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Equatorial Guinea

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS EQUATORIAL GUINEANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Republic of Equatorial Guinea

República de Guinea Ecuatorial

CAPITAL: Malabo (formerly Santa Isabel)

FLAG: The flag is a tricolor of green, white, and red horizontal stripes; a blue triangle joins them at the hoist. The arms in the center of the white stripe hold a cotton tree (the national symbol), six starsone for each physical division of the countryand the motto "Unidad, Justicia, Paz."

ANTHEM: Himno Nacional, beginning "Caminemos pisando la senda de nuestra inmensa felicidad" ("Let us walk on the path of our immense happiness").

MONETARY UNIT: Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFA Fr), which was originally pegged to the French franc, has been pegged to the euro since January 1999 with a rate of 655.957 CFA francs to 1 euro. CFA Fr1 = $0.00208 (or $1 = CFA Fr480.56) as of 2005. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 francs.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Independence Day, 5 March; Labor Day, 1 May; OAU Day, 25 May; President's Birthday, 5 June; Armed Forces Day, 3 August; Human Rights Day, 10 December; Christmas, 25 December. Movable Christian holidays include Good Friday and Easter Monday.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

Located on the west coast of Africa, Equatorial Guinea consists of a mainland enclave, Río Muni, and five inhabited islands: Bioko (between 1973 and 1979, Macías Nguema Biyogo, and before that Fernando Póo), Annobón (Pagalu during the 1970s), Corisco, Elobey Chico, and Elobey Grande. The total area is 28,051 sq km (10,831 sq mi), of which Río Muni, along with Corisco and the Elobeys, accounts for 26,017 sq km (10,045 sq mi) and Bioko, along with Annobón, 2,034 sq km (785 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Equatorial Guinea is slightly larger than the state of Maryland.

Río Muni is bounded on the n by Cameroon, on the e and s by Gabon, and on the w by the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean), with a length of 248 km (154 mi) enewsw and 167 km (104 mi) ssennw. Bioko, situated 56 km (35 mi) w of Cameroon and about 259 km (161 mi) nw of Río Muni, extends 74 km (46 mi) nesw and 37 km (23 mi) senw. Annobón is 686 km (426 mi) sw of Bioko; Corisco and the Elobeys are off the sw coast of Bioko, within sight of Gabon. The total boundary length of Equatorial Guinea is 835 km (519 mi), of which 296 km (183 mi) is coastline.

The capital city of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, is located on the island of Bioko (Isla de Bioko).

TOPOGRAPHY

Bioko and Annobón are volcanic islands that are part of the chain starting with the Cameroon Highlands and outcropping into the Atlantic as far as St. Helena. Río Muni is a fluvial mainland plateau, except for the sandy shore and the ridges of the Sierra Cristal range that separate the coast from the interior plateau. The Muni and Ntem rivers, on the south and north boundaries of Río Muni, are estuaries navigable for about 20 km (12 mi); the Mbini River, midway between them, is typical of the cascading streams that drain all of Río Muni. Bioko has short cascading streams; Annobón has only storm arroyos. Most of the country, including the islands, is tropical rain forest. On Annobón, volcanic deposits restrict agriculture, and the Muni estuarial islands are sandy, but the rest of the country has tropical humus conducive to agriculture.

CLIMATE

Equatorial Guinea has a tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. From June to August, Río Muni is dry and Bioko wet; from December to February, the reverse exists. In between there is gradual transition. Rain or mist occurs daily on Annobón, where a cloudless day has never been registered. The temperature at Malabo, Bioko, ranges from 16°c to 33°c (6191°f), though on the southern Moka Plateau normal high temperatures are only 21°c (70°f). In Río Muni, the average temperature is about 27°c (80°f). Annual rainfall varies from 193 cm (76 in) at Malabo to 1,092 cm (430 in) at Ureka, Bioko, but Río Muni is somewhat drier.

FLORA AND FAUNA

Dense tropical rain forest vegetation prevails throughout Equatorial Guinea. There are 140 species of trees, especially palms and hardwoods. Yams and bananas were introduced by the early inhabitants and became staples. Monkeys, chimpanzees, elephants, and gray doves are common.

ENVIRONMENT

Equatorial Guinea's most significant environmental problems are deforestation, water pollution, desertification, and the preservation of wildlife. The forests are threatened by agricultural expansion, fires, and grazing. The nation has about 30 cu km of renewable water resource with 6% used for farming purposes. There are three Ramsar wetland sites in the country.

The nation's wildlife is threatened by the expansion of population centers. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 17 types of mammals, 6 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 5 species of amphibians, 8 species of fish, 2 species of other invertebrates, and 61 species of plants. Endangered species include the drill (Papio leucophaeus), Preuss's monkey, and the green sea, hawksbill, and olive ridley turtles.

POPULATION

The population of Equatorial Guinea in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 504,000, which placed it at number 160 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 43% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 98 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 2.3%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory; however, because a high percentage of the population is under 15 years of age, increasing adolescent fertility was expected to become a significant problem. The projected population for the year 2025 was 762,000. The population density was 18 per sq km (47 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 45% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 4.16%. The capital city, Malabo, had a population of 95,000 in that year.

MIGRATION

As many as 45,000 Nigerian laborers served in Equatorial Guinea in the early 1970s, mostly working on Bioko cocoa plantations. In 1975, Nigeria began evacuating those contract laborers, charging the Equatorial Guinean government with a long history of mistreating them. These plantations are now short of labor.

The net migration for Equatorial Guinea in 2005 was zero. However, migration to Spain is a traditional and ongoing occurrence. Between 8090% of Equatorial Guinean nationals who go to Spain do not return. There were approximately 1,000 migrants in Equatorial Guinea in 2000. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.

ETHNIC GROUPS

The largest single tribe is the Fang (Fon, or Pamúe), who entered Río Muni from the east largely between 1687 and 1926. The earlier Riomunians, who had probably arrived in the 14th century, were forced by the Fang to flee to the coast. The Bubi on Bioko are descendants of the indigenous African Bantu-speaking population that fled from the Cameroonian and Riomunian mainland in the 13th century; they are indigenous to Bioko island and account for about 15% of the population. Coastal tribes, sometimes referred to as Playeros, consist of Ndowes, Bujebas, Balengues, and Bengas. Fernandinosdescendants of mainland slaves liberated by the British navy in the 19th centuryand Europeans, especially Spanish Asturians and Catalonians, have long dominated commerce and government. It is estimated that the 67 Fang clans represent 80% of the population. Europeans, mostly Spanish, number less than 1,000.

LANGUAGES

Spanish is the official language of the government, commerce, and schools. French is also an official language. The principal vernacular is Fang, which, like all the country's indigenous languages, is a Bantu tongue. Bubi and Ibo are also spoken. Annobón uses the fād'Ambō, a pidgin form of Bantu speech with heavy 16th-century Portuguese inflection. Much petty commerce is conducted in pidgin English (Pichinglis).

RELIGIONS

Although African traditional religion has left its vestiges among the indigenous tribes, about 93% of the population are Christian. Within the Christian population, 87% are Roman Catholic and about 4.5% are mainline Protestant, primarily Baptist and Episcopalian. Though there is no state religion, a 1992 law established an official preference for the Catholic Church and the Reform Church of Equatorial Guinea, based on the traditional importance of these two denominations in popular culture. Other religious groups must register through the Ministry of Justice and Worship. Religious study (primarily Catholic) is required in public schools.

TRANSPORTATION

There are 2,880 km (1,790 mi) of highways in Equatorial Guinea, none of which were paved in 2002. The chief ports are Bata and Mbini in Río Muni and Malabo and Luba on Bioko. Bata, modernized in the 1970s, can accommodate up to four vessels of 20,000 tons each. There is regular service between Malabo and Bata. In 2005, the country had one merchant ship (a cargo vessel of 1,000 GRT or over) in service, totaling 6,556 GRT.

Bata's airport was the first major air transport facility. Malabo's airport was raised to jet standards in 1964 and became the focus of regional air services. A landing strip was built on Annobón in 1968. As of 2004, there were only four airports, with three (as of 2005), having paved runways. Air transport between Bata, Malabo, and Douala, Cameroon, is provided by Equatorial Guinea Air Lines (Algesa). There is international air service to Gabon, Nigeria, Morocco, and Spain. In 1997 (the latest year for which data was available), about 21,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.

HISTORY

Although numerous archaeological discoveries indicate a very early Sangoan (modified Acheulean) culture throughout Equatorial Guinea, the earliest traceable inhabitants were Pygmies, remnants of whom remain in northeastern Río Muni. Bioko was apparently uninhabited when the Bubi came by sea from the mainland in the 13th century. Río Muni seems to have been occupied by the Bantu in a series of waves that superseded the Pygmiesfirst by the Bubi, before 1200; then by the Benga, Bujeba, and Combe, perhaps about 1300; and, finally, by the Fang from the Congo Basin, after 1687. Although Annobón was uninhabited in 1471 when the Portuguese discovered it, it was the only one of the territories later incorporated into Equatorial Guinea that they attempted to develop. The proprietorship of Annobón was ill administered, however, and it was virtually self-governing for 250 years. In 1778, Portugal transferred its nominal claims over Annobón, Fernando Póo, and the entire coast from the Niger Delta to Cape López (in modern Gabon) to Spain, in return for Spain's renunciation of pirate claims in southern Brazil. Later that year, a Spanish expedition of occupation arrived from South America. The expedition withdrew in 1781 after disease and poor administration had cost the lives of 370 of the 547 Spaniards.

The primary Spanish mainland explorations were undertaken between 1875 and 1885. Catholic missionary efforts by the Claretians extended Spanish influence to Annobón (1884), completed the exploration of Fernando Póo (18831924), and began the penetration of Río Muni (18861925). The first effective efforts to penetrate the interior were undertaken in 192627 by Governor Ángel Barrera, who reportedly employed considerable force to subjugate the Fang. The administrative procedure for the colony was defined as the process of reducción (conquest), repartimiento (resettlement), and encomienda (placing in trust) of the indigenous peoplethe policy followed in Mexico and Peru 400 years earlierbut this time, the people were encomendado (entrusted) not to private masters but to the Claretians. After World War II, the Franco government initiated a policy of heavy investment to turn Spanish Guinea into a model colony.

Spanish Guinea became a province of Spain in 1958. In 1964, two provinces (Fernando Póo and Río Muni) were created under an autonomous regional government. Political opposition and Protestant missions, both banned in Spain, were tolerated, and the regional regime of Bonifacio Ondó Edú was virtually self-governing internally. In 1966, independence was promised. Two years later, an opposition faction under Francisco Macías Nguema won the pre-independence elections and organized a sovereign government on 12 October 1968, when the colony became the independent Republic of Equatorial Guinea. Within six months, hostility between Riomunians and Fernandinos had sharpened. The continued presence of Spanish civil servants, troops, and ships and the unchanged influence of Spanish plantation management provoked a crisis in 1969. Two coups failed, the Spanish were evacuated, medical services were suspended (until WHO restaffed them), and fiscal transactions ceased. However, within six weeks a new understanding was reached with Spain, under UN auspices, and Spanish subsidies were restored.

On 23 August 1972, Francisco Macías Nguema was proclaimed president for life; subsequently he assumed ministerial posts of defense, foreign affairs, and trade. An exile group, the Equatorial Guinean Liberation Front, and others charged in December 1974 that more than two-thirds of the National Assembly elected in 1968 had disappeared, and that many prominent persons, especially political opponents of the president, had been assassinated. It was estimated that a quarter of the country's population was in exile in Cameroon, Gabon, and Europe. On 3 August 1979, Macías Nguema was overthrown in a military coup led by his Spanish trained nephew, Lt.-Col. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo; the former president was tried shortly after the coup and executed on 29 September. International human rights organizations estimated that during his 11-year rule at least 50,000 people had been killed and 40,000 had been enslaved on state-owned plantations.

Under Obiang's leadership, the Supreme Military Council became the highest power in the country. The country continued to decay as corruption flourished and political opponents and others were imprisoned or put to death. Soviet influence was reduced, and economic and military cooperation with Spain was restored. A new constitution, approved in a referendum on 15 August 1982, provided that Obiang would remain head of state until 1989, when direct popular elections would take place. Parliamentary elections (based on a single list, with no political parties permitted) were held on 28 August 1983, and the PDGE won all 41 seats in the Chamber of People's Representatives in 10 July 1988 elections. Obiang was elected without opposition on 25 June 1989.

On 17 November 1991, a new constitution was adopted. Opposition parties began to be organized and sought official recognition in 1992. Eventually an election was held on 21 November 1993 and the PDGE won 68 of 80 seats. But the major opposition parties boycotted the election and as many as 80% of the eligible voters refused to participate. The new cabinet was expanded from 34 to 42 members. On 25 February 1996, Obiang was reelected to the presidency for another seven-year term, receiving 98% of the vote. The poll was declared farcical by foreign observers. Despite a boycott of the elections by the three main opposition parties, voter turnout was 86%. Obiang's plan to form a government of national unity failed because the opposition's conditions for participation had not been met.

New wealth from substantial oil and gas reserves discovered off the coast in 1996 boosted the tiny country's impoverished economy, but the wealth did not reach the poor. Government corruption and mismanagement were rampant and some 80% of the wealth was amassed by less than 5% of the population, mostly Obiang's family clan. Growing discontent resulted in at least two coups d'état (the government attributed one in May 1997 to opposition Progress Party leader, Severo Moto) and a rebellion on Bioko island by members of the disenfranchised Bubi ethnic group in January 1998. A military court sentenced 15 of the 215 Bubi activists to death. In September Obiang suspended the sentence, under international pressure.

The ruling PDGE won 65 of the 80 seats in the second multiparty parliamentary elections held on 7 March 1999. In July 1999, the prime minister, Angel Serafin Seriche Dougan, and his government resigned, apparently to pave way for a government of national unity. The president offered to give a cabinet position to each of the opposition parties. Second multiparty legislative elections were held on 7 March 1999. Mainstream opposition parties participated in the elections, but along with the international community, denounced the elections for serious irregularities. The ruling PDGE again won 75 seats. The Convergence for a Social Democracy (CPDS) and the People's Union (UP) respectively got one and four seats.

In elections held 15 December 2002 Obiang officially was reelected with 97.1% to 2.2% of the vote for Celestino Bonifacio Bacale, but as in the past, the elections were marred by fraud, and held little credibility either domestically or abroad.

The judiciary, which often has come under international scrutiny, scheduled a national conference in January 2003. The purpose of the meeting was to improve human rights and strengthen rule of law following criticism by rights groups, the opposition, and the Spanish government of the sentencing of 68 opposition activists for between six and 20 years in jail on charges of plotting to overthrow the president. Among those convicted were the leaders of three opposition parties. In August 2003, 31 of the condemned prisoners received amnesty. In elections held in April 2004, the PDGE and its allies won 98 of 100 seats and all but 7 of 244 municipal posts, but the results were judged not credible by international observers.

Political opponents twice attempted to overthrow the government in 2004. In March Zimbabwe police impounded a plane originating from South Africa with 64 mercenaries on board destined for Equatorial Guinea. Simon Mann, the president of Executive Outcomes and the apparent ringleader, was sentenced to seven years in jail in Zimbabwe for trying to buy arms. In all, 22 people were convicted, including 9 tried in absentia. Allegedly backing the operation were Sir Mark Thatcher, son of Margaret Thatcher, Severo Moto, an Equatorial Guinean politician in exile in Spain, and the Spanish government. In October 2004, the military staged an abortive coup leading to the conviction of 23 soldiers.

Equatorial Guinea ranked 152 out of 159 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2005 with almost none of the economic benefits from the oil windfall trickling down to the average Equatorial Guinean. The judiciary was widely considered corrupt and dysfunctional. Further, Obiang's health appeared to be failing, and were he not to finish his third term, or not to seek a fourth term in 2009, his eldest son, commonly referred to as Theodorín, would be his heir apparent. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue was also forestry minister, but was at odds with influential family members and factions within the elite.

GOVERNMENT

By referendum on 11 August 1968, Equatorial Guineans approved a constitution that became effective on Independence Day, 12 October 1968. The constitution required the country to join the UN and to coordinate Spanish financial, technical, and administrative assistance until total "Africanization" was achieved. Separatist activities on Bioko led to the suspension of the 1968 constitution in May 1971. The president assumed all powers and ruled by decree until a second constitution was approved by referendum in July 1973. Under this constitution, the only legal party, the United National Workers Party, designated deputies to the National Assembly and had the power to remove them. An article requiring election of the president by direct, secret, universal suffrage was suspended for President Francisco Macías Nguema, who had been proclaimed president for life on 23 August 1972. After the 1979 coup, a new constitution was drafted with UN assistance. Approved by 95% of the voters in a referendum on 15 August 1982, this document provided for elections every five years to a National Assembly, for the establishment of a Council of State, and for a human rights, which in practice are poorly defended under the law.

Since adopting the 17 November 1991 constitution, Equatorial Guinea has been a self-declared constitutional democracy with judicial integrity and multiparty elections. In reality, President Obiang Nguema runs the country with an iron fist and his Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) has no serious opposition. Lt.-Col. Obiang Nguema was inaugurated president on 12 October 1982, ran unopposed in 1989, and was reelected in 1996 and 2002. His term expires in 2009. Obiang appoints a prime minister, who nominally is head of government. A unicameral House of People's Representatives or Camara de Representantes del Pueblo with 100 seats performs little or no check on the powerful executive. Members directly elected by popular vote serve five-year terms. The constitution was modified in 1995.

POLITICAL PARTIES

Other than the ruling Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), there are 12 other registered parties. However, given the dominance of the PDGE, the system functions like a one-party state.

Following an abortive coup in March 1969, all existing political parties were merged into the United National Party (Partido Único Nacional) under the leadership of President Macías Nguema. Political activity outside this party was made illegal. The name of the party was later modified to United National Workers Party (Partido Único Nacional de los TrabajadoresPUNT). After the 1979 coup, all political parties were banned and the ruling Democratic Party for Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) monopolized power and patronage. Among the opposition parties in exile in the mid1980s were the National Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy and the Democratic Movement for the Liberation of Equatorial Guinea. A source of opposition is resentment by Biokans of mainland domination.

The 1991 constitution legalized political parties and a January 1992 law on party formation initiated the process of party organization. But it restricted party membership and activity to those who had lived continuously in Equatorial Guinea for 10 years. Since most opposition politicians had been in exile since independence, the effect was to prohibit serious opposition. Small partiesthe Liberal Democrat Convention, the Popular Union, and the Progressive Democratic Alliancewere recognized in 1992. The Equatorial Guinea Progress Party (PPGE) was legalized after a long delay and, in 1993, the Socialist Party of Equatorial Guinea (PSGE) was approved. By mid-1993, 13 legal opposition parties stood prepared to contest elections, scheduled for 12 September. A number of opposition leaders were even granted amnesty. In 1995, the government reduced the residency requirement for politicians to five years leading up to an election. Political parties, however, continued to face harassment as of 2006.

In June 1997 the Progress Party, perhaps the only party that could constitute an alternative government, was banned by presidential decree. The government accused journalist Severo Moto, leader of the Progress Party, of plotting a coup against Obiang, by linking him to arms intercepted by Angolan authorities on a Russian boat destined for Equatorial Guinea in mid-May. Moto exiled himself to Spain.

The remaining opposition parties participated in the 7 March 1999 elections but rejected the results due to serious irregularities, challenging them in court. They also refused to take up their seats in the House. Once again, the ruling PDGE won an overwhelming majority with 75 of the 80 seats to 4 seats for the People's Union (UP), and 1 seat for the Convergence for a Social Democracy (CPDS). The international community also criticized the conduct of the elections. The opposition's presence in the National Assembly was further reduced when the UP dismissed two of its four parliamentary delegates in April, accusing them of endorsing Obiang's dictatorial government.

In the 25 April 2004 parliamentary electionsamid allegations of fraudthe PDGE and its affiliates took all but two seats in the expanded 100-seat parliament. They also won all but seven of the municipal posts around the country. The next presidential elections were to be held December 2009 with parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2009.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The country is divided into seven provinces, each headed by a governor appointed by the president. The provinces are divided into districts and 244 municipalities.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

The court system, based on Spanish civil law and tribal custom, includes a Supreme Court, two appeals courts, lower provincial courts (first instance), military courts, and customary (traditional) courts. The courts apply a blend of traditional law, military law, and Franco-era Spanish law, which leads to some unpredictability in results. Appeals from courts of first instance are rare. A five-member Constitutional Council established in 1993 decides constitutional issues and releases election results. The customary courts composed of tribal elders adjudicate civil claims and minor criminal matters.

Under the 1991 constitution, the judiciary is not independent from the executive branch. In fact, all judges and clerks and other judicial personnel are appointed and dismissed at the will of the President. In addition, corruption is a problem because of low wages for judicial personnel.

Defendants have constitutional rights to an attorney and to appeal. However, in practice, these rights are not always afforded.

In January 1998, the treatment of Bubi ethnic group activists who were arrested after a rebellion, and the conduct of the trial by a military court, which meted out 15 death sentences, was strongly criticized by Amnesty International and the European Parliament, respectively. Obiang suspended the death sentences in September 1998. Reports of serious and systematic human rights abuses in Equatorial Guinea continue.

ARMED FORCES

In 2005, active military personnel numbered 1,320, of which the Army accounted for 1,100, the Navy 120, and the Air Force 100. The Army consisted of three infantry battalions, whose equipment included 10 armored personnel carriers and six reconnaissance vehicles. The Navy had two patrol/coastal vessels, while the Air Force operated five fixed-wing transports and two utility helicopters. Paramilitary forces included the Civil Guard and the Coast Guard. The defense budget in 2005 totaled $7.3 million.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Equatorial Guinea joined the United Nations on 12 November 1969; it participates in ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies. The nation is also a member of the African Development Bank, the ACP Group, the Central African States Development Bank (BDEAC), G-77, and the African Union. In December 1983, it joined the Central African Republic, the Congo, Chad, Cameroon, and Gabon in the Central African Customs and Economic Union (Union Douanière et Économique de l'Afrique CentraleUDEAC); this organization is now known as the Monetary and Economic Community of Central Africa (CEMAC). The nation is part of the franc zone. Equatorial Guinea holds observer status in the WTO and the OAS. The country is part of the Nonaligned Movement. In environmental cooperation, Equatorial Guinea is part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.

ECONOMY

The agricultural industry employs the majority of the population. The country exports cocoa, coffee, and timber, and imports large quantities of foodstuffs. Production of oil began in 1991, and substantial new reserves were discovered in 1995. Trace deposits of a few minerals have been located. Industry is limited to a few processing facilities for agricultural products. In 1990, compliance difficulties with the IMF structural adjustment program and the government's repeated violations of human rights resulted in the suspension of most foreign economic assistance. The arrival of significant oil revenues, however, has caused the economy to be viewed with guarded optimism. Continuing fiscal mismanagement and the lack of economic reforms casts doubt on the government's ability to fully capitalize on the oil revenues. Nonetheless, oil accounts for 90% of exports and over 60% of GDP. Oil production rose from 120,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2001 to 420,000 bpd in 2005. Other natural resources that are undeveloped are titanium, iron ore, manganese, uranium, and gold.

