them now live on Bioko.

      By about 1970, these different strata together constituted a minority on the island, the majority being formed by the Nigerian contract labourers, who lived in compact colonies in Malabo or on the plantations. The repatriation by Nigeria, however, of at least 45,000 workers beginning in 1975, following reports of repressive conditions in Equatorial Guinea, led to extensive realignment of the demographic, social, and labour structures of the island and, indeed, of the country. Additional communities on the island are formed by crioulos (of mixed Portuguese and African origin) from the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe; there are also some Cameroonians.

Linguistic composition
      While each ethnic group speaks its own language, other linguistic influences are at work. The first is Spanish (Spanish language), the official language of the republic, which is taught in schools and used by the press and is the only means of communication common to both Bioko and the mainland. The second influence is pidgin English, which is used extensively in petty commerce and forms the lingua franca on Bioko. Third, as a result of closer economic association with Francophone countries begun in 1983, French (French language) became a compulsory subject in schools in 1988 and, along with Spanish, an official language in 1997. A Portuguese patois is also spoken in both Bioko and Annobón.

      While the vast majority of Equatorial Guineans are nominally Roman Catholic, the Bubi and mainlanders often retain traditional forms of worship, which are emphasized in times of crisis. The Mbwiti cult on the mainland, banned by the Spanish authorities, still has adherents. Most churches were closed by presidential order in 1975, and the Roman Catholic church was banned in 1978. These orders were rescinded after the coup in 1979, but many denominations, notably Jehovah's Witnesses, were proscribed once again in 1986.

Demographic trends
      The population was reduced by about one-third through the departure of some 110,000 citizens after 1968 and the repatriation of Nigerian workers by 1976. The rates of population increase, density, and life expectancy are lower than those of most other African countries.

René Pélissier Ronald James Harrison-Church

The economy

      Equatorial Guinea's economy depended traditionally on three commodities—cocoa, coffee, and timber—but, with the discovery and exploitation of significant reserves of petroleum and natural gas from the 1980s, the country's economic profile changed virtually overnight. Petroleum now accounts for nearly four-fifths of Equatorial Guinea's exports and contributes nearly two-thirds of its gross domestic product (GDP).

Agriculture and forestry
      Before independence, the Spanish subsidized cocoa and coffee exports to Spain. The high-quality cocoa was the mainstay of the economy of Bioko, which possessed the right soil and climate for its intensive cultivation. Most of Equatorial Guinea's cocoa is still produced on the island. As with other commodities, production declined under the regime of Francisco Macías Nguema (1968–79) because Nigerian and local workers left the cocoa plantations and maintenance, output, and quality declined. Cocoa exports dropped to one-tenth of their former level, and exports of coffee almost ceased from island and mainland plantations, the small production of robusta coffee by Fang farmers in Río Muni alone being marketed. The timber companies are entirely European; there were at one time 30 timber concessions in operation on the mainland.

      Bananas are grown on Bioko, where they are exported from the port of Luba. The output of palm oil from mainland plantations has been adversely affected by the unsettled state of the country.

      There is little industry in Equatorial Guinea. Some cocoa and coffee processing takes place locally on plantations and in African cooperatives.

Finance and trade
      Following the economic collapse of the mid-1970s, imports came to exceed exports. The gap was narrowed only by external aid, which began to increase after 1979. Since independence the national budget has been balanced first by large Spanish subsidies and since 1981 by help from many nations and agencies.

      A major economic reorientation took place in December 1983 when Equatorial Guinea joined the Customs and Economic Union of Central Africa (UDEAC). The country entered the Franc Zone in January 1985, acquiring a freely convertible currency and more French aid. French economic influence is growing.

      The road network on the mainland was adequate for the light traffic it was required to carry before independence, but it deteriorated in the 1970s. Bata is linked with Mbini by a tarred road. There is a cross-country road from Bata, branching at Niefang and Ncue, to Ebebiyin, Mongomo, and Nsoc near the Cameroon frontier. There are no railways. On Bioko the road system is of a higher standard, with a semicircular tarred road linking Malabo and Luba to the eastern Bubi villages.

