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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #15 of 54: Egypt | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #17 of 54: Eritrea »

May 23, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #16 of 54: Equatorial Guinea

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- 16. EQUATORIAL GUINEA Flag of Republic of Equatorial Guinea

Formal Name: Republic of Equatorial Guinea.

Terms for Citizens: Equatorial Guineans.

Capital: Malabo. Population: 33,000.

Independence Achieved: October 12, 1968, from Spain.

Major Cities: Malabo, in Fernando Poo/Bioko.

Geography:

Equatorial Guinea is in West Africa. Equatorial Guinea covers an area of 10, 831 square miles. Bioko Island is off the coast of the mainland, Rio Muni, on the West African Coast. The country is bordered by Gabon, Cameroon and the Atlantic Ocean. Bioko originated in volcanic eruptions. Rio Muni’s topography is mangrove swamps and low plain of forested lands following it.

Society:

The population of Equatorial Guinea is 521,000.

Ethnic Groups: Fang 80%, Bubi 10% and others.

Languages: Spanish and French and others.

Religion: 90% Roman Catholic and the remainder indigenous African religions believers.

Education: Primary Education is available to all children. Literacy rate is estimated at 85.7%.

Economy: Chief crops: cocoa, coffee, peanuts, sweet potatoes, corn, yams, cassava, Fishing; saw milling, and plantation farming. Uranium and natural gas are mined. Since oil was discovered, it is increasing becoming the dominant industry and money generator. GDP estimate: $1.3 billion; Per Capita: $930 (World Bank, 2005). Monetary Unit: CFA Franc BEAC (XAF).

History and Government:

The country is divided into seven provinces for administrative purposes. It has witnessed a series of military coupes and the rule of strong men. A prime minister assists the President.



CONTEMPORARY HISTORY AND POLITICS

The original people of the area now called Equatorial Guinea were the Pygmies. The Pygmies were displaced by Bantu peoples from West Africa. The Fang, a Bantu group, with over 80% of the population, are the dominant group in Equatorial Guinea.

The Portuguese came to the area in the fifteenth century and later were displaced by the Spaniards. These Europeans had a strong presence in Equatorial Guinea; particularly on the Islands that constitute the economic hub of the country, such as Fernando Poo (now called Bioko island; the capital, Malabo, is on that Island).

People from many parts of West Africa, particularly Igbos, were drawn to work in the coffee and cocoa plantations of Fernando Poo. Thus, there are considerable foreign peoples in Equatorial Guinea, people who have mixed with the local population to constitute present day people of Equatorial Guinea.

Spain gave Equatorial Guinea independence in 1968. Since then, two Presidents, both from the same family have ruled the country. First was President Francisco Marcias Nguema, who was put to death by his cousin, now, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, after a military coup in 1979. Mr. Obiang, as he is called, is still in office since 1979.

In the 1990s oil was discovered in Equatorial Guinea. This changed the dynamics of politics in the country as foreign powers were suddenly interested in the hitherto sleepy agricultural economy. The economic and political big boys of the West descended on Malabo and things began to get a bit heated. In 2004, the son of the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, Denis Thatcher, reportedly participated in an attempt to overthrow the government of Obiang.

Equatorial Guinea is divided into seven provinces. Nominally, there is the facade of democracy: a legislature, Supreme Court, a prime minister appointed by the President who supposedly governs the day to day affairs of the country. But, in fact, the President micro manages the politics and economy of Equatorial Guinea, including deciding who is appointed a minister and how long he or she serves. This man and his uncle, the one he killed, are dictators and to escape their brutal rule refugees flee to neighboring African countries.

The economy of Equatorial Guinea is now driven by revenue from oil. As in other African countries, however, that money is fretted away in corruption. Obiang, indeed, keeps figures on revenue from oil a state secret, perhaps, so as to better do with it as he feels? Mr. Obiang is reportedly one of the worst dictators in black Africa. Opposition to Mr. Obiang is destroyed. In a recent election, opposition was forced to withdraw from challenging Mr. Obiang and he was said to have won 99% of the votes.

Equatorial Guinea is one of those one man ruled countries. As long as the ruler appears to be strong he keeps opposition in check, and there appears stability in the country. But as in such matters, other folks eye the government and would like to chop off the head of the current dictator and take over the government. Thus, nobody knows what is going to happen the next day in the dictatorate of Equatorial Guinea.

Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at May 23, 2006 09:45 AM

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