In 1985, Equatorial Guinea joined the CFA franc zone, improving the economic situation. In 1994, France devalued the CFA franc, causing its value to drop in half overnight, and raising the value of exports. Increased export revenue, together with newly exploited petroleum reserves, caused GDP to rise dramatically (over 50%) during 1996 and 1997. Between 2001 and 2005 GDP annual average growth rate was 27.78%, with a high of 65.6% in 2001 and a low of 6% in 2005. The growth rates in GDP were a result of discovery of new oil reserves and increases in the production of oil.

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Equatorial Guinea's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $25.7 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $50,200. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 2.4% of GDP, industry 95.5%, and services 2.2%.

LABOR

The majority of the population was engaged in subsistence agriculture in 2002. The unemployment rate in 1998 (the latest year for which data was available) was estimated at 30%. There was no data available on the size of the country's workforce.

As of 2005, workers had the right to form unions, but there was no legislation to prohibit antiunion discrimination in the workplace. In 2001, the Small Farmers Syndicate became the first legally recognized union. As of 2005, it was still the country's only legally recognized union, and there was no collective bargaining.

Wages are set by the government and employers, with little or no input by workers. There was a statutory monthly minimum wage of about $100 in 2002 for unskilled workers, with the minimum for oil sector professionals set at 10 times that amount. The legal minimum age for employment is 14, but the government does not enforce this. The standard legal workweek is set at 35 hours, with a 48-hour rest period.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture is the main economic activity, involving about 71% of the economically active population. An estimated 8% of the land is engaged in crop production. The island of Bioko has year-round rainfall, and the prevailing economic activity is cocoa cultivation. In Río Muni (on mainland Africa), where 80% of the population lives, food crops are the dominant economic activity, and cash crop cultivation is secondary. Agriculture (including forestry and fishing) accounts for about 50% of GDP and 60% of exports. The main food crop is cassava, of which 45,000 tons were produced in 2004. Sweet potatoes are the second-largest food crop, with 36,000 tons in 2004, followed by bananas (20,000 tons).

Before independence, the main cash crops were cocoa, coffee, and palm kernels for palm oil. Guinean cocoa, of excellent quality, had an annual production of 38,000 tons in 1967. However, production experienced a sharp drop in the 1970s, falling to 4,512 tons in 1980. In 2004, production was estimated at 2,400 tons. Coffee of comparatively poor quality is grown in northern Río Muni, along the Cameroon border. The pre-independence production of 8,959 tons in 1967 fell to 500 tons in 1978; the decline was mainly caused by forcible transfer of coffee farmers to the Bioko cocoa plantations. Coffee production was an estimated 3,500 tons in 2004. Actual cocoa and coffee production is higher, but official figures do not take into account quantities smuggled abroad rather than delivered to state marketing agencies.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

Cattle and poultry production is rapidly reaching its pre-independence levels of self-sufficiency with the financial help of the African Development Bank. However, production of domesticated animals is hindered by the presence of trypanosomiasis and other tropical deterrents. In 2005 there were 37,600 sheep, 9,000 goats, 6,100 hogs, and 5,000 cattle.

FISHING

The fishing industry gained strength through the 1980s and is now almost entirely modernized; a tuna processing plant went into operation in 1990. Annobón subsists almost entirely on fishing and retains its traditional preeminence in offshore whaling and turtle gathering. Bioko is also a major fishing center, the chief catches being perch, tuna, mackerel, cod, pike, shark, and crayfish. The country's own catch was about 3,500 tons in 2003.

FORESTRY

Timber from Río Muni is Equatorial Guinea's leading export. Forests cover over 62% of the land area. The Río Muni area on the mainland produces okoumé and akoga from rain forests of considerable age. Even though the government has given permission to foreign firms, exploitation is difficult due to infrastructural problems. The government enacted a new forestry action plan in 1990 in an effort to strengthen the sector's development. In 2004, roundwood production was estimated at 811,000 cu m (28.6 million cu ft). In 2004, exports of forest products amounted to $97 million.

MINING

Petroleum, the country's leading industry and export commodity in 2004, was associated with Equatorial Guinea's rapid economic growth since 1996; natural gas was the country's fourth-leading industry. Geological surveys indicated occurrences of bauxite, alluvial gold, copper, diamond, titanium-bearing sands, ilmenite beach sands, lead, phosphates, zinc, iron, manganese, tantalum, and uranium in Río Muni; there has been no significant exploitation. A 1981 law stipulated that all mineral deposits were state property. Artisanal miners produced 500 kg of gold in 2004, and clay, gravel, and sand were also presumably produced.

ENERGY AND POWER

As of 1 January 2003, electric power generating capacity stood at 15.4 MW, of which 20% was hydroelectric and 80% conventional thermal. Production in 2002 was estimated at 30 million kWh, while consumption was placed at 25 million kWh. However, poor management and aging equipment has resulted in prolonged power blackouts. As a result, small gasoline and diesel-powered generators are used as backup power sources.

Since 1995, when significant offshore oil discoveries were made in the Gulf of Guinea, oil has become Equatorial Guinea's most important export. According to World Oil, Equatorial Guinea's proven oil reserves were put at 1.28 billion barrels, as of 1 January 2005. In 2005, oil production was estimated at 420,000 barrels per day, of which crude oil accounted for over 90%. Domestic oil demand and net oil exports in 2004 were estimated at 2,000 barrels per day and 369,700 barrels per day, respectively.

Equatorial Guinea has proven natural gas reserves estimated, as of 1 January 2005, of 1.3 trillion cu ft, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. The country's natural gas reserves are located off Bioko island, which is the site of the nation's capital, Malabo, and mainly in the Zafiro and Alba oil and gas fields. Domestic consumption of natural gas is estimated for 2002 at 45 billion cu ft.

INDUSTRY

Equatorial Guinea's manufacturing sector is very small. Sawmilling leads industrial production, followed by cement, bleach, and tuna canning plants. Small-scale soap manufacturing and food processing operations round out the industrial sector. The petroleum mining industry is growing rapidly, as large oil reserves have been discovered. Oil in 2004 accounted for over 88.9% of GDP and over 97% of exports. Proven oil reserves are estimated at 563.5 million barrels. Oil production increased from 17,000 barrels per day in 1996 to around 420,000 barrels per day in 2005. There is a methanol plant on Bioko island that processes natural gas. Proven natural gas reserves are estimated at 68.53 billion cubic meters.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Spain, China, and several other countries have provided Equatorial Guinea with technological assistance.

DOMESTIC TRADE

Most interior wholesale and retail trade has been maintained through factorías (small general agencies) managed by individual Spanish owners or the representatives of small firms. Most trade occurs in the major cities of Malabo and Bata.

Consumer price inflation has fluctuated quite a bit throughout the last decade. During the 20012005 period, inflation averaged 6.8% per annum. Recent economic policies are designed to encourage foreign investment.

Normal business hours are 8 am to 12 noon and 4 to 8:00 pm, Monday through Friday, and 9 am to 2 pm on Saturday. Spanish is the dominant business language, while French and English are also spoken.

Current Account -344.0
     Balance on goods -116.7
         Imports -292.0
         Exports 175.3
     Balance on services -179.7
     Balance on income -45.0
     Current transfers -2.6
Capital Account
Financial Account 313.8
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Equatorial Guinea 376.2
     Portfolio investment assets
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets
     Other investment liabilities -62.4
Net Errors and Omissions 24.8
Reserves and Related Items 5.5
() data not available or not significant.

FOREIGN TRADE

Exports were estimated at $6.94 million in 2005, while imports came to $2.92 million leading to a trade surplus of $4.02 billion. Leading exports for 2004 were petroleum (98.7%), timber (1.2%), and cocoa (0.1%). Imports consisted primarily of machinery (77%), building material (7.1%), food and beverages (3.6%), and petroleum products (1.9%). Spain, the United States, and China are Equatorial Guinea's principal export markets. Recent figures from the IMF reveal that exports to China rose rapidly in 2004, from $374 million in 2003 to $889 million.

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

New oil and natural gas production improved Equatorial Guinea's balance of payments situation since the mid-1990s. Additional oil production that came online in 2001, combined with methanol gas exports from the new CMS-Nomeco plant, increased export earnings in the early 2000s. Imports were growing as well: in 2004, purchases of equipment for the oil and gas sector accounted for over three-quarters of imports. The country's debt service ratio fell from 20% of GDP in 1994 to less than 1% in 2005. Although relatively low in terms of covering the payments of imports, foreign exchange reserves were increasing slightly in the early 2000s. Many of the aid programs Equatorial Guinea benefited from in the 1980s and 1990s had diminished or ceased altogether by 2000. Some project assistance continued to be provided by France and the EU, as well as by China and Cuba.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of Equatorial Guinea's exports was $6.9 billion while imports totaled $2.9 billion resulting in a trade surplus of $4 billion.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

The Bank of Issue of Equatorial Guinea was established on 12 October 1969 as the central bank. In January 1985, the country joined the CFA zone, and the Bank of the Central African States (Banque des États de l'Afrique Centrale-BEAC) became its central bank. In 1993, a supranational supervisory authority was created for BEAC states, called the Commission Bancaire de l'Afrique Centrale (COBAC). The story of commercial banking since independence has been a sorry one, and the lack of cheap and efficient commercial credit is blamed as a major obstacle to economic growth. Banking functions prior to independence were carried out mainly by the Banco Exterior de España (BEE), in association with two smaller Spanish institutions. Spanish banks almost stopped functioning after independence and withdrew altogether in 1972. As of 2002, there were only two banks operating in the country, with net holdings of $53 million.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $65.9 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $88.3 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 6.5%.

There are no securities exchanges.

INSURANCE

No information is available.

PUBLIC FINANCE

Equatorial Guinea made its first standby loan agreement with the IMF in 1985 and negotiated a structural adjustment agreement in 1988. Government problems with budget overruns and a continuing, structural imbalance of trade frustrated IMF technicians, who stopped payments in 1990. Nonetheless, the government reduced the 1990 budget and enacted key portions of the structural adjustment program: import price liberalization, economic diversification, utility rate increases, clarification of property rights, and private sector stimulus. With these steps taken and with petroleum revenues increasing, the IMF restarted the blocked structural adjustment program in December 1991. By 1994, however, repeated human rights violations and the failure to enact economic reform led to the suspension of most foreign economic assistance. In 1998, the government privatized distribution of petroleum products; petroleum revenues, along with sales taxes and duties, account for two-thirds of government revenues.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Equatorial Guinea's central government took in revenues of approximately $1.9 billion and had expenditures of $711.5 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $1.2 billion. Total external debt was $248 million.

TAXATION

Equatorial Guinea has a standard corporate tax rate of 25%, with a minimum 1% rate on turnover. Capital gains are subject to a 25% tax rate, although the tax can be deferred if all of the proceeds are employed in the purchase of new fixed assets within the country within a three-year period or should a merger take place. Dividends paid to nonresidents are subject to a 40% tax. Interest and royalties (such as from intellectual property and/or patents) are also subject to the 40% rate.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

As a member of the six-nation Central African Economic Community (CEMAC), Equatorial Guinea shares customs systems and practices with its neighbors. The CEMAC makes trade with Central African countries much easier and more efficient. The tariff system is based on the CIF (cost, insurance, freight) value of imported goods, and is divided into four simple categories: basic necessities are taxed at a rate of 5%, raw materials and capital goods at 10%, intermediate and miscellaneous goods at 20%, and consumer goods at 30%. There is also a fiscal tax of 1540% charged on all imports except alcohol and tobacco, for which there is a different rate, and a turnover tax of 512%.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Spain and France are the major aid donor countries working with the Equatorial Guinean government. Spain conditioned aid, however, on improvements in the human rights record and progress in the democratization effort. Other donors include China, Nigeria, and several other Western and Middle Eastern countries.

Foreign investment in the petroleum and lumber industries increased sharply during the late 1990s. Timber production increased by 70% in 1997 and petroleum production reached 85,000 barrels per day in the same year. Offshore drilling operations began production in 2000. In 2001, Equatorial Guinea had the world's fastest-growing economy as oil production, with ExxonMobile as the main producer, reached 200,000 barrels per day. The inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) jumped from an average of $22 million a year in 1997 and 1998 to an average of $120 million in 1999 and 2000. FDI inflow was $88 million in 2001. However, between 2002 and 2004 FDI inflow averaged $1.14 billion per year. According to figures from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Equatorial Guinea received the thirdlargest amount of foreign direct investment in sub-Saharan Africa in 2004, totaling $1.66 billion.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

During the 1990s, in conjunction with Spain, Equatorial Guinea focused on education, health, administrative reform, and economic infrastructures with little success. According to a 1996 International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, the production base of Equatorial Guinea was extremely small, the level of human capital very weak, and the country had no basic infrastructure. Mismanagement and corruption were widespread in public administration. US oil companies have invested in development of the country's infrastructure.

New oil and gas exploration and development of existing fields resulted in rapid growth in energy exports in the early 2000s. The government sold some state-owned enterprises, and attempted to establish a more favorable investment climate. As of 2005, there had been no formal agreements or arrangements with the IMF since 1996.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Old age, disability, sickness, and work injury laws cover employees, public officials, and military personnel. These programs are funded primarily from employers and the government, with a small contribution from the employee. Family allowances are also paid. Workers' medical benefits include free medical care, hospitalization, and medicine. However, subsistence farmers and agricultural workers are not covered by formal social security systems. The great majority of the population goes without potable water, electricity, basic education, or even minimal health care.

Women have the same legal rights as men, but in practice face discrimination. Male-dominated traditions and customs lead many parents to withdraw their daughters from school. Men are accorded favorable inheritance and property rights. Polygamy is common within the Fang ethnic group. Domestic violence against women is commonplace, and the government does not prosecute perpetrators. As of 2004, forced marriages were customary.

Human rights violations are commonplace. Human rights abuses include incommunicado detention, extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and searches without warrants.

HEALTH

The national health system of Equatorial Guinea consists of four levels: health posts in each village of 600 people, dispensaries in health centers with a qualified nurse at the intermediate level, district level hospitals, and two referral hospitals at the most centralized level. In 2004, there were an estimated 25 physicians, 40 nurses, 1 dentist, 1 pharmacist, and 2 midwives per 100,000 people.

In 2005, the infant mortality rate was estimated at 91.16 per 1,000 live births. The maternal mortality rate in 1990 was 820 women per 100,000 live births. Life expectancy in 2005 was 49.70 years, with an overall death rate of 12.9 per 1,000 people.

Major health problems (1992 data) are preventable diseases, mainly malaria (increasingly chloroquine resistant), parasitic disease, upper respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, and complications of pregnancy. In the continental zone, sickle cell anemia is common. Approximately 61% of the country's children were immunized against measles between 1991 and 1994.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 3.40 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 5,900 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 370 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

HOUSING

In 1995 there were about 50,000 households with an average of eight persons per household.

EDUCATION

Education is free and compulsory from 6 to 11 years of age. Primary education is for five years followed by four years of secondary in the first stage and three subsequent years of secondary education in the second stage.

In 2001, about 35% of children between the ages of three and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2001 was estimated at about 87% of age-eligible students; 93% for boys and 81% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 24% of all age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 45% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 43:1 in 2000; the ratio for secondary school was about 23:1.

The Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial is the primary institute of higher learning. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 84.2%, with 92.1% for men and 76.4% for women. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 0.6% of GDP, or 1.6% of total government expenditures.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

The Malabo Public Library, housed in three branches, contains some 17,000 volumes. The Claretian Mission at Malabo has about 4,000 volumes of Africana and Guineana, and an archaeological-ethnographic museum. In Santa Isabel, the Mission Ethnological Museum houses a collection of the art of the Bubus people and stone sculptures of the Druids.

MEDIA

In 2003, there were only about 9,600 mainline telephones in use throughout the country. The same year, there were about 41,500 mobile phones in use nationwide.

Equatorial Guinea has two government-owned radio stations broadcasting in Spanish, French, and local languages, including Fang, Bubi, and Combe. The only privately owned radio station is held by Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the president's son. There is one television station, also government-owned. Cable television is also available. In 1997, there were about 180,000 radios and 4,000 televisions nationwide. In 2002, there were 1,800 Internet subscribers served by three service providers.

Poto Poto, published in Spanish and Fang, may be the only daily national newspaper. There were five general-interest newspapers published regularly in 2002. La Gaceta, a monthly publication with informal connections to the Government; El Correo Guineo Ecuatoriano, a bimonthly newspaper published by the Gaceta group; La Opinion, an opposition newspaper published every 2 to 3 weeks; El Tiempo, an opposition newspaper; and Ebano, a twice monthly publication of the Ministry of Information, Tourism, and Culture. Egyptian Mail is a national English-language publication.

Although the constitution of Equatorial Guinea provides for free speech and a free press, the government is said to severely restrict these freedoms in practice, censoring all criticism of the president and security forces. Access to foreign publications is limited.

ORGANIZATIONS

The government generally restricts the formation of nongovernmental organizations and associations. Apart from official and semiofficial organizations, most non government organizations are religious societies and sports clubs. In 2004, the only recognized labor union was the Small Farmers Syndicate. There is also and Equatorial Guinea Press Association. There is an International Lion's Club and the Red Cross has an active chapter.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

Because Equatorial Guinea has undergone many years of international isolation, its tourism industry is very undeveloped, with limited hotel space available in Malabo and Bata. Attractions include the Spanish colonial architecture of Malabo, the beaches, and the tropical rain forests. A certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is required. A valid passport is needed; there are no visa requirements.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Equatorial Guinea at $218 per day.

FAMOUS EQUATORIAL GUINEANS

Francisco Macías Nguema (192479) was president until his overthrow and execution in 1979. His successor, Lt.-Col. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (b.1946), has ruled Equatorial Guinea since 1979.

DEPENDENCIES

Equatorial Guinea has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dun and Bradstreet's Export Guide to Equatorial Guinea. Parsippany, N.J.: Dun and Bradstreet, 1999.

Fegley, Randall. Equatorial Guinea. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio, 1991.

Liniger-Goumaz, Max. Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea. 3rd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Sundiata, I. K. Equatorial Guinea: Colonialism, State Terror, and the Search for Stability. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1990.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Equatorial Guinea

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Republic of Equatorial Guinea
República de Guinea Ecuatorial

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

Equatorial Guinea is a small West African nation of 28,051 square kilometers (10,830 square miles), roughly the same size as Maryland. It consists of a mainland enclave called Río Muni, on the west coast of Africa bordering Cameroon and Gabon, and 5 small islands off the coast of Cameroon in the Bight of Biafra: Bioko, Annobón, Corisco, and the 2 small islands known together as Islas Elobey. Total boundary length of Equatorial Guinea equals 835 kilometers (519 miles). The capital city, Malabo, is on the island of Bioko.

POPULATION.

Estimated at 472,214 in July 2000, the population is growing at a rapid rate of 2.47 percent, which will result in the population increasing to over 600,000 by 2010. This fast rate of growth is attributed to the very high fertility rate of 4.94 children per woman, although this is combined with a very high infant mortality rate of 111 per 1,000. The high rate of population growth is reflected in the age distribution of society where over 43 percent of the population is under the age of 14 years old. Equatorial Guinea residents have an average life expectancy of 50 years. The health problems limiting many residents' lives are preventable diseases, including malaria, parasitic disease, upper respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, and pregnancy-related problems.

Decades of economic stagnation have prevented urbanization. There has been some population movement towards the capital in recent years due to the search for jobs in the booming oil industry, although a considerable amount of the population still resides in rural areas.

Although French and Spanish are the official languages, Europeans make up a very small percentage of the population. The primary ethnic groups include Bioko (Bubi and Fernandinos) and Río Muni (Fang) and languages associated with these groups are commonly spoken.

Equatorial Guinea has a literacy rate of 78.5 percent, much higher than the Sub-Saharan African average of 55 percent. Unfortunately, the economic collapse of the 1970s and 1980s left many workers with little skills and very few individuals with high levels of education. The first university in the country was established in 1999 and prior to that very few individuals could afford to study at overseas universities.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

The economic mismanagement of the rule of Francisco Macias Nguema left the economy of Equatorial Guinea in very sad shape by the 1990s. Commercial cocoa production was essentially destroyed and most families in rural areas survived through subsistence farming and through the relatively high levels of foreign aid. But many charities and international lending agencies have ceased providing new funds to the country due to the high level of corruption. With little manufacturing, forestry has been one of the few promising industries which thrived in the early and mid-1990s.

The country is rich in natural resources, specifically oil, gold, titanium, iron ore, manganese, and uranium, although the country has been slow to exploit them. Specifically, the country has only just begun to produce and export oil after finding enormous deposits off Bioko Island in 1991. These oil deposits have attracted a number of multinational corporations the first significant foreign investments into the country.

Although the discovery of oil can be a blessing to a developing country, the government has recognized some of the problems associated with allowing the economy to be based on oil production and hosted a United Nations Conference concerning the proper governance of such an economy. Besides the obvious potential problems of environmental damage and the difficulty of negotiating with powerful multinational corporations, a number of countries in Africa have recognized the political and economic problems associated with natural resource dependent economies. Economically, reliance on oil makes the economy very susceptible to the extremely volatile oil prices and may lead to the lack of incentive to develop other aspects of the economy such as manufacturing and services. Politically, the profits from natural resources can inspire new levels of corruption in the government, both in filling the pockets of politicians and supporters and in helping the ruling elite to maintain power. The issue of corruption is especially striking in Equatorial Guinea. In 1993 the IMF and World Bank suspended a number of loans and grants due to the discovery of high levels of corruption. Although some of these loans have been reinstated in recent years, levels of corruption have not improved dramatically.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

In the early 1990s a wave of democracy swept through Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and much of the African continent. While hopes were high that democracy would take hold across the globe, many nations made little progress towards real democracy. In many cases the dictators of the former regimes became the central political figures in supposed multi-party democracies. Unfortunately, Equatorial Guinea was one of these countries.

After the Spanish departed in 1968 and made way for Equatorial Guinean independence, the country suffered harsh political and economic times. The country was ruled by Francisco Macias Nguema, who quickly established a one-party state. Nguema contained any possible opposition, declaring himself president for life and the "Unique Miracle of Equatorial Guinea." Nguema cut off ties to the West and aligned the country with the socialist bloc countries.

The Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), the country's only political party prior to 1991, was created by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo after a successful coup in 1979. After the brutal Nguema regime, internal and external pressure forced the ruling elite to reform the constitution and hold democratic elections. Even after a movement towards multi-party democracy along with much of Africa in the early 1990s, the PDGE remained the central political party, retaining the vast majority of parliamentary seats and Obiang the powerful presidency. In the 1999 elections, the PDGE won over 80 percent of the vote and gained 75 out of the 80 seats in the parliament.

Outside of the formal systems of political parties, clan networks complicate the transition to democratic rule. Some groups, such as the minority Bubi population, have been all but left out of politics. These marginalized groups have become more active in recent years. The militant Movimiento para la Autodeterminacion de la Isla de Bioko (MAIB), for example, has been accused of attacking government installations throughout the country.

Obiang's rule continues to be centered on personality, not ideology. Obiang and the PDGE have maintained tight control over the economy, although they have begun to allow higher levels of international investment.

Equatorial Guinea has been a target of human rights activists in recent years. The current regime has been accused of harassing political opponents, limiting freedom of expression, limiting the development of new political parties, and inhumane conditions in the country's prisons. In 1999 Amnesty International, an international human rights organization, issued reports on the arrest of 3 citizens for "insults against the government and the Armed Forces" stemming from their activities with Amnesty International and their attempt to establish a political party.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

Fueled by both the revenues from natural resources and the increased demands for power, roads, and harbors to continue the production of natural resources, the country has made large improvements in the vastly underdeveloped infrastructure . This includes upgrading the port at Luba, the airport at Malabo, and many roads linking major cities. The telecommunications revolution has

Communications
Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Equatorial Guinea 4,000 (1996) N/A AM 0; FM 2; shortwave 4 180,000 1 4,000 1 500
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Nigeria 500,000 (2000) 26,700 AM 82; FM 35; shortwave 11 23.5 M 2 (1999) 6.9 M 11 100,000
Cameroon 75,000 4,200 AM 11; FM 8; shortwave 3 2.27M 1 (1998) 450,000 1 20,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

slowly been introduced with a new digital network, public phone booths, a cellular system, and even some limited Internet access.

Most of the country's power is generated by a number of oil-fired power plants and a few large dams. The country's power generation capacity will be doubled when a new gas-fired power plant is completed on Bioko. The gas for this power station will be supplied domestically.

These investments in infrastructure have helped increase the attractiveness of the country to foreign investors and have a positive impact on economic development. Unfortunately, the prior political regime left the country's infrastructure in a horrible state. Even with these vast improvements, the lack of developed infrastructure is still a major hindrance to economic development. The country currently has no rail system, few paved roads, and an inefficient communications system. Especially troubling is the lack of physical infrastructure in rural areas.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

The oil industry dominates all economic activity in Equatorial Guinea. The oil industry draws most the country's foreign investment, provides most of the exports, and provides the central government with a tremendous amount of revenue. Unfortunately, this industry has not provided a significant amount of jobs. Most citizens survive through subsistence agricultural production on small family plots.

In recent years the timber industry has played more of an important role in the economy and has contributed to country exports, mostly to Asia. Cocoa and coffee production, once the mainstay of the economy, has declined in importance since the 1970s. Today this sector plays a very small role in the economy. The manufacturing and service sectors also have very little impact on the national economy and provide very few jobs.

AGRICULTURE

Although agriculture employs the majority of the population, it contributed to less than 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1998. Most agricultural production is done through subsistence farming. Only a few cocoa and coffee plantations produce agricultural products for sale on the open market. The only efficient agricultural sector is the production and export of timber and timber products. Unfortunately, many environmentalists believe that the level of production may be unsustainable.

COCOA AND COFFEE.

The once thriving cocoa and coffee industry were devastated by years of economic mismanagement under authoritarian rule. Cocoa and coffee production in 1969 stood at an impressive 36,161 tons and 7,664 tons, respectively. By the mid-1990s cocoa production had plummeted to less than 3,000 tons (1993) and coffee production to under 200 tons (1996). Obscured in these numbers is the decline in the quality of the products, which has been especially glaring in the quality of cocoa. With only a few large and inefficient plantations still producing coffee and cocoa, coupled with declining cocoa prices due to the European Union's (EU) loosening of regulations on the percentage of cocoa needed for chocolate production, the future of these 2 industries is bleak.

TIMBER.

Timber exports have been increasing rapidly in recent years due to government promotion of the industry and available capital from oil revenues. By 1997 trade in tropical wood exports alone amounted to almost 6 percent of GDP. The economic success of this industry has been a mixed blessing, increasing economic growth and employment, but threatening serious environmental damage. While environmentalists have become increasingly active on this issue, the most serious challenge to this industry remains the weakening of markets in Asia due to the recent financial crisis. This crisis has both reduced exports to the region and, with the weakening of the Asian currencies, has been followed by a drop in the price of timber from other exports in Asia. The Economist Intelligence Unit argues that the competition from Asian timber exports was felt as early as 1998, decreasing sales substantially. Even with this competition, the recent investments in infrastructure (especially the roads and port systems) may greatly help the timber industry.

FISHING.

The small island of Annabón is situated in the midst of one of the richest fishing areas in the Atlantic Ocean. The 300,000-square-kilometer area around the island is an exclusive maritime fishing zone, although the government of Equatorial Guinea has granted concession to the EU for the use of this zone. Few reliable figures exist on the size of current production, but it is clear that the rich fishing waters offer a substantial opportunity for the development of a large domestic fishing industry.

INDUSTRY

MANUFACTURING.

The manufacturing industry of Equatorial Guinea contributes only a 0.6 percent of GDP. Manufacturing is limited to the mainland processing of timber and a water-bottling plant at Bata. The Economist Intelligence Unit paints a gloomy picture for the prospects of developing a manufacturing industry: "Despite the high overall growth rates, the lack of skills and capital, the small size of the local market, and the weakness of national infrastructure make any significant growth in the manufacturing sector unlikely."

OIL.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the economy of Equatorial Guinea was fueled by international aid; it is now fueled by oil. The country has emerged as the sixth largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, an amazing feat for such a small country. This sector has attracted a number of significant international investments. These investments have ranged from a joint-venture between local producers and a U.S. partner to produce diesel and methane gas, to contracts for foreign firms to explore for oil offshore, to the pumping of crude oil from existing oil deposits. Oil remains the largest export and is the potential key to further economic development. Profits from the oil industry have been used for the upgrading of the country's infrastructure.

MINING.

The country is believed to have large deposits of gold, diamonds, uranium, bauxite, iron ore, titanium, manganese, and copper. Little domestic production has occurred in this sector, but new mining codes were issued in 1995 to attract investments in the sector. Efforts to negotiate mining contracts with multinational corporations has been much more complex than expected. The lack of infrastructure, less severe for the development of oil resources, is especially damaging to this sector due to the need to ship produces through rural areas to coastal ports. At the very least, the mining sector will take years to develop.

SERVICES

TOURISM.

The pristine environment and rare animals offer the country a tremendous amount of potential for tourism. To date, tourism has made very little contribution to the local economy, although investments in infrastructure and the recent establishment of Mt. Alen National Park may help attract tourists. The recent construction of a number of hotels in Malabo offers some sign of the future significance of tourism to the economy.

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Equatorial Guinea
Exports Imports
1975 .026 .020
1980 .014 .026
1985 .017 .020
1990 .062 .061
1995 .086 .050
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

The international trade position of the country has improved dramatically. Prior to the discovery of oil, exports were dominated by agricultural production, which declined dramatically under the period of authoritarian rule. The trade balance in the late 1980s and early 1990s was in constant deficit, only to improve with the explosion of oil production in the early 1980s. With a depreciation of the CFA Fr, the price of timber from Equatorial Guinea is less expensive relative to timber from other countries. This depreciation has led to a dramatic increase in timber exports. These 2 industries propelled the country into a surplus in the mid-1990s.

With no real manufacturing base, almost every manufactured good has to be imported. The increased activity in the oil sector has led to a surge in imports to service this industry's needs.

The country's main trading partner is the United States, consuming 62 percent of the country's exports and providing 35 percent of the imports. France, Spain, China, Cameroon, and the United Kingdom are also important trading partners.

MONEY

In 1985 the country abandoned the national currency, the bikwele, and joined a number of former French colonies in pegging their own national currencies to the French franc and adopting the CFA Fr. The CFA Fr is supported by the French Treasury and is fully convertible. With this financial arrangement and the competent monetary policy of the regional central bank, the Bank of the Central African States, Equatorial Guinea has greatly helped reduce the levels of inflation from almost 40 percent in 1994 to a range of 6 to 12 percent in 1994-1999. Given the extremely fast economic growth of almost 20 percent in recent years, this inflation-fighting performance is impressive.

Exchange rates: Equatorial Guinea
Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (CFA Fr) per US$1
Jan 2001 699.21
2000 711.98
1999 615.70
1998 589.95
1997 583.67
1996 511.55
Note: From January 1, 1999, the CFA Fr is pegged to the euro at a rate of 655.957 CFA Fr per euro.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

Attempts to establish a commercial banking sector following the 1979 coup failed miserably. Only the Banque centrale des Etats de l'Afrique centrale (BEAC) offers commercial financial services, although there are some prospects for new entrants in the commercial center of Malabo.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

Even though Equatorial Guinea is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, with GDP per capita estimated at more than US$2,000 in 1999, the bulk of the citizenry lives in poverty. Official unemployment stands at almost 30 percent, and the government's social safety net does not adequately provide for the unemployed. The massive economic growth rates have been fueled by the production of oil offshore, an industry that has not substantially increased the number of jobs in the country. Timber, on the other hand, has made some contribution to increasing living standards, although this industry currently remains too small to make a significant contribution to the average worker's standard of living. The bulk of the population remains poor and makes a living off subsistence farming. The majority of Equatorial Guineans live without electricity, basic education, adequate health care, or safe drinking water.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Equatorial Guinea N/A N/A 352 333 1,049
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
Cameroon 616 730 990 764 646
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

WORKING CONDITIONS

Few studies have examined the working conditions in rural areas. Most people work on small farms for family consumption. Hours can be long and conditions can be harsh due to the lack of advanced farming equipment and farming techniques.

The United States Department of State Human Rights Report (1999) argues that working conditions for employees are substandard in Equatorial Guinea. The current minimum wage, roughly equivalent to US$41 a month does not provide for a sufficient standard of living for families. Labor standards, while officially codified into law, are seldom enforced. Laws declare women to have the same rights as men, but discrimination continues.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1963. Provinces of Fernando Po (Bioko Island) and Río Muni (3 small islands and the mainland) are joined under Spanish rule.

1968. Country gains independence from Spain.

1979. Macias is overthrown by Brigadier-General Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in a violent coup.

1985. Country joins the Franc Zone.

1991. Obiang declares the end of one-party rule.

1991. Large oil and natural gas deposits are discovered.

1994. Investment by Mobil in the oil sector is followed by a number of multinationals over the next couple of years.

1996. Multi-party elections in 1996 are won by Obiang with 98 percent of the vote. This election is widely contested as unfair.

1997. French becomes second official language.

1997. The government claims an attempted coup in May and doubles the size of the military to 2,000.

1998. Attacks on government installations in January. Government blames a militant group for the attacks.

1999. The ruling PDGE increases its majority in parliament.

1999. Border dispute with Sao Tomé and Príncipe is settled by negotiation.

1999. First university established.

FUTURE TRENDS

The future is mixed for the country and the people of Equatorial Guinea. The aggregate growth prospects for the economy remain fairly bright, with high levels of economic growth being forecast for the future. These growth forecasts are dependent on the recent high prices of oil, which historically have been subject to tremendous price fluctuations. A drop in world oil prices could be disastrous for these future growth prospects.

Perhaps even more troubling is the uneven level of development in the country. While the oil sector has been booming in recent years, the bulk of the population remains dependent on subsistence farming for their livelihood. This large part of the population has been relatively untouched by recent economic successes and most likely would be untouched by further economic growth fueled by the oil sector.

On the positive side, Equatorial Guinea has shown some ability to develop the timber industry and has great potential for development in the mining and tourism sectors. The challenge for the country is to find the means to further develop these sectors.

In recent years the country has made some progress in investing in telecommunications, roads, and rail systems. This is one means of using the government revenues from the economic boom in the oil sector to finance economic development in other parts of the country. While this exhibits some positive signs, much more needs to be done.

In many ways, Equatorial Guinea suffers from the same problems as many other African countries. The country is rich in natural resources, yet poor in essentially all other aspects of economic development. The problems ahead will revolve around issues of how to use these resources to stimulate even economic development.

DEPENDENCIES

Equatorial Guinea has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Amnesty International. "Equatorial Guinea. No Free Flow of Information. June 2000." <http://www.amnesty.it/ailib/aipub/2000/AFR/12400400.htm>. Accessed February 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Ghana, Equatorial Guinea. London: EIU, 2000.

Energy Information Agency. "Country Analysis Briefs:Equatorial Guinea October 2000." <http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/eqguinea.html>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. "CIA World Factbook 2000: Equatorial Guinea." <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ek.html>. Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Department of State. "1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Equatorial Guinea." <http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/eqguinea.html>. Accessed February 2001.

Nathan Jensen

CAPITAL:

Malabo.

MONETARY UNIT:

Communauté Financiére Africaine franc (CFA Fr). One CFA Fr equals 100 centimes. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA Fr and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA Fr. [The country is part of the "Franc Zone," which includes a number of former French colonies in Africa that share a common currency that is pegged to the French franc. The Communauté Financiére Africaine franc was introduced in 1985.]

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Petroleum, timber, cocoa.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Petroleum, manufactured goods, and equipment.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$960 million (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$555 million(f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$300 million (f.o.b., 1999).

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Equatorial Guinea

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Republic of Equatorial Guinea

Major City:
Malabo

INTRODUCTION

EQUATORIAL GUINEA is a small West-Central African country divided into a mainland region and an island region. People of Equatorial Guinea are warm and friendly. The country has a variety of landscapes from pristine white sand beaches to Vermont-like hills on the continent. Equatorial Guinea is a new country and inhabitants are striving to build a stable nation.

MAJOR CITY

Malabo

The capital of Malabo is a picturesque, small city of 30,000 inhabitants. Spanish architecture predominates, with a lovely view of the ocean from many of the houses. It is a quiet city, with little traffic, and streets which are nearly deserted during the afternoon.

The pace of life is slow, and people seem to have the luxury of being unhurried and able to relax. Malabo is in the process of reconstruction and renovation. Many new houses are under construction but many old houses are falling apart.

A feeling of isolation exists in this small city as well as the inconvenience of not being able to procure many usual and essential commodities. These inconveniences can be overcome with trips to nearby Douala, Cameroon, to make necessary purchases and to enjoy a more varied social life.

Recreation

Swimming may be enjoyed at any of the several scenic beaches along the coast between Malabo and Luba. A good four-wheel-drive vehicle is needed to get to the better beaches. Snorkeling, boating, and fishing are also common pastimes. The continent also has lovely beaches. The water temperature is always pleasant. Soccer is the most popular local sport. Hunters will not find big game on the island.

Mount Malabo National Park affords a panoramic view of the island and Gulf of Guinea on a clear day. A road goes to the top of the mountain, but permission to go there must be granted by the Government. This can take several weeks. The road along the northern half of Bioko Island is also interesting. It goes by many cocoa plantations, small villages, a large palm plantation, a suspension bridge, and many scenic views of the ocean. The town of Moka is high in the mountains of Bioko Island, and has an Alpine atmosphere. During the growing season, vegetables are available there and local guides can be found for hikes to the volcanic crater lakes. The beaches are the most popular places for foreigners during the weekend. All are within a one-hour drive from Malabo. Insects may make the beaches unpleasant.

It is not possible to take organized tours of the Continental region. The only hotel is in Bata, but the people in the interior have been hospitable to those traveling through. For the more adventuresome, the national ship and private ships make trips to the small island of Annobon. It is a three-day voyage, round trip, with a stay of five to six days on the island. The island is very much a culture in itself, as no currency is used there. There are no hotels, but the people are hospitable and welcome such items as soap, batteries, or garden seeds in exchange for lodging.

It is also possible to tour parts of Cameroon and Gabon while living in Equatorial Guinea.

Entertainment

The Spanish-Guinean Cultural Center in Malabo has art exhibits, movies, programs, and free language instruction for the public. A local movie theater operates and, on special occasions, the theater may be used for other programs. Malabo has some very lively discos and late evening restaurants. Traditional Guinean dancers often perform on local holidays.

Life in Malabo is informal. The small size of the foreign community makes it easy to get acquainted. Spanish is normally spoken at social events with Guineans and Europeans. Social activities usually include private parties or viewing videotaped movies. A person's social life can be active or quiet, depending on personal preference.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is located in west central Africa and consists of two distinct provinces. The first province is Bioko Island. It is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, about 20 miles west of Cameroon. Rio Muni is a province on the African mainland and is bordered on the north by Cameroon, on the east and south by Gabon, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The provinces of Equatorial Guinea comprise a combined area of 10,832 square miles, slightly larger than Maryland. Bioko Island is a boot-shaped island formed from three extinct volcanoes. Southern parts of the island are steep, rocky and generally undeveloped. In the north, the terrain is less rugged and very fertile due to the presence of volcanic soil deposits. The topography of Rio Muni consists mostly of jungle with a coastal plain rising steeply toward the Gabon border. Interior portions of Rio Muni exhibit a series of valleys separated by low hills. The province is virtually cut in half by the Mbini River. Except for a 12-mile section, the Mbini is unnavigable.

Equatorial Guinea exhibits a tropical climate. Rainfall is very heavy, especially on Bioko. February through March, however, is usually dry. Humidity and temperatures are high throughout the year, although Rio Muni tends to be drier and cooler than Bioko. Equatorial Guinea periodically experiences violent windstorms.

Population

The estimated population of Equatorial Guinea was approximately 477,800 in 2000. Most Equatorial Guineans are of Bantu origin. The mainland province of Rio Muni has 75 percent of the population. Approximately 90 percent of the province's inhabitants are from the Fang tribe, which is comprised of about 67 clans. Small tribes of Bujebas, Balengues, Ndowes, and Bengas live in coastal areas of Rio Muni.

Nearly 60 percent of Bioko Island's population are from the Bubi ethnic group. Small groups of Fang and Fernandinos, a small Creole community, reside on Bioko.

Prior to 1968, Equatorial Guinea had a large contingent of foreign residents. Many foreigners fled during the brutal Macias regime and did not return. Today, less than 1,000 europeans and a few hundred other foreigners live and work in Equatorial Guinea. Most europeans are from Spain, but other foreigners are from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, and Gabon.

Spanish is the country's official language, although Fang and Bubi dialects are also spoken. The vast majority of the population are Roman Catholic. Traditional native religions are also practiced.

In 2001, estimated life expectancy at birth was 53 years for males, 56 years for females.

History

Until the mid-20th century, the provinces of Bioko and Rio Muni had separate histories. Bioko was discovered by the Portuguese explorer, Fernando Po. The Portuguese maintained control of Bioko Island, formerly known as Fernando Po, until 1778. In that year, Portugal ceded Bioko and Rio Muni to Spain in exchange for Spanish territory in South America.

During the early 1900s, Bioko Island was used by the Spaniards as a trading center and a transfer point for slaves to North and South America. Also, the Spanish established several profitable cocoa plantations. From 1827-1843, Great Britain maintained a naval base on the island. France also established a base there. However, by the late 1800s, the British and French abandoned their positions on Bioko for bases on the African mainland. The Spaniards became the island's primary European inhabitants.

The mainland province of Rio Muni was virtually unexplored until the early 1920s. The Spaniards had expended most of their time and energy developing cocoa plantations and settlements on Bioko. From the 1920s to the 1940s, attempts were made to develop coffee, cocoa, and palm oil plantations in Rio Muni. Also the Spanish government sought to improve health conditions and educational opportunities in the territory.

On July 30, 1959, Spain united the provinces of Bioko and Rio Muni into one colony known as the "Territories of the Gulf of Guinea." Native inhabitants of Rio Muni and Bioko were not pleased and demanded complete independence from Spain. Two political parties, Monalige (Movimiento Nacional de Liberacion de Guinea Ecuatorial) and Idea Popular de Guinea Ecuatorial (IPGE), were created and went into exile in neighboring Cameroon and Gabon. In 1962, representatives of Monalige and the IPGE appeared before the United Nations and presented a series of grievances against Spain's colonial rule. The Spaniards denounced the two groups as communist agitators. However, in an attempt to obtain international support, Spain enacted the Basic Law in December 1963. The Basic Law granted limited self-government to non-European persons in Bioko and Rio Muni. Also, the country's official name was changed to Equatorial Guinea. Despite these changes, Spain's colonial rule of Equatorial Guinea was nearing its end.

In March 1968, after intense pressure from Monalige, IPGE and the United Nations, Spain announced that it would grant independence to Equatorial Guinea. A convention was held with representatives from the Spanish government and the two opposition parties attending. The delegates, after a series of lengthy negotiations, drafted and approved a constitution. The constitution stated that Equatorial Guinea would be an independent and democratic republic. Presidential elections were held in September 1968. Francisco Macias Nguema defeated Bonofacio Ondo Edu and three other candidates. On October 12, 1968, Equatorial Guinea was granted complete independence from Spain.

Equatorial Guinea's experiment with democracy proved to be short-lived. Shortly after independence, President Macias began to dismantle the country's democratic constitution and instituted a brutal dictatorship. In 1970, Monalige, IPGE and other political parties were banned. In their place, Macias created the Partido Unico Nacional de los Trabajadores (PUNT). PUNT became the country's only legal party and all members were fanatically loyal to Macias. To enforce his policies, Macias established a vicious paramilitary organization. This group, the Juventad en Marcha con Macias, hunted down and executed all suspected political opponents and quelled public dissent. In 1972, Macias named himself President-for-Life. The democratic constitution was formally abolished in 1973 and a new authoritarian constitution enacted. Equatorial Guinea had been plunged into a period of terror and bloodshed.

From 1969-79, the Macias dictatorship was one of the most brutal in the world. Intellectuals, political opponents and their families were ruthlessly hunted down, tortured and executed. Macias suppressed all religious freedom and education was abolished. Up to one-third of the country's 300,000 people were murdered or fled into exile. As skilled citizens and foreigners were killed or left Equatorial Guinea, the country's transportation, health, sanitation, electrical and water systems were devastated by neglect and mismanagement. Macias' reign of terror was finally ended after he was overthrown in a military coup by his nephew, Lt. Col. Obiang Nguema, in August 1979. Macias was captured and executed after a trial supervised by international observers.