      The main port is Malabo, which is connected to Spanish and other European ports by regular steamer services. The harbour at Bata was enlarged and modernized in the 1980s and is expected to accommodate a growing share of the country's commerce. European Economic Community aid provided a small coaster in the mid-1980s to ply between Equatorial Guinean ports, Gabon, Cameroon, and São Tomé and Príncipe. There is an international airport at Malabo. In 1982 an international airline, Aerolíneas Guinea Ecuatorial, was formed, and construction began on a new international airport at Bata in 1983.

Administration and social conditions

      Under the constitution of 1991, Equatorial Guinea is a republic. Executive power is vested in the president, who is elected by direct universal suffrage for a seven-year term. The president appoints the prime minister and the Council of Ministers. The unicameral House of Representatives constitutes the legislative branch of government, members of which are directly elected to five-year terms. The Supreme Tribunal in Malabo is the highest judicial authority; there are also territorial high courts and courts of the first instance in Malabo and Bata.

      For administrative purposes, the country is divided into two régiones (regions), which are subdivided into seven provincias (provinces); the provinces are further divided into districts and municipalities.

      The ruling party in Equatorial Guinea is the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (Partido Democrático Guinea Ecuatorial; PDGE), formed in 1987. It was the only political party until 1991, when a new constitution allowing opposition parties was adopted. Since then, several other parties have formed, of which the Convergence for Social Democracy (Convergencia para la Democracia Social; CPDS) and the Popular Union (Unión Popular; UP) are the most prominent. Opposition parties do not wield much influence in the government, however, as the PDGE typically has a decisive majority in the House of Representatives and retains the presidency.

      Education is compulsory and free for all children between ages 6 and 11, but only about three-fourths of children attend school. Facilities for higher education are provided through Spanish assistance at Bata and Malabo. Efforts have been made to improve educational opportunities, and illiteracy has declined over the years; about four-fifths of the population is literate.

Cultural life
      Despite a veneer of Spanish culture and of Roman Catholic religion that is thicker in Bioko than on the mainland, Equatorial Guineans live largely according to ancient customs, which have undergone a revival since independence. Among the Fang of the mainland, witchcraft, traditional music (in which the Fang harp, the xylophone, the great drums, and the wooden trumpet are used), and storytelling survive. Spanish aid is much oriented to educational and health services. Among the Bubi farmers of Bioko, some ancient customs are still followed.

René Pélissier Ronald James Harrison-Church

      The island of Bioko (formerly Fernando Po) was sighted by Fernão do Pó, probably in 1472. At first it was called Formosa (“Beautiful”). Annobón was probably sighted by Ruy de Sequeira on a New Year's Day (hence the name, which means “good year”) between 1472 and 1475, most likely that of 1474. By the Treaty of Tordesillas (Tordesillas, Treaty of) (June 7, 1494), the Portuguese had exclusive trade rights in Africa, and it was not until 1778 that they agreed to cede to Spain the islands of Annobón and Fernando Po as well as rights on the mainland coast between the Ogooué and Niger rivers. These cessions were designed to give Spain its own source of slaves in Africa for transport to Spanish America, where, in exchange, the Spanish confirmed the rights of the Portuguese west of the 50° W meridian in what is now Brazil. The Spanish were soon decimated by yellow fever on Fernando Po, and they withdrew in 1781. No occupation was made on the mainland.

British (British Empire) administration
      After the British abolition of the slave trade in 1807, bases were required by the Royal Navy for the effective suppression of the trade. Fernando Po was unoccupied and lay in a strategic situation from which the Niger mouths and the Slave Coast could be watched for slavers. In 1827 the Spanish leased bases for this purpose to the British at Port Clarence (later Santa Isabel, now Malabo), a fine deepwater harbour on the north coast, and in San Carlos Bay on the west coast.

