On the west coast of Africa a small country about the size of Belgium was blessed by God with a wealth of natural resources. It had fertile soil, ample rainfall, an abundance of fish in its rivers and the ocean, and mineral deposits, including the recently discovered oil. With a very small population of only 500,000 people there should have been no limit to the well-being and prosperity of its citizens.
But nature and history are often at odds with each other. There are misunderstandings and missed opportunities which affect the rise and fall of an aspiring population.
Equatorial Guinea was a Spanish colony for over two centuries. It grew into a thriving economic center with trade dominated by its superb cacao and fruit and exotic wood species which were much desired in Europe and beyond. The Spanish colonialists were the masters and the native inhabitants were the workers who toiled in conditions of slavery and abuse. The introduction of Catholicism and the education of children under the auspices of the church was a strong institution bonding masters and slaves.
In the 1950s the concept of freedom and self-government was sweeping across Africa. The liberation movement of former Spanish Guinea came to fruition in 1968 after negotiations in the United Nations. I am proud to have been a participant in the struggle and a signer of the Articles of Independence at the U. N.
As a result of unfortunate political manipulations at the time Francisco Macias Nguema became the first native ruler of our new country. It was the start of a barbaric tyranny parallel to the regime of despot Idi Amin Dada in Uganda. In Guinea, in addition to the assassination of 80,000 innocent civilians, Nguema's regime declared war on religion and desecrated the Holy Sacrament publicly. It jailed and executed priests and religious men and women, closed all churches, transforming some into cacao warehouses and others into dancing saloons. It banned any religious worshipping and officially declared Nguema God and "Creator of Equatorial Guinea". The colonial structure, cruel as it was, had broken down and was replaced by selfish and malicious tyranny.
Macias Nguema dedicated himself to pagan practices and traditional voodoo rituals, including cannibalistic practices, and ended up in mental and physical deterioration and eventual "disappearance" choreographed by a "family arrangement". Following the undemocratic tradition of his Mongomo tribe, succession was determined by declaration of the Mongomonos for Macias's nephew Teodoro rather than by public voting. His qualifications and prerequisites for the job: malicious murderer-executioner and chief enforcer of Macias' perverted practices.
A third of the Guinean population lives in exile still today, afraid of the tyrannical regime which has continued under the leadership of Nguema's nephew, Teodoro Obiang Nguema. In Uganda and some other African former colonies there have been some changes in rulership, but the people of Equatorial Guinea still suffer under the family regime which began thirty-four years ago. As the people say with rage, "The same dogs with different collars".
Seeking to sanctify his reign Teodoro Obiang Nguema arranged pseudo-elections, which violated his own erratic Fundamental Law of the country. In the 1996 "election", competing alone, he was victorious with 99.00% of those voting.
Teodoro has been industrious and lucky. He, with the conspiracy of family members, developed relationships with drug producing countries, especially those of southwestern Asia, leading to Guinea's predominance as a major world drug transshipment center. From Guinea's strategic location on the coast with numerous islands it has open-water access to Europe and the United States. The income from this lucrative businesshas maintained him in comfort.
In the recent half-decade the discovery and extraction of oil onshore and offshore has led to the nickname "the new Kuwait". ExxonMobil, Trident and other world-class oil companies have invested billions in exploration and extraction rights. It has provided a leap in income for the extended ruling family, but the bounty has not trickled down to its citizens who remain subject to torture and execution. The situation of the oil companies is a ticklish one since they want the business rights but don't want to appear to be supporting a corrupt regime. Regarding recent inhuman condition Amnesty International stated in April, 2002:
"International monitoring in Equatorial Guinea is essential, especially now when human violations are still being perpetrated, including the incomunicado detention for a month of more than fifty suspects who are at risk of being tortured to death...The fact that the families are being denied access to their relatives and that nobody knows where they are currently being held has led to fears that some of them may already have died under torture. The relatives have publicly expressed their fears that these persons might have been killed while in detention".
Mr. Gustavo Gallon, the Special Representative of the UN Commission on Human Rights, wrote in his January 2002 report:
"The human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea has been a matter of concern to the Commission on Human Rights for longer than that of any other country. The situation of rights in that country should continue to be monitored in order to ensure the implement the recommendations repeatedly made by the Commission over the last 20 years".
Despite numerous visits to the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. Teodoro has been in failing health for years and the question of his successor is now an urgent one for the country. His sons have already assumed major duties. The possibility of a free and fair democratic election seems remote without pressures from and international governments and human rights institutions.
The history and current situation of my country, outlined briefly above, are dealt with in detail in my recent book, Equatorial Guinea: From Spanish Colonialism to the Discovery of Oil, which is my legacy to my beloved people. My hopes for my country are strong and I will continue to expose and plead and educate so that Equatorial Guinea will one day have the future nature seems to have intended for it.
Dr. Adolfo Obiang Biko is President of MONALIGE, author of the book Equatorial Guinea: from Spanish Colonialism to the Discovery of Oil, and the presidential candidate for MONALIGE in the forthcoming elections in Equatorial Guinea in 2003.
Amnesty International Report: Equatorial Guinea: The UN Commission on Human rights must act in the interest of human rights, April 2002.
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