Upon coming to power in 1979, Obiang Nguema sought to repair some of the damaged caused by the Macias regime. He released political prisoners and reinstated the freedom of religion and education. He also reestablished diplomatic and economic ties with the outside world, especially Spain. The Spaniards responded by sending massive amounts of financial aid to help rebuild Equatorial Guinea's shattered economy. Obiang Nguema transferred broad governmental powers to a group of military officers who called themselves the Supreme Military Council. Obiang Nguema was named president. Much to the dismay of Equatorial Guineans, political opposition parties were not allowed. In April 1981, an attempt to overthrow the government was unsuccessful. Obiang Nguema responded by arresting 150 civilians, including 30 top army officers. Following the coup attempt, Obiang Nguema decided to draft a new constitution with the help of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. This constitution, which took effect August 15, 1982, provided for the return of a civilian government after a period of seven years. Obiang Nguema was appointed president for seven more years.

Despite this new constitution, Equatorial Guinea continued to experience political upheaval and repression. Two other military coups were foiled in May 1983 and January 1986. In August 1987, Obiang Nguema authorized the creation of a single government-controlled party, the Democratic Party for Equatorial Guinea (PDGE). This move ended a nine-year ban on political parties and raised the hopes of many that multi-party democracy would be granted soon. In June 1989, the first presidential elections since 1968 were held. Obiang Nguema, running as the sole candidate, received 99 percent of the vote.

To date, Equatorial Guinea remains under the grip of a one-party dictatorship. Although more flexible and less brutal than his predecessor, Obiang Nguema continues to delay the return of true multi-party democracy. In 1990 Amnesty International alleged that prisoners are still being tortured in Equatorial Guinea. Although opposition parties are nominally recognized, they boycotted the November 1993 legislative elections, in which only 20 percent of the electorate voted. Boycotts occurred again in the 1999 legislative elections.

Government

Equatorial Guinea's government is comprised of an executive branch, State Council, and a House of Representatives. The executive branch consists of a president and a prime minister. The president wields tremendous powers. He is granted the ability to create and decree laws, negotiate and ratify treaties, command all military forces, call for elections, and dissolve the House of Representatives. Prime ministers are responsible for all governmental activities apart from foreign affairs and military defense.

The State Council is an 11-member committee which has the power to approve or reject any presidential candidate. Also, the State Council is authorized to control all presidential powers should the president die or become incapacitated.

In 1983, a House of Representatives was created. This 41-member body is elected for a five-year term and convenes twice a year for two-month periods. The House of Representatives serves as an advisor to the State Council and the executive branch.

The flag of Equatorial Guinea consists of three horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red with a blue isosceles triangle on the staff side. In the center of the white band is the country's national emblem. The emblem has six yellow six-pointed stars above a gray shield. Under the shield are the words Unity, Peace, Justice.

Arts, Science, Education

Equatorial Guinea's educational system was nearly destroyed during the Macias dictatorship. The 1982 constitution stated that education must be the country's top priority. All children between the ages of six and 14 are entitled to receive eight years of education at government expense. Primary education begins at age six and lasts for six years. At the age of twelve, students enter another six year period of secondary education. Since 1979, Spain has provided teachers and financial assistance to its former colony.

In 1995, an estimated 79 percent of the population age 15 and over could read and write.

Commerce and Industry

Years of brutal dictatorship, international isolation, and mismanagement virtually destroyed Equatorial Guinea's economy. The country is dependent on economic aid from other countries, especially Spain. Industry has grown in recent years, due primarily to the discovery of significant oil reserves. Equatorial Guinea has deposits of iron ore, manganese, uranium and titanium. However, most of these deposits lie undeveloped. American, French, and Spanish companies are engaged in oil exploration.

Equatorial Guinea's economy is heavily based on agriculture. Coffee and timber are harvested in Rio Muni, while Bioko has several profitable cocoa plantations. Most of the country's coffee, timber, and cocoa are exported to Spain, Italy, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Although Equatorial Guinea produces cassava, yams, rice, bananas and palm nuts, foodstuffs must be imported to meet the country's needs. In addition to food, clothing, transport vehicles, machinery and petroleum products are imported from Spain, Italy, France, Cameroon, and the Netherlands.

Transportation

Bioko has a surfaced road that links Malabo, to the western seaport of Luba and the town of Batete. Malabo is also connected by a surfaced road to Bacake Grande in the east. In Rio Muni, a surfaced road links the seaport towns of Bata and Mbini. Another road connects Bata to the eastern town of Ebebiyin and continues into Gabon. Most other roads are in extremely poor condition and are not considered safe for travel. Few taxis are available, although Bioko has a bus service between the cities of Malabo, Luba, and Riaba.

An international airport is located at Malabo. Equatorial Guinea's national airline went out of business in 1990. Since April 1990, Air Afrique Affaires, a privately owned airline, has taken over the country's international and domestic flights indefinitely. Air Afrique Affaires operates a domestic flight between Bata and Malabo. Weekly flights are available to Nigeria, Gabon, and Cameroon.

There is no rail transportation in Equatorial Guinea, although a weekly boat service between Bata and Malabo is available. The country's deep-water ports are located at Malabo, Luba, and Bata.

Communications

Equatorial Guinea has three radio stations, all of which are government-owned. Africa 2000 broadcasts sports and cultural programs in Spanish. Radio Ecuatorial Bata is a commercial station that broadcasts in Spanish and French. Radio Malabo broadcasts programs in Spanish, French, and local African languages. There is a small television station in Malabo, although service is extremely limited.

Two newspapers are published in Equatorial Guinea. Poto Poto is printed in Spanish and Fang. Ebano is published in Spanish. Both of these newspapers are available on a regular basis.

Telephone communications are very unreliable and of poor sound quality. The country has limited telex facilities in Malabo and Bata which also serve as an international telegram service. Telegraph rates are very costly.

Clothing and Services

Some fresh tropical fruits (mangoes, pineapple, bananas, papayas), vegetables (tomatoes, lettuce, beans, potatoes, garlic, carrots, greens, onions, cabbage, eggplant, squash), and fresh fish may be purchased in Malabo. Produce is seasonal and is not always available. Many kinds of Western foods are available, but expensive, in Douala, Cameroon, and may be brought back to Malabo. Food in Malabo is often twice as expensive as in either Douala or the U.S. There is little variety and virtually no selection of brands in Equatorial Guinea.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

Equatorial Guinea experienced many years of international isolation, especially during the Macias dictatorship. Consequently, tourism is very undeveloped and most accommodations are rather primitive. Limited hotel space is available in Malabo and Bata. Reservations must be made before arriving in the country. Food is rarely available at the Bata Hotel and, in Malabo, only some of the rooms at the Apartotel Impala are air-conditioned. It is not unusual for electrical service to be interrupted. Therefore, a flashlight, candles and matches are recommended.

Visas must be obtained before entering the country. Two photographs must be submitted to authorities upon arrival. It is important for the traveler to bring extra photographs.

Medical facilities are primitive and there are no dentists or opticians in the country. Cholera and malaria vaccinations are essential while inoculations for typhoid and yellow fever are highly recommended. Malaria suppressants must be taken regularly and travelers should bring a supply of basic medications because Western consumer goods are in short supply. Mold and dampness may exacerbate allergies during the rainy season. Excessive dust in the air during the dry season can aggravate throat or respiratory ailments.

The water in Equatorial Guinea is not safe to drink. Travelers should filter and boil water before drinking, using it for cooking, or making ice. Many travelers bring their own bottled water. All vegetables must be peeled and placed in a disinfecting solution before eating.

Insects abound in Equatorial Guinea. The mosquito is ever present, and 90 percent of the population has malaria. In addition to mosquitoes, there are black flies, house flies, tsetse flies, and "no-seeems" (small, almost invisible biting insects). Cockroaches and rodents frequently appear in houses. Small brownish-green lizards live in the houses and yards and are useful in eating flying insects. There is a fly which lays eggs in wet clothing. The eggs hatch and the worm burrows into a person's skin while the clothing is being worn. All clothing and linens must be thoroughly ironed or dried in dryers after washing.

Diseases endemic to Equatorial Guinea include malaria, measles, tuberculosis, and parasitic diseases. Walking barefoot is not wise as infections and worms are easily contracted. Rabies is present and there is a real danger of measles. American expatriates and travelers have maintained good health by drinking ample amounts of liquids, getting plenty of rest, and eating a well-balanced diet, as well as keeping immunizations up to date.

Western dress predominates. Some clothing is available locally, but quality varies and items sold in stores are not always new. Most American expatriates buy clothes on trips or from mail order catalogs. Dust in the dry season and mud in the rainy season necessitate washable clothing, as there are no dry cleaning facilities available. American men usually wear dress shirts and slacks. Long sleeves may be worn to prevent insect bites. Women need washable dresses, skirts, slacks, and blouses. Girls usually wear dresses. Boys wear shirts and shorts in the city. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are recommended for both boys and girls outside Malabo to prevent insect bites. Many children wear rubber thongs, which are readily available.

The Roman Catholic Church is predominant. In Malabo, the Baptist Church has Sunday services and Sunday school. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church has worship in Spanish in Malabo. A Bahai mission is located in Malabo, and a Presbyterian mission on the continent.

The unit of currency is the Communauté Financière Africaine (CFA) franc.

The U.S. Embassy in Equatorial Guinea is located at Calle de Los Ministros, Apdo. 597, Malabo; telephone: 24-06.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan.1 New Year's Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

May 1Labor Day

May 25OAU Day

May/JuneCorpus Christi*

June 5 President Obiang's Birthday

Aug. 3Armed Forces Day

Aug. 15Constitution Day

Oct.12 Independence Day

Nov. 17Feast of Santa Isabel

Dec. 8 Immaculate Conception

Dec. 10 Human rights Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

*variable

RECOMMENDED READING

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Decalo, Samuel. Psychoses of Power. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1989.

Equatorial Guinea. Let's Visit Places & Peoples of the World. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.

Fegley, Randall. Equatorial Guinea: An African Tragedy. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1989.

Klitgaard, Robert. Tropical Gangsters: Development & Decadence in Deepest Africa. New York: Basic Books, 1990.

Liniger-Goumaz, Max. Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea. 2nd ed. African Historical Dictionaries Series, no. 21. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1988.

Sundiata, Ibrahim K. Equatorial Guinea. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990.

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Equatorial Guinea
Region: Africa
Population: 474,214
Language(s): Spanish, French, pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo
Literacy Rate: 78.5%



History & Background

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is a small West African country that consists of Rio Muni and the five small islands of Bioko, Corisco, Great Elobey, Little Elobey, and Annobon. Its total area is approximately 10,831 square miles (28,052 square kilometers). Equatorial Guinea is a very fragmented country that suffers from internal differences and an unstable economy, both of which are in part attributable to its geographic separation from the other countries of Africa.

The Portuguese first explored Equatorial Guinea some time between 1472 and 1475. Because of the Treaty of Tordesillas (June 7, 1494) the Portuguese maintained control over Equatorial Guinea until 1778, when Spain took control of the colony. Spanish control of Equatorial Guinea was intended to give Spain a direct source of slave labor to use as needed in Spanish America. No occupation of mainland Equatorial Guinea took place at this time, however, as the Spanish left the island of Bioko (then Fernando Po) after a widespread yellow fever epidemic.

From 1827 to 1843 the British leased spaces at Port Clarence (later Santa Isabel, now Malabo) on Fernando Po to use as a base to regulate the abolition of the slave trade. In 1839 the first known school was established in Clarence City with 120 children. Because there was no Spanish administration in the area, the British administered the island and made Spain several offers to buy the island from them. All of these offers were denied, and the British left Fernando Po in 1843 after selling their buildings to a Baptist mission. A second school was established on Santa Isabel by Baptist missionaries some time between 1840 and 1858 (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).

The Baptist missionaries were forced off of the island of Fernando Po in 1858, and a group of Jesuits established themselves there. The Jesuits also opened a school in Santa Isabel, but the revolution in Spain of 1858 put an end to these efforts. In 1870 Primitive Methodists also opened a school, and between 1876 to 1877 an additional school was established and later directed by a Cuban, following the Spanish decision of 1879 to use the island as a penal settlement for Cubans (Liniger-Goumaz 2000). This school, along with the school established by the Methodists, was suppressed following the arrival of many Claretians, members of the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which was founded in Spain in 1849. In addition, the American Presbytery Missionary operated schools in Corisco and Rio Benito from the nineteenth century. At the beginning of the twentieth century a school was opened in Bata for 180 boys and girls by the French Fathers of the Holy Spirit (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).


Constitutional & Legal Foundations


After the Spanish-American War, which ended in 1898, Spanish Guinea became Spain's only significant tropical colony. It was around this period that the economic development of Spanish Guinea began, although for the most part it was concentrated on the richer island of Fernando Po. The Spanish budget law of 1902 provided for the creation of undenominational schools. This project lasted until 1909 and was restarted in 1922. In 1914 the Escuela Externa (secondary school for day students only) was founded in Santa Isabel, and in 1927 a school was opened in Evinayong. Vocational schools were also begun in 1931, the first of which was in Santa Isabel (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).

Despite this progress in the field of education, it was only following the Spanish Civil War, from 1936 to 1939, that mainland Spanish Guinea began to receive broad educational consideration from Spain. In August of 1943 the Guinean school system was organized and provided for the following stages: elementary and preparatory education, primary education, lower secondary education, higher vocational education for schoolteachers and administrators, technical and agricultural education, and complementary schooling for male and female natives (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).

In 1959 the status of Spanish Guinea was changed when it was divided into two overseas provinces of Spain. Each province was placed under the control of a civil governor. Under this new system, all citizens, including the Africans, were granted the same rights as those exercised by citizens of Spain. The free elementary education established under Spanish rule was designed to teach the Spanish language and to guarantee patriotic and moral education (Liniger-Goumaz 2000). Even under this system, however, most children did not go beyond elementary school and most teachers were vastly under-qualified.

In 1963 the two provinces came to be known as Equatorial Guinea after a measure that agreed on economic and administrative autonomy was adopted by plebiscite (common vote). Then, on October 12, 1968, Equatorial Guinea gained independence from Spain, after ratifying a constitution on August 11, 1968. At the time of independence, 185 primary and elementary schools existed, with approximately 48,000 students (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).

The first president of Equatorial Guinea following independence was Francisco Macias Nguema. He was elected in 1971 and, following the election, was successful in passing through a constitution that named him president for life. His rule was marked by many arrests and executions, and during his rule the economy in Equatorial Guinea experienced rapid decline.

Macias maintained power until 1976, when he was overthrown by his nephew, Colonel Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. In 1982, a new, more liberal constitution was approved. Presidential elections were held in early 1996 and President Obiang was re-elected to a seven-year term, winning over 97 percent of the vote. The president's party also won the legislative election held in March 1999, although most international observers agree that the elections were fraudulent.


Educational SystemOverview


In 1971, UNESCO inaugurated the Centro de Desarrollo de la Education (CDE) with the mandate to train high school teachers. The project was halted after just a few years by President Macias, however, who was anxious to put an end to anything that threatened his power and that he deemed "intellectual." During President Macias' term in office, the educational system in Equatorial Guinea experienced severe setbacks. Teachers, students, and parents were arrested and, in some cases, several ministers of education and other education officials were executed, arrested, or detained. Beginning in April of 1972 military education became a requirement in all schools, and in April of 1975 political instruction also became mandatory. By 1972 there were 360 primary schools with 578 teachers for 35,902 students. At that time, the teacher-student ratio was 1 to 62 (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).

Following the palace revolution of 1979, the educational system in Equatorial Guinea slowly recommenced operation. Despite assistance from Spain, France, the United Nations, and the World Bank in the forms of textbooks, teachers, and training, the educational system in Equatorial Guinea remains severely hampered by a lack of trained and qualified staff.


Compulsory Education: Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 18, although it is widely accepted that the government does not enforce the laws concerning compulsory education. It is estimated that only about 79 percent of children actually attend primary school and that only 69 percent of children progress to receive secondary education. Both the primary and secondary levels consist of six years of schooling. The dropout level is very in high in Equatorial Guinea. Illiteracy rates (for 1999) for adult males age 15 and above are estimated at 8 percent while the rate of illiteracy for women age 15 and above is 27 percent (World Bank 1999).

There is rampant discrimination again women in the education system of Equatorial Guinea, as women tend to be constrained by traditional customs reinforcing their secondary social status. It is estimated that the average woman receives only one-fifth the amount of schooling that the average male receives. In addition, there is no national legislation for the protection of children's rights, so discrimination and truancy are overlooked by the state (U.S. Department of State 1999).

Because of the relatively poor conditions of most public schools in Equatorial Guinea, private schools are becoming increasingly more common, although problems still persist with resources and with adequate funding (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).


Higher Education

Higher education facilities are provided mainly through Spanish assistance via the Spanish National University of Distant Education; locations are in the principal cities of Bata and Malabo. Some students who reach the university level also go abroad to study, primarily in Spain and France. In addition, there are five institutions of higher learning in Equatorial Guinea: the National Institute for Health (Bata), the National Institute for Public Administration (ENAP), the National Institute for Agriculture (ENAM), the Santa Isabel and Bata Institutes for Teachers' Training, and the National Centre for Proficiency in Teaching (CENAFOD), financed by UNESCO (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).


Teaching Profession

Teachers in Equatorial Guinea face many challenges, especially their own lack of qualifications. In addition, they are faced with crumbling school buildings, very high student-teacher ratios, and a lack of blackboards, books, and materials. Teachers also face political constraints imposed on them by the Obiang regime and are subject to arrests should they act in ways that are perceived as threats to the regime (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).


Summary

The educational system in Equatorial Guinea faces many challenges: the lack of facilities and textbooks, the lack of adequate training for teachers, the centralist control of the curriculum by the state and the bureaucracy, the inability of officials to devise effective long-term educational policies, and an overall lack of funding (Liniger-Goumaz 2000). These problems are all very severe in Equatorial Guinea and must be addressed comprehensively in order to combat educational deficiencies.

Oil was discovered in 1996 off the shores of Equatorial Guinea. Mobil Corporation is the principal oil company involved in Equatorial Guinea, producing 90 percent of the country's oil wealth. Since this discovery of oil, Mobil Corporation has given aid to the government, particularly to be used to improve the educational system. Corruption is a problem in Equatorial Guinea, however; it is very uncertain to what extent profits from the oil reserves will ever reach the population for improving living conditions and the educational system. Because of the lack of transparency within the public finance sectors of the government, it is difficult for the citizens of Equatorial Guinea to hold their government accountable for changes in incomes and expenditures (World Bank 2000). Now that the country has oil wealth, however, Equatorial Guinea also has the potential to choose a developmental strategy that will allow it to grow and prosper.

Bibliography

The Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 2 March 2001. Available from http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/.

Liniger-Goumaz, Max. Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea, 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Strieker, Gary. Oil Brings Promise of Change to Troubled Equatorial Guinea. CNN World News, 29 May 1997. Available from http://www.cnn.com/.

U.S. Department of State. Equatorial Guinea Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 26 February 1999. Available from http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/.

World Bank. World Development Indicators, 3 March 2001. Available from http://devdata.worldbank.org/.

. Equatorial Guinea, September 2000. Available from http://www.worldbank.org/afr/gq2.htm/.


Eleanor G. Morris

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea (gĬn´ē), officially Republic of Equatorial Guinea, republic (2005 est. pop. 536,000), 10,830 sq mi (28,051 sq km), W central Africa. It includes the islands of Bioko (formerly Fernando Po), Annobón, Corisco, Elobey Grande, and Elobey Chico in the Gulf of Guinea, and Río Muni on the African mainland. Río Muni, which includes about 93% of the nation's land area and 75% to 80% of its population, is bordered by Cameroon in the north, by Gabon in the east and south, and by the Gulf of Guinea in the west. Malabo, situated on Bioko, is the capital and largest city, but a new capital, Oyala, is under construction on the mainland. In addition to Malabo, other important cities include Luba (also on Bioko) and Bata and Ebebiyín (in Río Muni).

Land and People

Río Muni, located just north of the equator, is made up of lowland along the coast, which gradually rises in the interior to c.3,600 ft (1,100 m). Río Muni includes three major rivers—the Campo, which forms part of the northern boundary; the Benito, located in the center; and the Muni, which forms part of the southern boundary. There are forests of okume, mahogany, and walnut along the coast and the rivers. Bioko is made up of three extinct volcanoes, the loftiest of which is c.9,870 ft (3,010 m) high. The island has abundant fertile volcanic soil. Corisco and the Elobey islands are located near the the Muni estuary.

Most of the people in Equatorial Guinea belong to the Bantu ethnolinguistic group. The main ethnic group in Río Muni, where most of the population lives, is the Fang. The population of Bioko is primarily made up of the Bubi (the oldest of the modern-day inhabitants), descendants of slaves from W Africa liberated by the British in the 19th cent., and Nigerians and Fangs who migrated there in the 20th cent. Spanish and French are the official languages, but Fang, Bubi, and other indigenous languages are widely spoken. The population is nominally Christian and predominantly Roman Catholic; some indigenous religions are practiced.

Economy

Subsistence farming is the predominant occupation in Equatorial Guinea, although only 5% of the land is arable. Prior to independence, the money economy was based on the production of cocoa (mostly on Bioko) and coffee and timber (in Río Muni). Following severe deterioration of the rural economy, the government has made efforts to increase production of these products to preindependence levels. Other agricultural products include rice, yams, cassava, bananas, and palm oil. Livestock are raised and there is a fishing industry. There is food processing, sawmilling, and the manufacture of basic consumer items. The discovery and exploitation of large offshore oil and natural gas deposits increased economic growth beginning in the late 1990s, but the oil and gas revenue, largely lost to government corruption, has not significantly improved the standard of living in the generally improverished nation. The country also has unexploited deposits of titanium, iron ore, manganese, uranium, and gold. Both Río Muni and Bioko have substantial road networks; there are no railroads. Malabo is the main port.

The value of Equatorial Guinea's exports is considerably higher than the cost of its imports. The United States is the country's largest trading partner, followed by China, Spain, Italy, and France. The main exports are petroleum, methanol, timber, and cocoa; the chief imports are petroleum equpment and other machinery, foodstuffs, and beverages. Equatorial Guinea continues to depend heavily on foreign investment.

Government

Equatorial Guinea is governed under the constitution of 1991 as amended. The president, who is head of state, is popularly elected for a seven-year term; a two-term limit was adopted in 2011. The government is headed by a prime minister, who is appointed by the president. The bicameral legislature consists of the 100-seat House of People's Representatives, whose members are elected to serve five-year terms. The Senate (first elected in 2013) has 70 members, 55 of whom are elected; the rest are appointed by the president. Members of the legislature are elected from multimember constituencies on a proportional basis. The legislature has little power, as the constitution vests most authority in the president. Administratively, the country is divided into seven provinces.

History

Before Independence

Bioko was claimed by (and until 1972 named after) Fernão do Po, a Portuguese navigator, in 1472, and Annobón was also claimed. During the 17th cent. the mainland's indigenous pygmy peoples were displaced by other groups, principally the Fang, who now inhabit the area. In 1778, Portugal ceded the islands, and also the commercial rights to a part of the African coast that included present-day Río Muni, to the Spanish. Hoping to export Africans as slaves to their American possessions, the Spanish sent settlers to the islands, but they died of yellow fever, and by 1781 the region was abandoned by the Europeans.

