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Useful Notes / Equatorial Guinea

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A small Central African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean with a little over 1.3 million people, Equatorial Guinea consists of a mainland portion ("Río Muni") and a couple of islands off the coast, the largest of which is called Bioko. The de facto capital, Malabo, is located in Bioko, but the government is in the process of moving it to to the planned city of Ciudad de la Paz in the mainland.

The original inhabitants of Río Muni were pygmies, of whom only a small population persist today. Bantu-speaking people began colonizing Río Muni in the early 1st millennium BCE and then Bioko in the 6th century CE. Bioko is the only island in the region with a history of pre-colonial settlement; the nearby São Tomé and Príncipe as well as fellow Equatoguinean island Annobón were uninhabited before the 15th century.

The first Europeans to colonize the region were the Portuguese. In 1778, the territory was given to Spain in exchange of Spanish territory in South America. That’s right, people in Equatorial Guinea speak Spanishnote . That almost turns them into outcasts in the continent, though to their defense, French is also widely spoken. Originally, the main point of interest was the insular portion; Río Muni used to be sparsely populated and was seen as a source of slaves and later (after abolitionism became prominent in the 19th century) servants to work on sugarcane, cocoa, and coffee plantations in Bioko and Annobón.


Eventually, the country declared independence in 1968 and elected their president, and that’s when things went south. Their first president was some loon called Francisco Macías Nguema, who can be compared to Pol Pot with his obsession with anti-intellectual movements and unpredictable behaviors. He ran a one-party government, prohibited fishing, installed a cult of personality around him, stole all the money he could, banned private education, gave himself all the political power and ordered the execution of people with Mary Hopkins’ music as background. He was eventually deposed in a coup in 1979 by the actual president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Macias' nephew). He’s no saint at all, but compared to his predecessor, the Equatoguineans probably would have accepted anything. As for Macías, he was put on trial and summarily executed. However, just like in other cases, this became a Full-Circle Revolution, since Obiang has installed his own cult of personality, censorship of the press and repression, to the point the country has achieved a lousy reputation abroad. Having been ruling for forty years, Obiang is currently the second-longest non-royal ruler in the world, after Cameroon's Paul Biya, and the longest without any title change (Biya was Prime Minister for seven years before he became President).


Equatorial Guinea is rich in oil, but the government spends it poorly on its inhabitants and it is widely believed that Obiang keeps most of the wealth for himself. Still, the country is rather rich by African standards (according to the IMF, it is the third-richest country in Africa, after Seychelles and Mauritius, and the richest in mainland Africa). Even though the country is more Spanish than Portuguese, it joined the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) in 2014 after Portugal made a lot of protests, a decision that was certainly not influenced by all that oil.

The most famous Equatoguinean, besides the two infamous aforementioned, is the swimmer Eric Moussambani who left the others competitors at the 2000 Summer Olympics literally watching his splashing.

By the way, the country is not on the Equator. It is close to it, though.

Equatorial Guinea and Equatoguineans in fiction:

The Equatoguinean flag

The green, white and red stripes symbolizes the jungles, peace, and Equatorial Guinea's struggle for independence, respectively. At the hoist side is the blue triangle of the Atlantic Ocean. At the center is the coat-of-arms, showing a shield containing a silk cotton tree, the colonial symbol of Río Muni, as the mainland was then called; above it are six stars, symbolizing Río Muni and the islands of Bioko (site of the capital Malabo), Annobón, Corisco, Elobey Chico and Elobey Grande; and below is a scroll which reads "Unidad, Paz, Justicia", Spanish for "Unity, Peace, Justice".

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