      In the absence of the Spanish, the British also became responsible for administering the island. Thereafter, the British landed many freed slaves, in default of knowing their origin or of being able to repatriate them. Freed slaves also came to the island from Sierra Leone and Jamaica, and in the 20th century the descendants of these several groups continued to speak a form of English. Because of the existence of these freed slaves and the absence of any Spanish administration in the area, the United Kingdom made several unsuccessful offers to Spain for the purchase of Fernando Po—e.g., from 1839 to 1841. In 1843 the Royal Navy concentrated its antislavery patrol at Freetown in Sierra Leone, and its buildings on Fernando Po were sold to a Baptist mission.

Spanish Guinea
      In 1844 the Spanish made a second effort at effective occupation of Fernando Po, and their first exploration of the mainland was carried out in the two decades ending in 1877. Meanwhile, the Spanish had expelled the British Baptists from Fernando Po in 1858, and in 1879 they began to use it as a penal settlement for Cubans. Following the Spanish-American War (1898), Spanish Guinea remained as Spain's last significant tropical colony. Profiting from the weakness of Spain, France was able to confine mainland Spanish Guinea to its present limited extent. Economic development started only at that time and was concentrated on the richer and healthier Fernando Po. The mainland received significant attention from Spain only after the Spanish Civil War (1936–39).

      In 1959 the status of Spanish Guinea was changed, and the region was reorganized into two provinces of overseas Spain, each of which was placed under a civil governor. The citizens, including the Africans, were granted the same rights as those enjoyed by the citizens of Spain. In 1963 a measure of economic and administrative autonomy for the two provinces (which were henceforth known as Equatorial Guinea) was agreed on by plebiscite.

      The movement toward independence began to take shape at the end of 1967. Early the following year the Spanish government suspended autonomous political control and, with the subsequent approval of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), proposed that a national referendum be held to approve the new constitution. The constitution was overwhelmingly approved on August 11 and was followed by parliamentary elections in September and by the proclamation of independence on October 12, 1968.

      The first president was Francisco Macías Nguema. After his election in 1971, he assumed wide powers and pushed through a constitution that named him president for life in July 1972. He assumed absolute personal powers in 1973 when the island of Fernando Po was renamed in his honour. He controlled the radio and press, and foreign travel was stopped. In 1975–77 there were many arrests and summary executions, which brought protests from world leaders and Amnesty International. The Nigerian government repatriated its nationals in 1976.

      Macías was overthrown in 1979 by his nephew, Lieutenant Colonel Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who led a Supreme Military Council to which he added some civilians in 1981. A less authoritarian constitution was instituted in 1982, followed by the election of 41 unopposed candidates to the House of Representatives in 1983. Although another new constitution in 1991 provided for a multiparty state—leading to the first multiparty elections, held in 1993—there was no indication that Obiang would willingly give up power, and in the 1990s his regime was the subject of much international criticism for its oppressive nature.

      In the years leading to the 21st century and beyond, political strife and corruption continued to plague the country and limit economic growth. The president and the members of his party repeatedly won reelection by lopsided margins in ballots that were fraught with charges of fraud. Further, accusations abounded that a clique surrounding the president systematically had pocketed the bulk of the country's considerable oil revenue. As it had done since the 1980s, Obiang's regime continued to claim that it was the subject of several attempted coups, but most of the allegations could not be confirmed. A notable exception was a plot involving foreign mercenaries that was uncovered in 2004.

Ronald James Harrison-Church Ed.

Additional Reading
Max Liniger-Goumaz, Small Is Not Always Beautiful (1988; originally published in French, 1986), and La Guinée Équatoriale (1979), and Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea, 2nd ed. (1988), are authoritative. René Pélissier, Études hispano-guinéennes (1969), is the only detailed study of the preindependence era. See also Suzanne Cronjé, Equatorial Guinea, the Forgotten Dictatorship (1976); Akinjide Osuntokun, Equatorial Guinea–Nigerian Relations (1978); and Alejandro Artucio, The Trial of Macías in Equatorial Guinea (1979). Further bibliographic information is found in Max Liniger-Goumaz, Guinea Ecuatorial (1974), and periodic supplements. Ronald James Harrison-Church

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Universalium. 2010.

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