From 1827 to 1843 the British leased bases at Malabo (then called Port Clarence) and San Carlos from Spain for use by their antislavery patrols, and some freed slaves were settled on Bioko (then called Fernando Po). In 1844 the Spanish reacquired Bioko and began to occupy it. In 1879, a Cuban penal settlement was established there, and some of the convicts remained on the island after being released from prison. The general region of Río Muni was awarded to Spain at the Conference of Berlin in 1885, and its boundaries were defined precisely in a treaty with France in 1900. The islands and Río Muni were grouped together as the colony of Spanish Guinea.

Under the Spanish, economic development was largely confined to Bioko, although some measures were taken in Río Muni beginning in the 1940s. By 1960, about 6,000 Europeans (mostly Spanish) were living in the colony, and they controlled the production of cocoa and timber. In 1959 the colony was reorganized into two overseas provinces of Spain, each under a governor. In a further move to assimilate the region to Spain, three Hispano-Guineans were elected to the Spanish Cortes in 1960. However, nationalists were not satisfied with assimilation and demanded independence.

Independence and Beyond

In 1963, Spain granted the country (renamed Equatorial Guinea) a limited amount of autonomy, and on Oct. 12, 1968, it received complete independence. The first president was Francisco Macías Nguema, a Fang from Río Muni. In 1969, there were violent anti-European demonstrations in Río Muni and most Europeans left the country, thus for a time severely dislocating the economy. In 1970 all political parties were merged into the United National party (PUN), headed by Macías Nguema, who in 1972 was appointed president for life. In 1973 a new constitution was adopted that abolished the nation's two semiautonomous provinces and created a unitary state.

Macías Nguema led a dictatorship characterized by campaigns against intellectuals and all those alleged to be plotting the overthrow of the regime; many were imprisoned, killed, or driven into exile. Nigerian migrant workers demanding higher wages were brutally suppressed, straining relations between Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. Relations with Cameroon and Gabon were also strained as refugees fled to those countries. Equatorial Guinea severed its diplomatic ties with Spain in 1977. Spanish plantation owners shut down their operations, foreign investment declined, and the nation suffered a severe drop in population, with some 25,000 to 80,000 of the country's inhabitants estimated to have been killed by the government.

In 1979 the military staged a coup, executing Macías Nguema and installing his nephew, Lt. Col. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, as head of the military and head of state. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo lifted restrictions on the Roman Catholic Church, freed political prisoners, encouraged refugees to return, and restored diplomatic ties with Western nations. Spain and France began to reinvest, and the European Community helped rehabilitate the road system. These efforts met with limited success.

In 1982 a new constitution was approved that called for a more democratic political structure, and a decade later legislation was passed providing for a multiparty democracy. However, by 1993, when legislative elections were held, only one party, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo's Democratic Party for Equatorial Guinea (PDGE), held significant power, and the regime was widely denounced for its continued repression of opposition groups. In the 1996 multiparty presidential elections, which were boycotted by major opposition parties, the president won a landslide victory. In the late 1990s, over 100,000 citizens lived in exile abroad, and there was wide dissatisfaction with the slow pace of reform.

Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was reelected unopposed in 2002 after opposition candidates, expecting fraud, withdrew. In Mar., 2004, the government foiled an apparent coup attempt involving mainly South African mercenaries. British and South African mercenaries convicted (2004, 2008) of involvement in the attempt were pardoned in 2009. The national legislative elections two months later occurred in a climate of intimidation that assured a new total victory for the PDGE and its allies; a similar outcome followed the 2008 and 2013 elections.

When police blamed Cameroonians for armed robberies in late 2007, hundreds of Cameroonians faced harassment in Equatorial Guinea; Equatoguineans in Cameroon were similarly harassed in revenge. There have been attacks against banks and other targets in Equatorial Guinea by gangs operating out of Nigeria's Niger delta region, most notably a Feb., 2009, assault against the presidential palace in Malabo. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was overwhelmingly reelected again in Nov., 2009; the result was denounced by the opposition and international human-rights organizations, who called the election unfair and not credible. Corruption involving the president, his family, and government officials is a significant problem.

Bibliography

See M. Liniger-Goumaz, Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea (1988); I. K. Sundiata, Equatorial Guinea: Colonialism, State Terror, and the Search for Stability (1990); R. Fegley, Equatorial Guinea (1991).

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

Official name : Republic of Equatorial Guinea

Area: 28,051 square kilometers (10,831 miles)

Highest point on mainland: Santa Isabel Peak (Pico Basilé) (3,008 meters/ 9,869 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Eastern, Southern, and Northern

Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: Río Muni: 248 kilometers (154 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest; 167 kilometers (104 miles) from south-southeast to north-northwest; Bioko: 74 kilometers (46 miles) from northeast to southwest; 37 kilometers (23 miles) from southeast to northwest

Land boundaries: 539 kilometers (334 miles) total boundary length; Cameroon 189 kilometers (117 miles); Gabon 350 kilometers (217 miles)

Coastline: 296 kilometers (183 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

Equatorial Guinea is a country in West Africa. The mainland, called Río Muni (or sometimes Rio Mbini), is located south of Cameroon and north of Gabon, with a western coast on the Bight of Biafra in the Atlantic Ocean. The country includes five inhabited islands: Bioko, Annobón, Corisco, and the two Elobey Islands (Islas Elobey): Little Elobey (Elobey Chico) and Great Elobey (Elobey Grande). Annobón is the only part of the country located south of the equator. With a total area of about 28,051 square kilometers (10,831 miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland. The country is divided into seven provinces.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Equatorial Guinea has no other territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

As a result of its location near the equator, Equatorial Guinea has a warm, tropical climate that varies mainly by altitude. At Malabo (the capital city, located on Bioko Island), temperatures range from 16°C (61°F) to 33°C (91°F). In the city of Mbini, the average temperature is about 27°C (80°F).

Annual rainfall varies from 193 centimeters (76 inches) at Malabo to 1,092 centimeters (430 inches) at Ureka. The country often experiences violent windstorms and flash floods.

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

The sandy coastal plain of Río Muni rises to the low hills and spurs of the Crystal Mountains. East of the mountains, most of the country is a large plateau covered by tropical rainforest. The islands are all volcanic in origin.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Seacoast and Undersea Features

The Bight of Biafra separates the mainland from the islands. The Bight is part of the broad Gulf of Guinea, from which the country takes its name. The Gulf is an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Corisco Bay, located at the southernmost point of the coast, receives waters from the Mandiyani, Congüe, Mitong and Untamboni Rivers as they converge into the Muni estuary.

Islands and Archipelagos

The largest island, Bioko, is located 32 kilometers (20 miles) from the coast of Cameroon. It is a volcanic island roughly 2,018 square kilometers (779 square miles) in size. The other islands are also volcanic, but are much smaller than Bioko. For example, Annobón, which is located 350 kilometers (220 miles) from mainland Gabon, is about 18 square kilometers (7 square miles) in size.

Corisco and the Elobey Islands are all located near the southwest coast of Río Muni, off of Corisco Bay. Corisco covers 15 square kilometers (6 square miles) and the Great and Little Elobeys are each about 2.5 square kilometers (1 square mile). Bioko and Annobón are part of the volcanic chain that includes the Cameroon Highlands and stretches into the Atlantic Ocean as far as St. Helena.

Coastal Features

Sandy shores and estuaries make up the coastal mainland. Near Río Muni's southern tip, Cabo San Juan protrudes into the sea to form the Corisco Bay. On Bioko, the coastline is high and rugged in the south but lower and more accessible in the north.

6 INLAND LAKES

Pot Lake (Lago á Pot) on the island of Annobón fills the central crater of the volcano, now inactive, that formed the island.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

The main rivers are the Mbini, the Ntem, and the Muni. The Mbini is the longest river with a length of 248 kilometers (155 miles). It runs east to west, dividing the mainland into two. It is not navigable except for a short stretch of about 20 kilometers (12 miles). The Ntem flows along part of the northern border with Cameroon. The Muni is not really a river at allit is an estuary of several rivers, of which the Utamboni is the most notable. The islands contain several streams and brooks that are mostly filled by rainwater.

8 DESERTS

There are no desert regions in Equatorial Guinea.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

Besides the sandy coastal plains of Rio Muni, there are no other significant plains regions in Equatorial Guinea.

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

Bioko has two large volcanic formations separated by a valley that bisects the island. In the north of the island is Santa Isabel Peak (Pico Basilé). It is the country's highest point and rises to 3,008 meters (9,869 feet). In the south is Gran Caldera, which has an elevation of 2,261 meters (7,416 feet). All of the other islands are also volcanic, but of much lower elevation. There are no active volcanoes in the country.

The Crystal Mountains on the mainland separate the coast from the inland plateau. The highest peaks are Mount Chocolate at 1,100 meters (3,609 feet) and Mount Chime at 1,200 meters (3,937 feet).

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

There are no significant caves or canyons in Equatorial Guinea.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

The tropical rainforest of the plateau region contains at least 140 species of trees, particularly palms and hardwoods.

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

There are no significant man-made structures affecting the geography of Equatorial Guinea.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Fegley, Randall. Equatorial Guinea. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Press, 1991.

Lingier-Goumaz, Max. Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea. 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

World Resources Institute and World Bank. Tropical Forests: A Call for Action. Washington D.C.: World Resources Institute and World Bank, 1985.

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Equatorial Guinea
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 474,214
Language(s): Spanish, French, Pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo
Literacy rate: 78.5%

Background & General Characteristics

In Equatorial Guinea, a limited number of mostly government-controlled media outlets operate in Spanish, French, and local dialects from bases in the island capital, Malabo (Bioko), and the mainland city of Bata (Rio Muni).

Formerly Spanish Guinea, the Republic of Equatorial Guinea (República de Guinea Ecuatorial) is a small coastal country that gained its independence and current name in 1968. Its 1991 constitution was amended in 1995. Mismanagement and questionable elections in the 1990s are parts of a history of national instability.

On World Press Day 2002, the Paris-based group Reporters without Borders listed Minister Teodoro Obiang Nguema among thirty "predators" worldwide whose actions threatened the principle of a free press.

The population, under a half million, is heavily Roman Catholic and forty-seven percent urban; however, Malabo and Bata had fewer than 30,000 residents each in 1995, following the country's financial collapse and the resulting exodus of many Europeans.

Principal languages are Spanish and Frenchboth officialand native dialects including Fang. Pidgin English operates in commerce. In the mid-1990s, the country had the second highest male literacy rate in Africa, following Zimbabwe.

In 1997, after a rift with Madrid, the government ordered state-run media to use French exclusively.

Media Activity

Newspapers that have been published irregularly and in small press runs (of perhaps one or two thousand copies) at Malabo are Ebano and Unidad de la Guinea Ecuatorial, both in Spanish. In Bata, Poto Poto has appeared in Spanish and Fang. The first government-recognized private newspaper, the weekly El Sol, was started in 1994. Spain's Agencia EFE, operating at Malabo, is the only news agency.

Radio Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial (RNGE) supervises broadcasts in Spanish and local languages over two radio stations at Malabo and one at Bata. Televisión Nacional transmits over a single, government-controlled channel at Malabo. In the 1990s a commercial radio network was operating, and cultural broadcasts were produced with Spanish collaboration. In 1995 citizens owned about 170,000 radios and 4,800 television sets.

Statistics for 2000 show one Internet service provider and about five hundred subscribers.

Significant Dates

  • 1994: First government-recognized private newspaper appears.
  • 1997: Government orders state-run media to use French exclusively.
  • 2002: Reporters without Borders calls Guinean minister a "predator" on the press.

Bibliography

Banks, Arthur S., and Thomas C. Muller, ed. Political Handbook of the World, 1999. Binghamton, NY: CSA Publications, 1999.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 7 May 2002. Available from http://www.cia.gov/.

Turner, Barry, Ed. The Statesman's Yearbook: The Politics, Cultures, and Economies of the World, 2000. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2002.

New York: World Almanac Books, 2002.

Roy Neil Graves

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea (formerly Spanish Guinea)

area:

28,050sq km (10,830 sq mi)

population:

465,800

capital (population):

Malabo (112,800)

government:

Multiparty republic (transitional)

ethnic groups:

Fang 83%, Bubi 10%, Ndowe 4%

languages:

Spanish (official)

religions:

Christianity (mainly Roman Catholic) 89%, traditional beliefs 5%

currency:

CFA franc = 100 centimes

Republic in w central Africa, consisting of a mainland territory between Cameroon and Gabon, Mbini (Río Muni), and five islands in the Gulf of Guinea, the largest of which is Bioko (Fernando Póo). The capital is Malabo (Bioko).

Land and climate

Bioko is a volcanic island with fertile soils, and Malabo's harbour is part of a submerged volcano. Bioko is mountainous, rising to 3008m (9869ft), and has heavy rainfall. It has varied vegetation, with grasslands at higher levels. There is a marked dry season from December to February. Mainland Mbini (90% of Equatorial Guinea's land area) consists mainly of hills and plateaux behind the coastal plains. Its main river, the Lolo, rises in Gabon. Mbini has a similar climate to Bioko, though rainfall diminishes inland. Dense rainforest covers most of Mbini.

Economy

Agriculture employs 66% of the workforce. The main food crops are bananas, cassava, and sweet potatoes. The most valuable export crop is cocoa, grown on Bioko. Forestry is important in Mbini. Timber and coffee are also exported. (2000 GDP per capita US$2000).

History and Politics

Portuguese navigators reached the area in early 1471. In 1778, Portugal ceded the islands and commercial mainland rights to Spain. Yellow fever hit Spanish settlers on Bioko, and they withdrew in 1781. In 1827, Spain leased bases on Bioko to Britain, and the British settled some freed slaves. Descendants of these former slaves (Fernandinos) remain on the island. Spain returned to the area in the mid-19th century and began to develop plantations on Bioko. In 1959, Bioko and Mbini became overseas provinces of Spain. They attained a degree of self-government in 1963, and full independence in 1968. In 1979, Colonel Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo deposed the nation's first president, Francisco Macias Nguema, in a military coup. A 1991 referendum voted to set up a multiparty democracy, consisting of the ruling Equatorial Guinea Democratic Party (PDGE) and ten opposition parties. The main parties and most of the electorate boycotted elections in 1993, and the PDGE formed a government. In 1996 elections, again boycotted by most opposition parties, President Obiang claimed 99% of the vote. Human rights organisations accuse his regime of routine arrests and torture of opponents.

Political map

Physical map

Websites

http://www.afrika.no/index/Countries/Equatorial_Guinea/index.html; http://www.africaguide.com/country/eguinea

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

Culture Name

Equatorial Guinean or Equatoguinean

Alternative Names

In Spanish, the official language, the country is called Guinea Ecuatorial

Orientation

Identification. As a Spanish colony, the area was formerly known as Spanish Guinea. There are two main cultural and ethnic traditions: the Fang, on the mainland, and the Bubi, on the island of Bioko.

Location and Geography. Equatorial Guinea is on the west coast of equatorial Africa, bordered by Cameroon to the north and Gabon to the south and east. The country's total area is 10,830 square miles (28,050 square kilometers; slightly smaller than the state of Maryland). This includes the mainland portion (Río Muni), as well as three coastal islets (Corisco, Elobey Grande, and Elobey Chico) and two islands (Bioko and Annobóon). The larger of these is Bioko, formerly known as Fernando Po. It lies 25 miles (40 kilometers) off the coast of Cameroon, across a bay of the Gulf of Guinea known as the Bight of Biafra, to the northwest of the continental portion of the country. In Río Muni, coastal plains rise to hills, and then to plateaus farther inland. Bioko has three extinct volcanic cones, which contain several crater lakes. Mangrove swamps lie along the coast of the island. Río Muni is mainly tropical rain forest and is home to a variety of animals, including gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, leopards, elephants, and crocodiles. However, the wildlife population has suffered greatly as a result of hunting.

Demography. As of 2000, the population is 474,21480 percent of whom live on the mainland, and of that group, 90 percent are Fang. The original inhabitants of Bioko are of a group called Bubi, descendants of mainland Bantu tribes. Bioko also is home to descendants of former slaves who were freed in the nineteenth century. Many Bubi have recently immigrated to the continent, and along with other, smaller Bantu-speaking tribes, comprise the remaining 10 percent of the population in Río Muni. Minority tribes include the Kombe, Balengue, Bujebas, Ibo, and Ibibo. There is a small group of Europeans (fewer than one thousand), most of them Spanish.

Linguistic Affiliation. Spanish and French are the official languages of Equatorial Guinea, although a very small percentage of the population speaks either of them. Pidgin English is also used as a lingua franca, particularly on Bioko. Most people's daily lives are conducted in tribal languages, either Fang, Bubi, or Ibo, all of which are in the Bantu family of languages.

Symbolism. The coat of arms (which is depicted on the flag) has six yellow six-pointed stars, which stand for the mainland and the five islands that comprise the country. It also includes a picture of a silk-cotton tree.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. People of the Pygmy and the Ndowe tribes were the first inhabitants of the area that is today the mainland of Equatorial Guinea. Bantu peoples began to arrive in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, beginning an ongoing history of tribal wars. The Fang, the most prevalent and warlike of these tribes, predominated. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the slave trade by the British, French, and Dutch pushed the Fang inland, away from the coast.

In the thirteenth century, the Bubi settled on the island of Bioko. The Portuguese arrived in the fifteenth century and named the island Fernando Po. This was part of other Portuguese holdings in the Gulf of Guinea, including São Tomé and Príncipe. At the end of the 1700s, Spain acquired a large area of Africa from Portugal in a trade; this area included both Río Muni and Bioko.

Bioko was important as a slave trade center, thanks to flourishing cocoa plantations there, and was one of Spain's most profitable territories in Africa. However, the island was administered by the English from 1827 until 1858, at which point the Spanish takeover became official. Spanish rule of the mainland did not begin officially until 1926, despite their long-standing claim to the area. It was only at this time that they began to expand into the interior of Río Muni, territory previously unexplored by Europeans. When the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939, the Spanish began to invest more in the development of Equatorial Guinea. The country experienced increasing prosperity with the aid of the Spanish government and the Catholic Church. Industry grew, and cocoa and timber contributed to a strong economy.

In 1963 Río Muni and Bioko were officially united as Equatorial Guinea, and Spain granted the country partial autonomy. Independence was declared in 1968. However, when Spain pulled out, they left the country in dire straits; violence and economic upheaval ensued, and the fledgling nation declared a state of emergency. The first president, Macias Nguema, ruled as a dictator for eleven years, outlawing all political parties but his own. In 1972 he declared himself ruler for life, presiding over a regime that killed and tortured thousands of its own citizens. Dissidents were sent to work camps or executed, priests were thrown in jail, and schools and churches were shut down. Journalism was declared a crime punishable by death. During this time, Equatorial Guinea had little contact with the rest of the world. By the time of his ouster and subsequent execution in 1979, Macias had managed to kill or force to flee two-thirds of the population.

The coup in 1979 put in place President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. He is part of the same small Fang subclan as Macias. Today the country is still attempting to rebuild and to establish a degree of political and economic stability. However, its record continues to be marred by human rights abuses. Elections have been held, but there are widespread suspicions of vote-rigging. The first presidential election, held in 1993, saw the arrest and imprisonment of an opposition leader. The government later released him under pressure from a number of Western countries.

National Identity. Equatorial Guineans identify first with their tribe or ethnic group, second with the nation. The current country was formed during Spanish rule, linking the main island of Bioko with the mainland territory, despite the fact that the two were culturally distinct. Since the unification of the two, there has been some intermingling and migration, particularly of mainland Fang to Bubi-inhabited Bioko. The Fang tribe itself is not limited to the Río Muni area, but extends also north into Cameroon and south into Gabon.

Ethnic Relations. Legally there is no discrimination against ethnic or racial minorities, but in practice this is not the case. The Bubi have experienced persecution under the postindependence government. Prior to independence, the group formed a majority on Bioko. However, since 1968, many Fang migrated to the island, and a small subclan, the Mongomo, has dominated the government. There is resentment and violence not only between the Bubi and the Fang but also between the Mongomo and other Fang subgroups. Immigrants from Nigeria, Ghana, and francophone Africa also are victims of discrimination and police harassment.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Thirty-seven percent of the population is urban and 63 percent is rural. On the mainland, the population is dispersed fairly evenly, with the exception of Bata, which is the largest city in the country. Many of its buildings are in the Spanish colonial style and are less than perfectly maintained. Bata is a busy commercial center, with markets, bars, and restaurants. The second-largest town in Río Muni is Ebebiyin in the northeast, near the Cameroon border.

On Bioko, the majority of the population lives in Malabo, which is Equatorial Guinea's capital. The city is fairly clean, and its architecture exhibits Spanish influence. There are shantytowns as well as upper-class neighborhoods, often in close proximity to each other. Luba, with a population of one thousand, is the second-largest town on Bioko.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The main foods are cassava root, bananas, rice, and yams. People supplement their primarily plant-based diet through hunting and fishing. Palm wine and malamba (an alcoholic drink made from sugarcane) are both popular.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Chicken and duck are usually served at special occasions.

Basic Economy. The economy has grown significantly in recent years with the discovery and tapping of oil reserves. Other important contributions to the GDP are forestry, fishing, and farming. Most people support themselves through subsistence farming, growing rice, yams, cassava, bananas, and palm oil nuts. Sixty-six percent of the population works in agriculture, 23 percent in services, and 11 percent in industry.

Land Tenure and Property. Most businesses are owned by government officials and their families.

Commercial Activities. The main goods produced for domestic consumption are agricultural. Bananas, cassava, coconuts, and sweet potatoes are all grown and sold locally. Much local commerce is conducted using the barter system. The country also produces timber and national gas for its own use.

Major Industries. Before independence, Equatorial Guinea's main source of income was cocoa production, but it was grown primarily by Spanish colonists, and with their departure, production fell significantly. Forestry cannot keep pace with its preindependence production rates either, as the departure of the Europeans also meant the departure of funds for the industry. The fishing industry was formerly under the control of the Soviets but is currently being developed by Spain, Nigeria, and Morocco.

Trade. Equatorial Guinea's only exports are petroleum, timber, and cocoa. Its main imports are petroleum and manufactured goods and equipment. The primary trading partners are the United States, Spain, France, China, Cameroon, and the United Kingdom.

Division of Labor. There are few specialized or high-status jobs in Equatorial Guinea. While there is a legal working age of eighteen, this is not enforced, and many children are engaged in farm work and street vending. A significant amount of work is performed by prisoners, who are forced to labor both inside and outside the prisons.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The vast majority of the population is poor. The few positions of higher status are generally held by members of the Fang tribe, in particular the Mongomo subclan that controls the government.

