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Equatorial Guinea Modern History

Equatorial Guinea became independent from Spain in 1968 and Francisco Macías Nguema was elected president. Under him, the residents came to live in a veritable fear of terror and when he was overthrown in 1979, many hoped that everything would be better. But even though the worst quarrels have disappeared and the country's government has been given a democratic varnish by Macía's successor to the presidential post, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, there are still major shortcomings in democracy and human rights.

At independence in October 1968, Francisco Macías Nguema, former mayor of the small town of Mongoma in the eastern mainland and a member of the esangui clan within the prisoners, was elected the country's first president.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Equatorial Guinea. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

In December 1968, Macías Nguema discovered that the country had virtually no foreign exchange reserves. He accused the approximately 7,000 Spaniards in the country of this, and urged his followers to attack them. Government officials who tried to thwart the persecution were imprisoned and killed. In March 1969 Macías Nguema banned all political parties and in 1970 he proclaimed a one-party state and two years later declared himself president for life.

The dictatorship became one of the worst in Africa's modern history. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives and about 100,000 fled abroad. The most vulnerable were the minority people. Christians were executed by crucifixion, others by public hanging. As the Spanish officials fled, the administration began to collapse. The process was completed when Macías Nguema executed the few Equatorial Guineans who had been trained.

The economy was reshaped according to a Soviet pattern with nationalization of companies and central planning of all economic activities. The result was chaos and disintegration. The few professional citizens and foreigners who were still in the country left.

Contemporary History of Equatorial GuineaObiang's coup d'état

In August 1979, the dictator's nephew, Lieutenant Colonel Teodoro Obiang Nguema, conducted a coup. Macías Nguema was brought to trial, sentenced to death and arched together with six employees. The coup leader formed the Supreme Military Council to govern the country. Political prisoners were released and churches were allowed to operate again. Obiang reestablished relations with the West and Equatorial Guinea regained access to assistance and loans from international aid agencies. With the help of the UN Commission on Human Rights, a constitution was established, which came into force after a referendum in 1982. The military council was dissolved and Obiang became president for a seven-year term.

But the country was not democratized. Only the presidential party, Equatorial Guinea's Democratic Party (in Spanish abbreviated PDGE), was allowed and the pattern of defeat against the opposition because of alleged coups continued. In 1989, Obiang was reelected in a presidential election where he was the sole candidate.

Slowly, however, donors' and people's demands for democratization began to produce results, albeit small and few. In 1991, a new constitution was adopted and multi-party systems were introduced, but with considerable restrictions. In 1992, nine opposition parties with roots in Spanish exile gathered in an alliance, called the Platform for the Unified Opposition. A national pact was made in 1993 between representatives of the opposition and the regime. It would regulate the procedure of the planned elections and guarantee freedom of assembly and opposition access to the media. Soon, however, the regime was accused of violating the agreement. Special anger caused the death of an opposition leader in police custody.

The 1993 parliamentary elections were boycotted by the majority of opposition parties, but six parties were persuaded to stand. PDGE won 68 of the 80 seats. The US State Department called the elections a parody of democracy.

Continued persecution

The persecution of the opposition continued. Severo Moto Nsá, leader of the Prohibited Equatorial Guinea Progress Party (PPGE) who in 1986 moved to Spain where he received political asylum, was sentenced in 1995 after returning to Equatorial Guinea to 28 years in prison for trying to bribe a police officer. However, he was released after strong pressure from abroad and returned to exile in Spain. In 1996, presidential elections were held again and Obiang was re-elected with over 90 percent of the vote. Most opposition parties had refused to participate because of threats and cheating with the electoral lengths.

The following year, the persecution of opposition forces began again. Moto was charged with treason and sentenced in his absence to 101 years in prison. Many of his party mates were imprisoned.

In 2003, three opposition parties formed an exile government in Spain with Severo Moto Nsá as leader.

Recurring coup attempt

After the turn of the millennium, several coup attempts took place. In the summer of 2002, about 150 people, including an opposition leader and members of the army, were prosecuted for planning to overthrow Obiang. The court gave 68 of them a prison sentence of between 6 and 20 years. Several autumn attempts were also reported in the autumn of 2003 and spring of 2004. Among other things, South African mercenaries, believed to be involved, were arrested in Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe and brought to trial in each country. Moto and his exile government were accused of organizing a coup attempt with Spanish help and Moto was sentenced in his absence to 63 years in prison; the others received prison sentences of between 14 and 65 years. Some were pardoned in the following years. The trials were criticized by Amnesty International, who said the accused had been abused during the hearings.

Foreign businessmen were also accused of supporting the coup makers. One of them was Mark Thatcher, the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He was arrested in South Africa and sentenced to fines and conditional imprisonment.

In August 2006, Prime Minister Miguel Abia Biteo Boricó and his entire government resigned after months of criticism from President Obiang. Ricardo Mangue Obama Nfubea was appointed new Prime Minister. It was a violation of tradition, since Obama Nfubea belongs to the majority people fang and the Prime Minister was previously taken from the minority bubi (with roots on the island of Bioko). Many of the outgoing ministers also took office in the new government.

Obama Nfubea began his tenure with a campaign against corruption within the state administration. President Obiang and his allies are believed to have used revenues from the country's oil exports to create huge private assets. In 2006, it also emerged that President Obiang's son Teodorín had bought a $ 35 million luxury home in the United States. Already, the son had annoyed the public by buying houses in South Africa for several million dollars. The anti-corruption campaign resulted in a handful of charges against government officials; however, nobody from the ruling elite was held accountable.

Opposition members are arrested

In April 2008, several members of the banned PPGE were arrested in Equatorial Guinea. One of them died in his cell, and Amnesty International suspected he had been tortured to death. In Spain, the opposition and PPGE leader in exile, Severo Moto Nsá, was arrested for trying to smuggle weapons to his home country. The arrest was surrounded by speculation about new coup attempts in Equatorial Guinea. Moto said he was arrested for political reasons but was detained for several months before being released on bail. In 2013, he was sentenced to six months in prison but never had to face the sentence.

The 2008 parliamentary elections followed the same pattern as the 1999 and 2003 elections, with harassment and persecution of the opposition and accusations of cheating and irregularities. The ruling PDGE and a coalition of nine small support parties (the country's official "opposition") took home 99 of the 100 seats in Parliament. The opposition party Social Democratic Assembly (CPDS) got a single seat.

After the November 2009 presidential election, the government's website announced the day after the election, when only a quarter of the vote counted, that Obiang had won by 96.7 percent (later changed to 95.8 percent). His only significant candidate, CPDS leader Plácido Micó Abogo (who was said to have received 3.6 percent), had already said before the election that he would not approve the result. Now, CPDS stated that one of its electoral officials had to approve the ballot in a polling station with a gun pointed at its head. CPDS also claimed that official election administrators in the country had voted as "representatives" of entire villages.

constitutional amendments

In December 2011, several amendments to the constitution were adopted through a (contested) referendum. The most important point was that the president should only be elected for two terms of office every seven years. Parliament was transformed into a two-chamber parliament when a Senate was introduced (see Political system).

As a result of the constitutional changes, a major government reform was carried out in June 2012, when Obiang's son Teodorín was named second vice president in charge of security issues. Another president's son became Minister of Energy and a brother of the President of Defense. Another ten of the 55 ministers appointed had family ties to the president.

The parliamentary elections in May 2013 became a repeat of the 2008 elections. Even before the elections were held, the opposition accused the government of cheating. And as expected, the president's office announced as soon as the polling stations closed that PDGE won a devastating victory. This time, too, CPDS was given only one mandate in the House of Representatives.

 
 

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