Symbols of Social Stratification. In the cities in particular, Western dress is not uncommon. Poorer or rural people (women especially) are more likely to wear the traditional West African attire of brightly colored patterns.

Political Life

Government. Equatorial Guinea declares itself a multiparty democracy, although in practice it is a dictatorship under the leadership of the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE). The legislature consists of the unicameral House of People's Representatives, a body of eighty elected officials. The president appoints a cabinet. In practice he exercises strong control over all aspects of the government, including the legislative and judiciary branches.

Leadership and Political Officials. The relationship of the people to their government is one of subjugation and fear; the country has no history of democratic processes, as leadership passed from colonial rule to a dictatorship.

Social Problems and Control. The legal system is based on a combination of Spanish law and the tribal system. Violent crime (and even petty theft) is rare compared to rates in other African nations. The government greatly restricts the rights of its citizens. The judicial system does not ensure due process, and prisoners are often tortured. The government has a record of arbitrary arrest, interference with privacy and family, restriction of movement, and lack of freedom of speech, press, and religion, among other abuses.

Military Activity. The military is made up of an army, navy, air force, rapid intervention force, and national police. Males are eligible to serve beginning at age fifteen. The country spends $3 million (U.S.) annually on its military0.6 percent of its total budget. The armed forces also receive aid and training from Spain.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The family is responsible for most forms of social welfare, including caring for elderly and sick members.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

There are nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), mostly affiliated with the church, such as the Catholic Caritas; however, the government has restricted the functioning of NGOs and does not allow them to act in the area of human rights.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Traditional gender roles still hold sway; it is rare to see women employed outside the home in typically male jobs. They are responsible for domestic labor and child care, although rural women also work in agriculture. The lack of women in professional jobs is perpetuated by inequalities in education: The average female receives only one-fifth as much schooling as the average male.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Although legally granted equal rights, women are in many respects considered second-class citizens. Their status is little higher than that of children, and women are expected to defer to men in general, and to their husbands in particular. Violence against women is common, especially spousal abuse. Women have the right to buy and sell goods, but in actuality women own little property.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Polygyny is common among the Fang. Traditionally, upon marriage the husband gives a dowry to the family of the bride. Women generally become part of their husband's family upon marriage. Men often beat their wives, and while public beating is illegal, abuse in the home is not, and there is no mechanism for prosecuting domestic violence. According to the custom of most tribes, if the marriage breaks up, the wife is obligated to return the dowry. Additionally, the husband receives custody of all children born in wedlock. (The woman keeps any children born prior to the marriage.)

Domestic Unit. Extended families often live together. When a couple marries, it is traditional for them to move in with the husband's family.

Inheritance. Tribes follow a custom of primogeniture, passing on inheritance to the oldest male child. Although it is legal for women to inherit property, in actuality this rarely happens.

Kin Groups. The Fang are exogamous (they marry outside the clan), whereas the Bubi are endogamous (they marry within the clan). In ancient times, it was even acceptable for a brother and sister to marry, as long as they did not share the same mother.

Socialization

Child Rearing and Education. Among the most important lessons children are taught is to respect and obey their elders. Formal education is mandatory between ages six and fourteen. However, only 70 percent of children attend primary school, and even fewer continue on to the secondary level. There are no provisions for children's welfare, and child labor is an ongoing problem, which the government has not addressed. The literacy rate is 79 percent 90 percent for men and 68 percent for women.

Higher Education. The country has two institutions of higher learning, one in Malabo and one in Bata, both run by the Spanish National University of Distant Education. Often, those who can afford it often send their children abroad to Spain or to France to complete their education.

Etiquette

Greetings are an important and often lengthy form of social interaction. They usually involve shaking hands. People stand close when talking, often touching or holding hands. Elders, professionals, and those in positions of authority are treated with particular respect and deference.

Religion

Religious Beliefs. It is necessary for the Ministry of Justice and Religion to approve a religious organization before it is allowed to practice. The government is wary of the Catholic Church, as it has a history of criticizing human rights violations. Nonetheless, Catholic religious study is part of public education, and 80 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. The other 20 percent have held on to their traditional beliefs, and even many who nominally subscribe to Catholicism continue to follow traditional religious practices. There are a few Muslims, mostly Hausa traders in the region. The indigenous beliefs are animist, attributing spiritual energy to natural formations such as rivers, mountains, and trees.

Religious Practitioners. Sorcerers are the leaders of the indigenous religion and occupy an exalted position in the community.

Catholic priests occupy a position not just as religious figures, but often as voices of government opposition as well. Many have been arrested and tortured for speaking out on human rights abuses, social injustice, and corruption.

Rituals and Holy Places. Most rituals involve music and dance. One rite, known as the abira, is intended to purge evil from the community. One Bubi ceremony involves placing a pot of water at the entrance to the village, asking good spirits to protect the people and to bless them with more children.

Death and the Afterlife. In the indigenous religion, ancestors are venerated. They are said to live in a place called Borimo, and are thought capable of exerting influence on the living. Bubi villagers often place amulets such as animal bones, feathers, and shells several hundred meters outside the village in remembrance of their dead.

Medicine and Health Care

Health conditions in Equatorial Guinea are not good, and are made worse by lack of adequate sanitation. There is a high infant mortality rate, and the life expectancy is only fifty-three years of age (fifty-one for men and fifty-five for women). Common problems include malnutrition and malaria. The health system concentrates on preventive medicine, but this cannot compensate for the severe lack of supplies and trained personnel.

Secular Celebrations

These are New Year's Day, 1 January; Armed Forces Day, 3 August; Constitution Day, 15 August; Independence Day, 12 October; and Human Rights Day, 10 December.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. The literary tradition in Equatorial Guinea is oral rather than written. There is a wide range of myths and legends that are passed on from one generation to the next, some meant to preserve the history of the tribes, others to explain natural phenomena. Sorcerers and witches often figure prominently.

Graphic Arts. Equatorial Guinea has a tradition of sculpture and mask-making. Many of the masks depict crocodiles, lizards, and other animals. Fang art is known for its abstract, conceptual qualities.

Performance Arts. Music and dance are central elements of Equatorial Guinean culture, both Fang and Bubi. Many of the songs and dances have religious significance. Drums are a common instrument, as are wooden xylophones; bow harps; zithers; and the sanza, a small thumb piano fashioned from bamboo. The accompaniment to a dance usually consists of three or four musicians. The balélé dance is usually performed on Christmas and other holidays. The ibanga, the Fang national dance, is popular along the coast. Its movements are highly sexual. The men and women who perform it cover their bodies in white powder.

The State of the Social and Physical Sciences

The few facilities for physical sciences in Equatorial Guinea are affiliated with the fledgling petroleum industry and its development.

Bibliography

"The Army Is Mobilized." Earth Island Journal, Winter 19992000.

"Country Report: Gabon, Equatorial Guinea." The Economist Intelligence Unit, 1993.

Fegley, Randall, comp. Equatorial Guinea, 1991.

Klitgaard, Robert. Tropical Gangsters, 1999.

Liniger-Goumaz, Max. Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea, 1988.

. Small Is Not Always Beautiful: The Story of Equatorial Guinea , 1989.

Perrois, Louis, and Marta Sierra Delage. Art of Equatorial Guinea: The Fang Tribes , 1990.

Reno, William. "Clandestine Economies, Violence, and States in Africa." Journal of International Affairs, Spring 2000.

Rwegera, Damien. "A Slow March Forward." The UNESCO Courier, October 1999.

Sundiata, Ibrahim K. Equatorial Guinea: Colonialism, State Terror, and the Search for Stability , 1990.

Eleanor Stanford

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

EQUATORIAL GUINEANS 99

The people of Equatorial Guinea are called Equatorial Guineans. A number of distinct ethnic groups or tribes share the country. The largest single tribe is the Fang or Fon. Other groups include the Bubi, who are are descendants of native Bantu-speaking tribes; Fernandinos, descendants of mainland slaves freed by the British navy in the 1800s; and Europeans, who dominate commerce and government.

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"Equatorial Guinea." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. 9 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

PROFILE
GEOGRAPHY
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
DEFENSE
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-EQUATORIAL GUINEA RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the January 2008 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Republic of Equatorial Guinea

PROFILE

Geography

Location: Western Africa, bordering the Bay of Biafra. Bordering nations—Cameroon, Gabon.

Area: 28,050 sq. km; slightly smaller than Maryland.

Cities: Capital—Malabo. Other cities—Bata (also capital of Littoral province on the mainland).

Terrain: Varies. Bioko Island is volcanic, with three major peaks of 9,876 feet, 7,416 feet and 6,885 feet. Behind the coastal plain, the mainland provinces are hilly at a level of approximately 2,000 feet, with some 4,000-foot peaks. Annobon Island is volcanic.

Climate: Tropical; always hot, humid. Bata on the mainland is somewhat drier and cooler.

People

Nationality: Noun—Equatorial Guinean(s), Equatoguinean(s) Adjective—Equatorial Guinean, Equatoguinean.

Population: (July 2007 est.) 551,201.

Annual growth rate: (2007 est.) 2.015%; (1975–2002) 2.8%.

Ethnic groups: The Fang ethnic group of the mainland constitutes the great majority of the population and dominates political life and business. The Bubi group comprises about 50,000 people living mainly in Bioko Island. The Annobonese on the island of Annobon are estimated at about 3,000 in number. The other three ethnic groups are found on the coast of Rio Muni and include the Ndowe and Kombe (about 3,000 each) and the Bujebas (about 2,000). The pygmy populations have long been integrated into the dominant Bantu-speaking cultures. Europeans are less than 1,000, mostly Spanish.

Languages: Official—Spanish, French; other—pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo.

Religions: Nominally Christian and predominantly Roman Catholic; pagan practices.

Education: Primary school compulsory for ages 6-14. Attendance (2002 est.)—85%. Adult literacy (2003 est.)—85.7%.

Health: (2007 est.) Life expectancy—49.51 years. Infant mortality rate—87.15/1,000.

Government

Type: Nominally multi-party Republic with strong domination by the executive branch.

Independence: October 12, 1968 (from Spain).

Constitution: Approved by national referendum November 17, 1991; amended January 1995.

Government branches: Executive—President (Chief of State) and Council of Ministers appointed by the president. Legislative—100-member Chamber of People's Representatives (members directly elected by universal suffrage to serve five-year terms). Judicial—Supreme Tribunal.

Political subdivisions: Seven provinces—Annobon, Bioko Norte, Bioko Sur, Centro Sur, Kie-Ntem, Littoral, Wele-Nzas.

Political parties: The ruling party is the Partido Democratico de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), formed July 30, 1987. Numerous other parties were allowed to form in the early 1990s.

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal adult.

Economy

GDP: (2005 est.) $7.644 billion.

Real GDP growth rate: (2005 est.) 18.6%.

Inflation rate: (2006 est. average) 5.2%.

Unemployment rate: (1998 est.) 30%.

Natural resources: Petroleum, natural gas, timber, small, unexploited deposits of gold, manganese, and uranium.

Agriculture: (2006 est.) 2.8% of GDP. Products—coffee, cocoa, rice, yams, cassava (tapioca), bananas, palm oil nuts, manioc, livestock, and timber.

Industry: (2006 est.) 92.6% of GDP. Types—petroleum, fishing, saw milling, natural gas.

Services: (2006) 4.5% of GDP.

Trade: (2006 est.) Exports—$8.961 billion: hydrocarbons (97%), timber (2%), others (1%). Imports—$2.543 billion. Major trading partners—United States, Spain, China, Canada, France, Great Britain, Cameroon, and Norway.

Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine (CFA) Franc.

GEOGRAPHY

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is located in west central Africa. Bioko Island lies about 40 kilometers (25 mi.) from Cameroon. Annobon Island lies about 595 kilometers (370 mi.) southwest of Bioko Island. The larger continental region of Rio Muni lies between Cameroon and Gabon on the mainland; it includes the islands of Corisco, Elobey Grande, Elobey Chico, and adjacent islets.

Bioko Island, called Fernando Po until the 1970s, is the largest island in the Gulf of Guinea—2,017 square kilometers (780 sq. mi.). It is shaped like a boot, with two large volcanic formations separated by a valley that bisects the island at its narrowest point. The 195-kilometer (120-mi.) coastline is steep and rugged in the south but lower and more accessible in the north, with excellent harbors at Malabo and Luba, and several scenic beaches between those towns.

On the continent, Rio Muni covers 26,003 square kilometers (10,040 sq. mi.). The coastal plain gives way to a succession of valleys separated by low hills and spurs of the Crystal Mountains. The Rio Benito (Mbini), which divides Rio Muni in half, is unnavigable except for a 20-kilometer stretch at its estuary. Temperatures and humidity in Rio Muni are generally lower than on Bioko Island.

Annobon Island, named for its discovery on New Year's Day 1472, is a small volcanic island covering 18 square kilometers (7 sq. mi.). The coastline is abrupt except in the north; the principal volcanic cone contains a small lake. Most of the estimated 1,900 inhabitants are fisherman specializing in traditional, small-scale tuna fishing and whaling. The climate is tropical—heavy rainfall, high humidity, and frequent seasonal changes with violent windstorms.

PEOPLE

The majority of the Equatoguinean people are of Bantu origin. The largest tribe, the Fang, is indigenous to the mainland, but substantial migration to Bioko Island has resulted in Fang dominance over the earlier Bantu inhabitants. The Fang constitute 80% of the population and are themselves divided into 67 clans. Those in the northern part of Rio Muni speak Fang-Ntumu, while those in the south speak Fang-Okah; the two dialects are mutually unintelligible. The Bubi, who constitute 15% of the population, are indigenous to Bioko Island. In addition, there are coastal tribes, sometimes referred to as “Playeros,” consisting of Ndowes, Bujebas, Balengues, and Bengas on the mainland and small islands, and “Fernandinos,” a Creole community, on Bioko. Together, these groups comprise 5% of the population. There are also foreigners from neighboring Cameroon, Nigeria, and Gabon.

Spanish and French are both official languages, though use of Spanish predominates. The Roman Catholic Church has greatly influenced both religion and education.

Equatoguineans tend to have both a Spanish first name and an African first and last name. When written, the Spanish and African first names are followed by the father's first name (which becomes the principal surname) and the mother's first name. Thus people may have up to four names, with a different surname for each generation.

HISTORY

The first inhabitants of the region that is now Equatorial Guinea are believed to have been Pygmies, of whom only isolated pockets remain in northern Rio Muni. Bantu migrations between the 17th and 19th centuries brought the coastal tribes and later the Fang. Elements of the latter may have generated the Bubi, who immigrated to Bioko from Cameroon and Rio Muni in several waves and succeeded former Neolithic populations. The Annobon population, native to Angola, was introduced by the Portuguese via São Tomé.

The Portuguese explorer, Fernando Po (Fernao do Poo), seeking a route to India, is credited with having discovered the island of Bioko in 1471. He called it Formosa (“pretty flower”), but it quickly took on the name of its European discoverer. The Portuguese retained control until 1778, when the island, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger and Ogoue Rivers were ceded to Spain in exchange for territory in South America (Treaty of Pardo). From 1827 to 1843, Britain established a base on the island to combat the slave trade. The Treaty of Paris settled conflicting claims to the mainland in 1900, and periodically, the mainland territories were united administratively under Spanish rule.

Spain lacked the wealth and the interest to develop an extensive economic infrastructure in what was commonly known as Spanish Guinea during the first half of this century. However, through a paternalistic system, particularly on Bioko Island, Spain developed large cacao plantations for which thousands of Nigerian workers were imported as laborers. At independence in 1968, largely as a result of this system, Equatorial Guinea had one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa. The Spanish also helped Equatorial Guinea achieve one of the continent's highest literacy rates and developed a good network of health care facilities.

In 1959, the Spanish territory of the Gulf of Guinea was established with status similar to the provinces of metropolitan Spain. As the Spanish Equatorial Region, a governor general ruled it exercising military and civilian powers. The first local elections were held in 1959, and the first Equatoguinean representatives were

seated in the Spanish parliament. Under the Basic Law of December 1963, limited autonomy was authorized under a joint legislative body for the territory's two provinces. The name of the country was changed to Equatorial Guinea. Although Spain's commissioner general had extensive powers, the Equatorial Guinean General Assembly had considerable initiative in formulating laws and regulations.

In March 1968, under pressure from Equatoguinean nationalists and the United Nations, Spain announced that it would grant independence to Equatorial Guinea. A constitutional convention produced an electoral law and draft constitution. In the presence of a UN observer team, a referendum was held on August 11, 1968, and 63% of the electorate voted in favor of the constitution, which provided for a government with a General Assembly and a Supreme Court with judges appointed by the president.

In September 1968, Francisco Macias Nguema was elected first president of Equatorial Guinea, and independence was granted in October. In July 1970, Macias created a single-party state and by May 1971, key portions of the constitution were abrogated. In 1972 Macias took complete control of the government and assumed the title of President-for-Life. The Macias regime was characterized by abandonment of all government functions except internal security, which was accomplished by terror; this led to the death or exile of up to one-third of the country's population. Due to pilferage, ignorance, and neglect, the country's infrastructure—electrical, water, road, transportation, and health—fell into ruin. Religion was repressed, and education ceased. The private and public sectors of the economy were devastated. Nigerian contract laborers on Bioko, estimated to have been 60,000, left en masse in early 1976. The economy collapsed, and skilled citizens and foreigners left.

On August 3, 1979 the former director of the infamous Black Beach prison, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, led a successful coup d'etat; Macias was arrested, tried, and executed. Obiang assumed the Presidency in October 1979. Obiang initially ruled Equatorial Guinea with the assistance of a Supreme Military Council. A new constitution, drafted in 1982 with the help of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, came into effect after a popular vote on August 15, 1982; the Council was abolished, and Obiang remained in the presidency for a 7-year term. He was reelected in 1989. In February 1996, he again won reelection with 98% of the vote; several opponents withdrew from the race, however, and international observers criticized the election. Subsequently, Obiang named a new cabinet, which included some opposition figures in minor portfolios.

Despite the formal ending of one-party rule in 1991, President Obiang and a circle of advisors (drawn largely from his own family and ethnic group) maintain real authority. The President names and dismisses cabinet members and judges, ratifies treaties, leads the armed forces, and has considerable authority in other areas. He appoints the governors of Equatorial Guinea's seven provinces. The opposition had few electoral successes in the 1990s. By early 2000, President Obiang's PDGE party fully dominated government at all levels. In December 2002, President Obiang won a new seven-year mandate with 97% of the vote. Reportedly, 95% of eligible voters voted in this election, although many observers noted numerous irregularities. The next presidential election is scheduled for 2009.

GOVERNMENT

The 1982 constitution gives the President extensive powers, including naming and dismissing members of the cabinet, making laws by decree, dissolving the Chamber of Representatives, negotiating and ratifying treaties and calling legislative elections. The President retains his role as commander in chief of the armed forces maintains close supervision of military activity. In June 2004, the President reorganized the cabinet and created two new positions: Minister of National Security and Director of National Forces. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and operates under powers designated by the President. The Prime Minister coordinates government activities in areas other than foreign affairs, national defense, and security.

The Chamber of Representatives is comprised of 100 members elected by direct suffrage for 5-year terms. In practice, the Chamber is not independent and rarely acts without presidential approval or direction. A new National Assembly was directly elected in April 2004. There are 100 members in this body, of which 14 are from the loyal opposition and 2 from opposition parties (the CPDS: Convergencia Para la Democracia Social). The next legislative election is scheduled for 2008.

The President appoints the governors of the seven provinces. Each province is divided administratively into districts and municipalities. The internal administrative system falls under the Ministry of Territorial Administration; several other ministries are represented at the provincial and district levels.

The judicial system follows similar administrative levels. At the top are the President and his judicial advisors (the Supreme Court). In descending rank are the appeals courts, chief judges for the divisions, and local magistrates. Tribal laws and customs are honored in the formal court system when not in conflict with national law. The current court system, which often uses customary law, is a combination of traditional, civil, and military justice, and it operates in an ad hoc manner for lack of established procedures and experienced judicial personnel.

The other official branch of the government is the State Council. The State Council's main function is to serve as caretaker in case of death or physical incapacity of the President. It comprises the following ex officio members: the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the President of the National Assembly and the Chairman of the Social and Economic Council.

Although the abuses and atrocities that characterized the Macias years have been eliminated, effective rule of law does not exist and the government is ultimately run by the Presidency. Religious freedom is tolerated.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Pres.: Teodoro OBIANG Nguema Mbasogo, Brig. Gen. (Ret.)

Prime Min.: Ricardo MANGUE Obama Nfube

First Vice Prime Min. in charge of Human Rights: Aniceto EBIAKA Mohote

Second Vice Prime Min. in charge of the Interior: Demetrio ELO Ndong Nsefumu

Sec. Gen. of the Govt. in charge of Administrative Coordination: Fortunado OFA Mbo

Min. of Agriculture & Forests: Teodoro Nguema OBIANG Mangu

Min. of Civil Service & Adminstrative Planning: Vincente Eate TOMI

Min. of Economy, Commerce, & Promotion: Jaime Ela NDONG

Min. of Education, Science, & Sports: Cristobal Menana ELA

Min. of Finance & Budget: Mercelino Owono EDU

Min. of Fishing & the Environment: Vincente Rodriguez SIOSA

Min. of Foreign Affairs, Intl. Cooperation, & Francophone Affairs: Pastor Micha Ondo BILE

Min. of Health: Antonio Martin NDONG Ntutumu

Min. of Information, Culture, Tourism, & Govt. Spokesman: Santiago NSOBEYA Efuman Nchama

Min. of Infrastructure & Urban Planning: Fidel NSUE Micha

Min. of Integration: Baltasar Engonga EDJO

Min. of Interior & Local Corporations: Clemente ENGONGA Nguema Onguene

Min. of Justice, Culture, & Penitentiary Institutions: Mauricio BOKUNG Asumu

Min. of Labor & Social Security: Evangelina OYO Ebule

Min. of Mines, Industry, & Energy: Antanasio ELA Ntugu Nsa

Min. of National Defense: Antonio MBA Nguema, Gen.

Min. of National Security: Manuel Nguema MBA Ma Mba, Col.

Min. of Mines, Industry, & Energy: Antanasio Ela NTUGU Nsa

Min. of Planning, Economic Development, & Public Investment: Jose ELA Oyana

Min. of Social Affairs & the Promotion of Women: Eulalia ENVO Bela

Min. of Transportation, Technology, & Posts & Telecommunications: Demetrio Elo Ndong NSEFUMU

Min. at the Presidency in Charge of Missions: Alejandro EVUNA Owono Asangono

Min. at the Presidency in Charge of Political Affairs & Admin.: Carmelo MODU Acuse Bindang

Min. at the Presidency in Charge of Information, Culture, & Tourism: Alfonso NSUE Mokuy

Min. in Charge of Relations With Parliament: Angel MASIE Mibuy

Ambassador to the US: Purificacion Angue ONDO

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Lino Sima Ekua AVOMO

Equatorial Guinea maintains an embassy at 2020 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 (Tel. (202) 518-5700, Fax. (202) 518-5252). Its mission to the United Nations is at 801 Second Avenue, Suite 1403, New York, N.W. 10017 (Tel. 212-599-1523).

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

In the period following Spain's grant of local autonomy to Equatorial Guinea in 1963, there was a great deal of political party activity. Bubi and Fernandino parties on the island preferred separation from Rio Muni or a loose federation. Ethnically based parties in Rio Muni favored independence for a united country comprising Bioko and Rio Muni, an approach that ultimately won out. (The Movimiento para la Auto-determinacion de la Isla de Bioko (MAIB) which advocates independence for the island under Bubi control, is one of the offshoots of the era immediately preceding independence). After the accession of Macias to power, political activity largely ceased in Equatorial Guinea. Opposition figures who lived among the exile communities in Spain and elsewhere agitated for reforms; some of them had been employed in the Macias and Obiang governments. After political activities in Equatorial Guinea were legalized in the early 1990s, some opposition leaders returned, but repressive actions have continued sporadically.

The country's first freely contested municipal elections were held in September 1995. Most observers agree that the elections themselves were relatively free and transparent and that the opposition parties garnered between two-thirds and three-quarters of the total vote. The government, however, delayed announcement of the results and then claimed a highly dubious 52% victory overall and the capture of 19 of 27 municipal councils. In early January 1996 Obiang called for presidential elections. International observers agreed that the campaign was marred by fraud, and most of the opposition candidates withdrew in the final week. Obiang claimed reelection with 98% of the vote. In an attempt to mollify his critics, Obiang gave minor portfolios in his cabinet to people identified as opposition figures. In the legislative election in March 1999, the party increased its majority in the 80-seat parliament from 68 to 75. The main opposition parties refused the seats they had allegedly won. In May 2000, the ruling PDGE overwhelmed its rivals in local elections. Opposition parties rejected the next election, the December 2002 Presidential election, as invalid. During this election, President Obiang was re-elected with 97% of the vote. Following his re-election Obiang formed a government based on national unity encompassing all opposition parties, except for the CPDS, which declined to join after Obiang refused to release one of their jailed leaders.

In April 2004, parliamentary and municipal elections took place. President Obiang's Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) and allied parties won 98 of 100 seats in parliament and all but seven of 244 municipal posts. International observers criticized both the election and its results.

While President Obiang's rule, in which schools reopened, primary education expanded, and public utilities and roads restored, compares favorably with Macias' tyranny and terror, it has been criticized for not implementing genuine democratic reforms. Corruption and a dysfunctional judicial system disrupt the development of Equatorial Guinea's economy and society. In 2004, the President appointed a new Prime Minister, Miguel Abia Biteo, and replaced several ministers; however, the government budget still did not include all revenues and expenditures. The United Nations Development Program proposed a broad governance reform program, but the Equatoguinean Government was not moving rapidly to implement it. In August 2006 a new Prime Minister, Ricardo Mangue, was named.

Equatorial Guinea suffered a severe human rights setback in May 2002 when a special tribunal convicted 68 prisoners and their relatives and sentenced them 6 to 20 years in prison for an alleged attempted coup d'etat. Among the prisoners were leaders of the three main opposition parties that had remained independent from President Obiang's ruling party. There were numerous irregularities associated with the trial, including evidence of torture and a lack of substantive proof. In August 2003, 31 of these convicted prisoners were granted a presidential amnesty.

In March 2004, Zimbabwean police in Harare impounded a plane from South Africa with 64 alleged mercenaries on board. The group said they were providing security for a mine in Democratic Republic of the Congo, but a couple of days later an Equatorial Guinean minister said they had detained 15 more men who he claimed were the advance party for the group captured in Zimbabwe. Nick du Toit, the leader of the group of South Africans, Armenians and one German, in Equatorial Guinea, said at his trial in Equatorial Guinea that he was playing a limited role in a coup bid organized by Simon Mann, the alleged leader of the group held in Zimbabwe, to remove Obiang from power and install an exiled opposition politician, Severo Moto.

In September 2004, Mann was sentenced to seven years in jail in Zimbabwe after being convicted of illegally trying to buy weapons. Zimbabwe has since agreed to extradite Mann to Equatorial Guinea. Others arrested with him were acquitted of any links to a suspected coup attempt after magistrates said prosecutors had failed to prove their case but were convicted on immigration charges to one year in jail. Both Mann's trial in Zimbabwe and the Equatorial Guinea trial began amid complaints of abuse and unfair treatment from relatives of those being held. One suspect, a German, died in prison in Equatorial Guinea of malaria (Amnesty International believed that he died as a result of the effects of torture, and called for an investigation). In Equatorial Guinea in November 2004, a total of 22 people were convicted, including nine tried in absentia. Three Equatoguineans and three South Africans were acquitted. In June 2005, President Obiang decided to grant amnesty to the six Armenian pilots. Although Equatorial Guinea lacks a well-established democratic tradition comparable to the developed democracies of the West, it should be noted that, out of the anarchic, chaotic, and repressive conditions of the Macias years the country has made small, haphazard steps toward the development of participatory political system.

ECONOMY

Oil and gas exports have increased substantially and will drive the economy for years to come. Real GDP growth reached 18% in 2000, 66% in 2001, 20% in 2002, 10% in 2003 and 25.7% in 2004 (est.). Per capita income rose from about $590 in 1998 to $2,000 in 2000 and $5,300 in 2004. The energy export sector is responsible for this rapid growth. Oil production increased from 81,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) in 1998 to more than 300,000 bbl/d by 2004. In 2005 production was estimated to be 420,000 bbl/d. Exploration efforts continue in search of further potential offshore concessions.

Equatorial Guinea has other unexploited human and natural resources, including a tropical climate, fertile soils, rich expanses of water, deepwater ports, and an untapped, if unskilled, source of labor. Following independence in 1968, the country suffered under a repressive dictatorship for 11 years, which devastated the economy.

The agricultural sector, historically known for cocoa of the highest quality, never fully recovered. In 1969, Equatorial Guinea produced 36,161 tons of highly bid cocoa, but production dropped to 4,800 tons in 2000 and 3,430 tons in 2002. It increased slightly from 2003 levels to 2,906 tons by 2004. Coffee production was 126,000 metric tons in 2002, up from 67000 tons 5 years earlier. Timber is the main source of foreign exchange after oil, though it now only accounts for 2% of total export earnings. Timber production increased steadily during the 1990s; wood exports reached a record 789,000 cubic meters in 1999 as demand in Asia (mainly China) gathered pace after the 1998 economic crisis. Since 1998, production of timber has fallen closer to a sustainable level. 530,500 cubic meters were sold in 2002. Most of the production (mainly Okoume) goes to exports, and only 3% is processed locally. Bioko Island has already suffered permanent damage due to earlier exploitation. Consumer price inflation has declined from the 38.8% experienced in 1994 following the CFA franc devaluation, to 7.8% in 1998, and 4.0% in 2000, according to BEAC data. Consumer prices inflation has remained steady at around 6% since 2002.

Equatorial Guinea's economic policies, as defined by law, comprise an open investment regime. Qualitative restrictions on imports, non-tariff protection, and many import licensing requirements were lifted in 1992 when the government adopted a public investment program endorsed by the World Bank. The Government of Equatorial Guinea has sold some state enterprises. It is attempting to create a more favorable investment climate, and its investment code contains numerous incentives for job creation, training, promotion of nontraditional exports, support of development projects and indigenous capital participation, freedom for repatriation of profits, exemption from certain taxes and capital, and other benefits. Trade regulations have been further liberalized since Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC) reform codes in 1994. This included elimination of quota restrictions and reductions in the range and amounts of tariffs. The CEMAC countries agreed to the introduction of a value added tax (VAT) in 1999.

While business laws promote a liberalized economy, the business climate remains difficult. Application of the laws remains selective. Corruption among officials is widespread, and many business deals are concluded under nontransparent circumstances. A wage law now regulates separate wage levels for the petroleum, private, and government sector. There is little industry in the country, and the local market for industrial products is small. The government seeks to expand the role of free enterprise and to promote foreign investment but has had little success in creating an atmosphere conducive to investor interest.

The Equatoguinean budget has grown enormously in the past 5 years as royalties and taxes on foreign company oil and gas production have provided new resources to a once poor government. The 2005 government revenue was about $1.97 billion. Oil revenues account for more than 81% of government revenue. Value Added Tax and trade taxes are other large revenue sources for the government.

The Equatoguinean Government has undertaken a number of reforms since 1991 to reduce its predominant role in the economy and promote private sector development. Its role is a diminishing one, although many government interactions with the private sector are at times capricious. The government is anxious for greater U.S. investment. Beginning in early 1997, the government initiated efforts to attract significant private sector involvement through cooperative efforts with the Corporate Council on Africa visit and numerous ministerial efforts. In 1998, the government privatized distribution of petroleum products. There are now Total and Mobil stations in the country. The maritime border with Nigeria was settled in 2000, allowing Equatorial Guinea to continue exploitation of its oil fields. In October 2002, the government launched a national oil company, GEPetrol, under the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons.

The government has expressed interest in privatizing the outmoded electricity utility. Several ports and a new terminal were built to accommodate the needs of the oil industry. A French company operates cellular telephone service in cooperation with a state enterprise. Most of the new infrastructure has not reached the average Equatoguinean living on the mainland. Agriculture, fishing, livestock, and tourism are among sectors the government would like targeted. Equatorial Guinea's balance-of-payments situation has improved substantially since the mid-1990s because of new oil and gas production and favorable world energy prices. Exports totaled $6.72 billion in 2005. Crude oil exports now annually accounts for more than 97% of export earnings. Timber exports, by contrast, now represent only about 2% of export revenues. Imports into Equatorial Guinea also are growing very quickly. Imports totaled $1.86 billion in 2005.

Equatorial Guinea in the 1980s and 1990s received foreign assistance from numerous bilateral and multilateral donors, including European countries, the United States, and the World Bank. Many of these aid programs have ceased altogether or have diminished. Spain, France, and the European Union continue to provide some project assistance, as do China and Cuba. The government also has discussed working with World Bank assistance to develop government administrative capacity.

Equatorial Guinea operated under an International Monetary Fund-negotiated Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) until 1996. Since then, there have been no formal agreements or arrangements. However, since 1996, the IMF has held regular held Article IV consultations (periodic country evaluations). After the 2003 consultations, IMF directors stressed the need for further improvements in governance and transparency, the attainment of a sustainable fiscal position, the implementation of structural reforms to bolster the non-oil sector, the development of a transparent framework for saving and managing part of the country's oil wealth and a comprehensive effort to reduce poverty.

Trade and Investment

With investments estimated at $11 billion, the United States is the largest cumulative bilateral foreign investor in Equatorial Guinea. In 2003, 74% of U.S. exports to Equatorial Guinea consisted of energy sector-related transportation and machinery equipment. The United States' main import from Equatorial Guinea is petroleum (99% of imports in 2003). In 1999, the European Union (EU) imported $281.7 million in goods from Equatorial Guinea, 89% of which was petroleum and 7% timber. The European Union exported $104 million to Equatorial Guinea. Approximately 20% of these exports were oil and gas-related, and the remaining 80% ranged from agricultural products to clothing to used cars.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure is generally old and in poor condition. Surface transport options are increasing as the government has invested heavily in road pavement projects. In 2002, the African Development Bank and the European Union co-financed two projects to improve the paved roads from Malabo to Luba and Riaba; and to build an interstate road network to link Equatorial Guinea to Cameroon and Gabon. The Chinese are undertaking a project to link Mongomo to Bata, both cities on the mainland. In November 2003, the government announced an ambitious ten-project program to upgrade the country's road network and improve the airport facilities at Bata, the country's second city (on the mainland). A new road links Malabo with the airport and there have been improvements in the city. The program is estimated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there are doubts over the capacity of the government to manage such a huge scheme.

Estimates of Equatorial Guinea's electricity generating capacity vary, with 15.4 megawatts (MW) of certain installed capacity, and 5-30 MW of estimated additional capacity. About 5.0 MW are located on the mainland, including 4 MW of oil-fired thermal capacity and 1 MW of hydroelectric capacity. Bioko Island receives electricity from two thermal plants and one hydroelectric plant. The expansion of natural gas production at the Alba field in recent years has provided a convenient fuel source for new power generation in the country. The 10.4-MW, natural gas-fired Punta Europa plant began operation in 1999, supplying gas-fired electricity to Bioko Island. Another 4-6 MW of generation capacity is currently under construction at the AMPCO complex on the island. Equatorial Guinea is estimated to have 2,600 MW of hydropower potential.

Equatorial Guinea's electricity sector is owned and operated by the state-run monopoly, SEGESA. The power supply is unreliable, due to aging equipment and poor management, as demonstrated by regular blackouts in Malabo. As a result, small diesel generators are widely used as a back-up source of power supply. In Malabo, the American company, Marathon Oil, built a 30 mega-watt electric power plant financed by the government, which came on line in mid-2000.

Potable water is available in the major towns but is not always reliable because of poor maintenance and mismanagement; consequently, supply interruptions are often frequent and prolonged in some neighborhoods. Some villages and rural areas are equipped with generators and water pumps, usually owned by private individuals.

Telecommunications have improved dramatically in recent years. Parastatal Getesa, a joint venture with a 40% ownership stake held by France Telecom, provides telephone service in the major cities through an efficient, digital fixed network and good mobile coverage. Getesa's fixed-line service has 9,000 subscribers and the mobile service has 28,000. Internet access is limited and has yet to make an impact on the dissemination of information.

Equatorial Guinea has two of the deepest Atlantic seaports of the region, including the main business and commercial port city of Bata. The ports of both Malabo and Bata are severely overextended and require extensive rehabilitation and reconditioning. In partnership with a U.S. petroleum company, Amerada Hess, a British company, Incat, has made significant progress in a project to renovate and expand Luba, the country's third-largest port, located on Bioko Island. The government hopes Luba will become a major transportation hub for offshore oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf of Guinea. Luba is located some 50 kilometers from Malabo and was previously virtually inactive except for minor fishing activities and occasional use to ease congestion in Malabo. Riaba, the only other port of any scale on Bioko, is less active. The continental ports of Mbini and Cogo have deteriorated as well and are now used primarily for timber.

Five small airlines now offer regular daily services between the two cities of Malabo and Bata and nearby neighboring countries. A few aging Soviet-built aircraft operated by several small carriers (one state-owned, the others private,) constitute this national aircraft fleet. In March of 2006 the European Union fully banned most airlines based in Equatorial Guinea from flying into the EU. The influx of oil workers has increased international air activity. Major international carriers now connect Malabo to the European cities of Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, and Zurich. A weekly business-class charter flight was providing service to Houston, Texas. The runway at Malabo's international airport (3,200 meters) is equipped with lights and can service equipment similar to DC-10s and C130s. The runway at Bata (2,400 meters) does not operate at night but can accommodate aircraft as large as B737s. Two minor airstrips (800 meters) are located at Mongomo and on the island of Annobon.

Energy Developments

Oil is Equatorial Guinea's most valuable asset. Since the discovery of the Zafiro field in 1995, production has increased more than tenfold, and oil has quickly become the country's most important export commodity, accounting for nearly 90% of the value of total exports in 2003. Equatorial Guinea is now the third largest producer of crude oil in sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Angola. Equatorial Guinea's oil reserves are located mainly in the hydrocarbon-rich Gulf of Guinea, containing estimated probable reserves as high as 10% of the world total. As a result, large amounts of foreign investment primarily by U.S. companies have poured into the country's oil sector in recent years. Equatorial Guinea's total proven oil reserves are estimated at 1.1 billion barrels.

Oil production from Equatorial Guinea is expanding rapidly, averaging 237,500 bbl/d in 2003, of which 206,000 was crude. This represents a tremendous increase from the 1996 oil output of 17,000 bbl/d. Production improvements and expansion projects undertaken in 2003 pushed petroleum output even higher, resulting in average production of 350,000 bbl/d for the first half of 2004. In October 2004, the government capped production levels at 350,000 bbl/d to extend the life of the country's petroleum reserves. Three fields—Zafiro, Ceiba, and Alba—currently account for the majority of the country's oil output.

Equatorial Guinea's oil profits have expanded since 1998, when the country introduced more liberal regulatory and profit sharing arrangements for hydrocarbon exploration and production activities, including revised and updated Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs). As a result, government oil revenues increased from 13% to 20% of total oil export earnings. Although significant, the government's share is still relatively small by international standards.

In 2001, GEPetrol became Equatorial Guinea's national oil company. It was established as the primary state-run institution responsible for the country's downstream oil sector activities. However, since 2001 its primary focus has become managing the government's interest stakes in various PSCs with foreign oil companies. GEPetrol also partners with foreign firms to undertake exploration projects and has a say in the country's environmental policy implementation. Plans to increase the government's stake in new and existing PSCs have been discussed, but not formally pursued.

The majority of the reserves are found in the Zafiro field, located northwest of Bioko Island and south of Nigeria's offshore oil fields. In recent years, Exxon Mobil has focused on increasing production from Zafiro, expanding drilling capacity to accommodate this plan. Zafiro is Equatorial Guinea's largest oil producer, with output rising from an initial level of 7,000 bbl/d in August 1996 to approximately 280,000 bbl/d by 2004. Ceiba, Equatorial Guinea's second major producing oil field, is located just offshore of Rio Muni and is estimated to contain 300 million barrels of oil. Production at Ceiba has risen dramatically during the past 2–3 years, following improvements and upgrades to the facility. Alba, Equatorial Guinea's third significant field was discovered in 1991. Original estimates of reserves at Alba were around 68 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE), but recent exploration has increased new estimates significantly, to almost 1 billion BOE. Unlike the Zafiro or Ceiba fields, exploration and production at Alba has focused on natural gas, including condensates.

Ceiba's discovery has significantly increased interest in petroleum exploration of surrounding areas, with many new companies acquiring licenses in exploration blocks further offshore in the Rio Muni basin. International companies with interests in one or more exploration blocks include Chevron (U.S.), Vanco Energy (U.S.), Atlas Petroleum International (U.S.), Devon Energy (U.S.), Roc Oil (Australia), Petronas (Malaysia), Sasol Petroleum (South Africa), and Glencore (Switzerland). In October 2004, Noble Energy Equatorial Guinea, an Equatoguinean subsidiary of American Noble Energy, Inc. signed a contract to exploit a new oil field off the island of Bioko. Recently, Equatorial Guineau gave the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) the rights to its newest oil field. While China's capacity for deepwater drilling remains thus far unproven, CNOOC expects to complete two new oil rigs by 2009.

Equatorial Guinea's natural gas reserves are located offshore Bioko Island, primarily in the Alba and Zafiro oil and gas fields. Natural gas and condensate production in Equatorial Guinea has expanded rapidly in the last five years in response to new investments by major stakeholders in the Alba natural gas field. Alba, the country's largest natural gas field, contains 1.3 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven reserves, with probable reserves estimated at 4.4 Tcf or more.

Marathon Oil and GE Petrol have joined together in a $1.4 billion deal to construct a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility on Bioko Island. In May 2003, the government gave final approval for the plan to construct an LNG plant, once Marathon and GE Petrol had secured a 17-year purchase agreement with British Gas (BG) of the United Kingdom. Under the contract, the LNG facility was to supply 3.4 million tons of LNG to BG, beginning in 2007. In June 2005, Marathon and GE Petrol restructured the deal to include two Japanese companies, Mitsui and Marubeni, as minority shareholders. Natural gas consumption in Equatorial Guinea has increased in recent years, along with higher production. Natural gas consumption jumped to 45 Bcf in 2002, from approximately 1 Bcf during each of the four previous years.

DEFENSE

The Equatoguinean military consists of approximately 2,500 service members. The largest contingent is the Army with 1,400 soldiers; the police have 400 para-military policemen, the Navy has 200 members and the Air Force has approximately 120. There is a Gendarmerie but the exact number of members is unknown. All are very poorly trained, but the government is steadily purchasing new equipment from Ukraine and China among others. In 2003, the government spent $75 million on military expenditures, about 9% of the 2002 budget. Neither the Navy nor the Air Force has trained crews to operate or maintain their equipment. Family and ethnic ties to the president determine promotions and influence within the military. Military decision-making is completely centralized with the President also serving as the Minister of Defense.

Between 1984 and 1992, service members went regularly to the United States on the International Military Education Training program, after which funding for this program for Equatorial Guinea ceased. U.S. military-to-military engagement has been dormant since 1997 (the year of the last Joint Combined Exchange Training Exercise), although their representatives did attend a recent military hosted conference on Gulf of Guinea Security Cooperation.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

A transitional agreement, signed in October 1968, implemented a Spanish pre-independence decision to assist Equatorial Guinea and provided for the temporary maintenance of Spanish forces there. A dispute with President Macias in 1969 led to a request that all Spanish troops immediately depart, and a large number of civilians left at the same time. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were never broken but were suspended by Spain in March 1977 in the wake of renewed disputes. After Macias' fall in 1979, President Obiang asked for Spanish assistance, and since then, Spain has regained its place of influence in Equatorial Guinea. The two countries signed permanent agreements for economic and technical cooperation, private concessions, and trade relations. Spain maintained a bilateral assistance program in Equatorial Guinea. Most Equatoguinean opposition elements (including a purported government-in-exile) are based in Spain to the annoyance of the Equatoguinean Government. Relations between the two countries grew difficult after the March 2004 coup attempt due to their hosting opposition figure Severo Moto and their belief that Spain had foreknowledge of the coup. However, the Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, visited Equatorial Guinea in March 2005. Equatorial Guinea has had generally cordial relations with its neighbors. It is a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), which includes Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo/Brazzaville, and Gabon. Equatorial Guinea is also part of the central Africa CFA franc zone, and the Cameroon-based Bank of Central African States coordinates monetary policy.

The Bank of France guarantees the CFA franc, and French technical advisers work in the finance and planning ministries. France, Spain, Cuba, and China have participated in infrastructure and technical development projects.

Equatorial Guinea had a minor border dispute with Cameroon that was resolved by the International Court of Justice in 2002. The Corisco border dispute with Gabon was solved by an agreement signed with the help of UN mediation in January 2004, but the small island of Mbane and potentially oil-rich waters surrounding it remain contested. The majority Fang ethnic group of mainland Equatorial Guinea extends both north and south into the forests of Cameroon and Gabon. Cameroon exports some food products to Equatorial Guinea and imports oil from Equatorial Guinea for its refinery at nearby Limbe. The development of the oil industry by U.S.-based companies and the lack of a well-trained work force have provided motivation for an influx of English-speaking workers (legal and illegal) from Cameroon, Nigeria, and Ghana. (However, relations with the Nigerian Government have lately been cordial as the two countries delineated their offshore borders to facilitate development of nearby gas fields.) Roundups and expulsion of foreigners following the March 2004 coup attempt revived tensions between these neighbors.

The government's official policy is one of nonalignment and it has been reluctant to fully integrate itself into CEMAC. In its search for assistance to meet the goal of national reconstruction, the Government of Equatorial Guinea has established diplomatic relations with numerous European and third world countries.

U.S.-EQUATORIAL GUINEA RELATIONS

The Equatoguinean Government favorably views the U.S. Government and American companies. The United States is the largest single foreign investor in Equatorial Guinea. U.S. companies have the largest and most visible foreign presence in the country. In an effort to attract increased U.S. investment, American passport-holders are entitled to visa-free entry for short visits. The United States is the only country with this privilege. With the increased U.S. investment presence, relations between the U.S. and the Government of Equatorial Guinea have been characterized by a positive, constructive relationship.

Equatorial Guinea maintains an embassy in Washington, DC, and has received approval for a consulate in Houston, Texas. President Obiang has worked to cultivate the Equatorial Guinea-U.S. relationship with regular visits to the U.S. for meetings with senior government and business leaders.

The 2005 U.S. State Department Human Rights report on Equatorial Guinea cited shortcomings in basic human rights, political freedom, and labor rights. Equatorial Guinea attributes deficiencies to excessive zeal on the part of local authorities and promises better control and sensitization. U.S. Government policy involves constructive engagement with Equatorial Guinea to encourage an improvement in the human rights situation and positive use of petroleum funds directed toward the development of a working civil society. Equatoguineans visit the U.S. under programs sponsored by the U.S. Government, American oil companies, and educational institutions. The Ambassador's Self-Help Fund annually finances a number of small grassroots projects.

In view of growing ties between U.S. companies and Equatorial Guinea, the U.S. Government's overseas investment promotion agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), has concluded the largest agreement in Sub-Saharan Africa for a major U.S. project in Equatorial Guinea. The U.S. Agency for International Development has no Equatorial Guinea-related programs or initiatives nor is the Peace Corps present. American-based non-governmental organizations and other donor groups have very little involvement in the country.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

MALABO (E) Carretera de Aeropuerto KM-3 (El Paraiso), Apt. 95, MaL-ABo Equatorial Guinea, (240) 09.88.95, Fax (240) 09.88.94, Workweek: 8:30-5, M-F, Website: http://malabo.usembassy.gov.

MGT:Maureen MCG:overn
AMB:Donald C. Johnson
CON:Maureen MCG:overn
DCM:Sarah Morrison
RSO:Miguel Eversley
DAO:MAJ Matthew Sousa
IMO:George B. Green
ISO:Lynne Hermanson
ISSO:Lynne Hermanson

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

November 15, 2007

Country Description: Equatorial Guinea is a developing country in central Africa. Its capital, Malabo, is located on the island of Bioko, off the coast of Cameroon. A secondary port, Luba, is also on Bioko. The mainland territory of Equatorial Guinea is located between Cameroon and Gabon.

The principal city on the mainland is Bata. Facilities for tourism are limited. Official languages are Spanish, which is widely spoken, and French, which is not widely understood, but sometimes used in business dealings.

Entry Requirements: A passport and evidence of a yellow fever vaccination is required to enter Equatorial Guinea. U.S. citizens are not required to have visas to enter Equatorial Guinea for short visits. For long visits and other types of visas, travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, 2020 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009, telephone (202) 518-5700, fax (202) 518-5252. Overseas, inquiries may also be made at the nearest Equato-Guinean embassy or consulate.

Safety and Security: It is not uncommon for a uniformed member of the security forces to stop motorists on the pretext of minor or nonexistent violations of the local motor vehicle regulations in order to extort small bribes. Visitors are advised not to pay bribes, and to request that the officer provide a citation to be paid at the local court.

Although large public demonstrations are uncommon, U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: Violent crime is rare and the overall level of criminal activity is low in comparison to other countries in the region. However, there has been a rise in non-violent street crime and residential burglaries.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while over-seas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities are extremely limited. Pharmacies in Malabo and Bata stock basic medicines including antibiotics, but cannot be counted on to supply advanced medications. Outside of these cities, many medicines are unavailable. Travelers are advised to carry any special medication that they require. The sanitation levels in even the best hospitals are very low. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate payment for health services, and patients are often expected to supply their own bandages, linen and toiletries. Nevertheless, improvements in the health sector are underway. An Israeli-built and staffed private hospital in Bata is reported by Red Cross officials to be the best in the region. The Malabo hospital is likewise undergoing a complete update, with expected completion in 2008.

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the type that predominates in Equatorial Guinea, is resistant to the antimalarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to the country are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam TM), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone -TM).

Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, including protective measures, see the CDC Travelers' Health web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel.

There are periodic outbreaks of cholera in Equatorial Guinea. Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine, required for entry, is very effective in preventing the disease.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Equatorial Guinea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Equatorial Guinea's road networks are underdeveloped. There are few road and traffic signs. Livestock and pedestrians create constant road hazards. During the rainy season, many roads are passable only with four-wheel-drive vehicles. However, new road construction and repair is taking place all over the country and road conditions have improved markedly over the course of the past year.

Travelers outside the limits of Malabo and Bata may expect to encounter occasional military roadblocks. Travelers should be prepared to show proper identification (for example, a U.S. passport) and to explain their reason for being at that particular location. The personnel staffing these checkpoints normally do not speak or understand English or French; travelers who do not speak Spanish would do well to have their reason for being in the country and their itinerary written down in Spanish before venturing into the countryside.

Aviation Safety Oversight: Asthere is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Equatorial Guinea, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Equatorial Guinea's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's internet website at http://www.faa.gov.

Commercial air travel to and from Equatorial Guinea can be difficult. Malabo is served by European airllines a few times per week. The island of Bioko and the African mainland are connected by several small local airlines offering daily service. Schedules are subject to change or cancellation without notice; flights are often overbooked and reservations may not guarantee seats.

Malabo Airport has navigational aids and can accommodate night landings. There are no navigational aids at Bata Airport. Special clearances are required to land in or overfly Equato-Guinean territory.

Special Circumstances: Equatorial Guinea has a strictly cash economy. Credit cards and checks are not accepted; credit card cash advances are not available and there are no ATMs. In addition, most local businesses do not accept travelers' checks, dollars or euros. However, dollars can be changed at local banks for CFA. Cash in CFA is usually the only form of payment accepted throughout the country.

Special permits from the Ministry of Information and Tourism (or from the local delegation if outside Malabo) are required for virtually all types of photography. Police or security officials may charge a fine, attempt to take a violator into custody, or seize the camera and film of persons photographing the Presidential Palace and its environs, military installations, airports, harbors, government buildings, and other areas.

Travelers are advised that the possession of camouflage-patterned clothing, large knives, binoculars, firearms, or a variety of other items may be deemed suspicious by the security forces and grounds for confiscation of the item and detention of the carrier.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Equato-Guinean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Equatorial Guinea are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Equatorial Guinea are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Equatorial Guinea. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The United States reopened its Embassy in Malabo in October 2003. However, due to limited staffing, it can offer only emergency services to U.S. citizens in distress. The U.S. Embassy in Malabo can be contacted at (240) 098-895. Embassy web site: http://malabo.usembassy.gov. Routine services are provided through the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon, located on Avenue Rosa Parks in the Mbankolo Quartier, adjacent to the Mount Febe Golf Club; mailing address P.O. Box 817; embassy tel. (237) 2220-1500, fax: (237) 2220-1572; web site: http://yaounde.usem-bassy.gov. The Embassy Branch Office in Douala, Cameroon is located on Rue Flatters, in the Citibank building, tel.: (237) 3342-53-31, fax: (237) 3342-77-90.

International Adoption

January 2008

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding.

Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: Intercountry adoption from Equatorial Guinea is rare. The U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon, which issues immigrant visas for citizens of Equatorial Guinea, has not issued any immigrant visas to orphans from Equatorial Guinea in the past five fiscal years. The U.S. Embassy in Malabo continues to seek clarification from the government of Equatorial Guinea on the legal procedures for intercountry adoption. This flyer will be updated as new information becomes available.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions.

Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Embassy of the United States of America

Carretera Aeropuerto KM-3, El Paraiso
Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
http://usembassy.state.gov/malabo
Tel: 09.88.95
Fax: 09.88.94
[email protected]

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Equatorial Guinea may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Equatorial Guinea. General questions regarding inter-country adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

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Equatorial Guinea

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Compiled from the December 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Equatorial Guinea


PROFILE

Geography

Location:

Western Africa, bordering the Bay of Biafra. Bordering nations—Cameroon, Gabon.

Area:

28,050 sq. km; slightly smaller than Maryland.

Cities:

Capital—Malabo. Other cities—Bata (also capital of Littoral province on the mainland).

Terrain:

Varies. Bioko Island is volcanic, with three major peaks of 9,876 feet, 7,416 feet and 6,885 feet. Behind the coastal plain, the mainland provinces are hilly at a level of approximately 2,000 feet, with some 4,000-foot peaks. Annobon Island is volcanic.

Climate:

Tropical; always hot, humid. Bata on the mainland is somewhat drier and cooler.

People

Nationality:

Noun—Equatorial Guinean(s), Equatoguinean(s) Adjective—Equatorial Guinean, Equatoguinean.

Population (July 2004 est.):

523,051.

Annual growth rate (2003 est.):

24.1%; 2.8% (1975-2002).

Ethnic groups:

The Fang ethnic group of the mainland constitutes the great majority of the population and dominates political life and business. The Bubi group comprises about 50,000 people living mainly in Bioko Island. The Annobonese on the island of Annobon are estimated at about 3,000 in number. The other three ethnic groups are found on the coast of Rio Muni and include the Ndowe and Kombe (about 3,000 each) and the Bujebas (about 2,000). The pygmy populations have long been integrated into the dominant Bantu-speaking cultures. Europeans are less than 1,000, mostly Spanish.

Language:

Official—Spanish, French; other—pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo.

Religion:

Nominally Christian and predominantly Roman Catholic; pagan practices.

Education:

Primary school compulsory for ages 6-14. Attendance (2002 est.)—85%. Adult literacy (2002 est.)—84.2%.

Health (2002 est.):

Life expectancy—49 years. Infant mortality rate—101/1,000.

Government

Type:

Nominally multi-party Republic with strong domination by the executive branch.

Independence:

October 12, 1968 (from Spain).

Constitution:

Approved by national referendum November 17, 1991; amended January 1995.

Branches:

Executive—President (Chief of State) and a Council of Ministers appointed by the president. Legislative—100-member Chamber of People's Representatives (members directly elected by universal suffrage to serve five-year terms). Judicial—Supreme Tribunal.

Administrative subdivisions:

Seven provinces—Annobon, Bioko Norte, Bioko Sur, Centro Sur, Kie-Ntem, Littoral, Wele-Nzas.

Political parties:

The ruling party is the Partido Democratico de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), formed July 30, 1987. Numerous other parties were allowed to form in the early 1990s.

Suffrage:

18 years of age; universal adult.

Economy

GDP (2004 est.):

$5.5 billion.

GDP growth rate (2004 est.):

25.7%.

Inflation rate (2004 est. average):

5.8%.

Unemployment rate:

(1998 est.) 30%.

Natural resources:

Petroleum, timber, small, unexploited deposits of gold, manganese, and uranium.

Agriculture (1999 est.):

16% of GDP. Products—coffee, cocoa, rice, yams, cassava (tapioca), bananas, palm oil nuts, manioc, livestock, and timber.

Industry (1999 est.):

75.3% of GDP. Types—petroleum, fishing, saw milling, natural gas.

Services (2001):

4.1% of GDP.

Trade (2003 est.):

Exports—$2.6 billion: hydrocarbons (97%), timber (2%), others (1%). Imports—$1.2 billion. Major trading partners—United States, Spain, China, Canada, France, Great Britain, Cameroon and Norway.

Currency:

Communaute Financiere Africaine (CFA) Franc.


GEOGRAPHY

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is located in west central Africa. Bioko Island lies about 40 kilometers (25 mi.) from Cameroon. Annobon Island lies about 595 kilometers (370 mi.) southwest of Bioko Island. The larger continental region of Rio Muni lies between Cameroon and Gabon on the mainland; it includes the islands of Corisco, Elobey Grande, Elobey Chico, and adjacent islets.

Bioko Island, called Fernando Po until the 1970s, is the largest island in the Gulf of Guinea—2,017 square kilometers (780 sq. mi.). It is shaped like a boot, with two large volcanic formations separated by a valley that bisects the island at its narrowest point. The 195-kilometer (120-mi.) coastline is steep and rugged in the south but lower and more accessible in the north, with excellent harbors at Malabo and Luba, and several scenic beaches between those towns.

On the continent, Rio Muni covers 26,003 square kilometers (10,040 sq. mi.). The coastal plain gives way to a succession of valleys separated by low hills and spurs of the Crystal Mountains. The Rio Benito (Mbini), which divides Rio Muni in half, is unnavigable except for a 20-kilometer stretch at its estuary. Temperatures and humidity in Rio Muni are generally lower than on Bioko Island.

Annobon Island, named for its discovery on New Year's Day 1472, is a small volcanic island covering 18 square kilometers (7 sq. mi.). The coastline is abrupt except in the north; the principal volcanic cone contains a small lake. Most of the estimated 1,900 inhabitants are fisherman specializing in traditional, small-scale tuna fishing and whaling. The climate is tropical—heavy rainfall, high humidity, and frequent seasonal changes with violent windstorms.


PEOPLE

The majority of the Equatoguinean people are of Bantu origin. The largest tribe, the Fang, is indigenous to the mainland, but substantial migration to Bioko Island has resulted in Fang dominance over the earlier Bantu inhabitants. The Fang constitute 80% of the population and are themselves divided into 67 clans. Those in the northern part of Rio Muni speak Fang-Ntumu, while those in the south speak Fang-Okah; the two dialects are mutually unintelligible. The Bubi, who constitute 15% of the population, are indigenous to Bioko Island. In addition, there are coastal tribes, sometimes referred to as "Playeros," consisting of Ndowes, Bujebas, Balengues, and Bengas on the mainland and small islands, and "Fernandinos," a Creole community, on Bioko. Together, these groups comprise 5% of the population. There are also foreigners from neighboring Cameroon, Nigeria, and Gabon.

Spanish and French are both official languages, though use of Spanish predominates. The Roman Catholic Church has greatly influenced both religion and education.

Equatoguineans tend to have both a Spanish first name and an African first and last name. When written, the Spanish and African first names are followed by the father's first name (which becomes the principal surname) and the mother's first name. Thus people may have up to four names, with a different surname for each generation.


HISTORY

The first inhabitants of the region that is now Equatorial Guinea are believed to have been Pygmies, of whom only isolated pockets remain in northern Rio Muni. Bantu migrations between the 17th and 19th centuries brought the coastal tribes and later the Fang. Elements of the latter may have generated the Bubi, who immigrated to Bioko from Cameroon and Rio Muni in several waves and succeeded former Neolithic populations. The Annobon population, native to Angola, was introduced by the Portuguese via Sao Tome.

The Portuguese explorer, Fernando Po (Fernao do Poo), seeking a route to India, is credited with having discovered the island of Bioko in 1471. He called it Formosa ("pretty flower"), but it quickly took on the name of its European discoverer. The Portuguese retained control until 1778, when the island, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger and Ogoue Rivers were ceded to Spain in exchange for territory in South America (Treaty of Pardo). From 1827 to 1843, Britain established a base on the island to combat the slave trade. The Treaty of Paris settled conflicting claims to the mainland in 1900, and periodically, the mainland territories were united administratively under Spanish rule.

Spain lacked the wealth and the interest to develop an extensive economic infrastructure in what was commonly known as Spanish Guinea during the first half of this century. However, through a paternalistic system, particularly on Bioko Island, Spain developed large cacao plantations for which thousands of Nigerian workers were imported as laborers. At independence in 1968, largely as a result of this system, Equatorial Guinea had one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa. The Spanish also helped Equatorial Guinea achieve one of the continent's highest literacy rates and developed a good network of health care facilities.

In 1959, the Spanish territory of the Gulf of Guinea was established with status similar to the provinces of metropolitan Spain. As the Spanish Equatorial Region, a governor general ruled it exercising military and civilian powers. The first local elections were held in 1959, and the first Equatoguinean representatives were seated in the Spanish parliament.

Under the Basic Law of December 1963, limited autonomy was authorized under a joint legislative body for the territory's two provinces. The name of the country was changed to Equatorial Guinea. Although Spain's commissioner general had extensive powers, the Equatorial Guinean General Assembly had considerable initiative in formulating laws and regulations.

In March 1968, under pressure from Equatoguinean nationalists and the United Nations, Spain announced that it would grant independence to Equatorial Guinea. A constitutional convention produced an electoral law and draft constitution. In the presence of a UN observer team, a referendum was held on August 11, 1968, and 63% of the electorate voted in favor of the constitution, which provided for a government with a General Assembly and a Supreme Court with judges appointed by the president.

In September 1968, Francisco Macias Nguema was elected first president of Equatorial Guinea, and independence was granted in October. In July 1970, Macias created a single-party state and by May 1971, key portions of the constitution were abrogated. In 1972 Macias took complete control of the government and assumed the title of President-for-Life. The Macias regime was characterized by abandonment of all government functions except internal security, which was accomplished by terror; this led to the death or exile of up to one-third of the country's population. Due to pilferage, ignorance, and neglect, the country's infrastructure—electrical, water, road, transportation, and health—fell into ruin. Religion was repressed, and education ceased. The private and public sectors of the economy were devastated. Nigerian contract laborers on Bioko, estimated to have been 60,000, left en masse in early 1976. The economy collapsed, and skilled citizens and foreigners left.

In August 1979, Macias' nephew from Mongomo and former director of the infamous Black Beach prison, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, led a successful coup d'etat; Macias was arrested, tried, and executed. Obiang assumed the Presidency in October 1979. Obiang initially ruled Equatorial Guinea with the assistance of a Supreme Military Council. A new constitution, drafted in 1982 with the help of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, came into effect after a popular vote on August 15, 1982; the Council was abolished, and Obiang remained in the presidency for a 7-year term. He was reelected in 1989. In February 1996, he again won reelection with 98% of the vote; several opponents withdrew from the race, however, and international observers criticized the election. Subsequently, Obiang named a new cabinet, which included some opposition figures in minor portfolios.

Despite the formal ending of one-party rule in 1991, President Obiang and a circle of advisors (drawn largely from his own family and ethnic group) maintain real authority. The President names and dismisses cabinet members and judges, ratifies treaties, leads the armed forces, and has considerable authority in other areas. He appoints the governors of Equatorial Guinea's seven provinces. The opposition had few electoral successes in the 1990s. By early 2000, President Obiang's PDGE party fully dominated government at all levels. In December 2002, President Obiang won a new seven-year mandate with 97% of the vote. Reportedly, 95% of eligible voters voted in this election, although many observers noted numerous irregularities.


GOVERNMENT

The 1982 constitution gives the President extensive powers, including naming and dismissing members of the cabinet, making laws by decree, dissolving the Chamber of Representatives, negotiating and ratifying treaties and calling legislative elections. The President retains his role as commander in chief of the armed forces maintains close supervision of military activity. In June 2004, the President reorganized the cabinet and created two new positions: Minister of National Security and Director of National Forces. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and operates under powers designated by the President. The Prime Minister coordinates government activities in areas other than foreign affairs, national defense and security.

The Chamber of Representatives is comprised of 100 members elected by direct suffrage for 5-year terms. In practice, the Chamber is not independent and rarely acts without presidential approval or direction. A new National Assembly was directly elected in April 2004. There are 100 members in this body, of which 14 are from the loyal opposition and 2 from opposition parties (the CPDS: Convergencia Para la Democracia Social).

The President appoints the governors of the seven provinces. Each province is divided administratively into districts and municipalities. The internal administrative system falls under the Ministry of Territorial Administration; several other ministries are represented at the provincial and district levels.

The judicial system follows similar administrative levels. At the top are the President and his judicial advisors (the Supreme Court). In descending rank are the appeals courts, chief judges for the divisions, and local magistrates. Tribal laws and customs are honored in the formal court system when not in conflict with national law. The current court system, which often uses customary law, is a combination of traditional, civil, and military justice, and it operates in an ad hoc manner for lack of established procedures and experienced judicial personnel.

The other official branch of the government is the State Council. The State Council's main function is to serve as caretaker in case of death or physical incapacity of the President. It comprises the following ex officio members: the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the President of the National Assembly and the Chairman of the Social and Economic Council.

Although the abuses and atrocities that characterized the Macias years have been eliminated, effective rule of law does not exist and the government is ultimately run by the Presidency. Religious freedom is tolerated.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 12/14/2005

President: Teodoro OBIANG Nguema Mbasogo, Brig. Gen. (Ret.)
Prime Minister: Miguel Abia BITEO Borico
First Vice Prime Min.: Mercelino Oyono NTUTUMU
Second Vice Prime Min.: Ricardo Mangue Obama NFUBEA
Sec. Gen. of the Government: Antonio Martine Ndong NTUTUMU
Min. of Agriculture & Forests: Teodoro Nguema OBIANG Mangu
Min. of Economy, Commerce, & Promotion: Jaime Ela NDONG
Min. of Education, Science, & Sports: Cristobal Menana ELA
Min. of Finance & Budget: Mercelino Owono EDU
Min. of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, & Francophone Affairs: Micha Ondo BILL, Pastor
Min. of Information, Tourism, & Culture: Alfonso Nsue MOKUY
Min. of Interior & Local Corporations: Clemente Engonga Nguema ONGUENE
Min. of Justice, Culture, & Penitentiary Institutions: Angle Masii MIBUY
Min. of National Defense: Antonio MBA Nguema, Gen.
Min. of National Security: Manuel Nguema Mba Ma MBA, Col.
Min. of Mines, Industry, & Energy: Antanasio Ela NTUGU Nsa
Min. of Planning, Economic Development, & Public Investment: Caarmelo Modu Acusi BINDANG
Min. of Transportation, Technology, & Posts & Telecommunications: Demetrio Elo Ndong NSEFUMU
Min. of Travel & Social Security: Enrique Mercader COSTA
Min. of Urban Planning: Aniceto Ebiaka MUETE
Min. of Women's Affairs: Jesusa Obono ENGONO
Ambassador to the US: Pastor Micha ONDO BILE
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Lino Sima Ekua AVOMO

Equatorial Guinea maintains an embassy in Washington, D.C. at 2020 16 th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 (Tel. (202) 518-5700, Fax. (202) 518-5252). Its mission to the United Nations is at 801 Second Avenue, Suite 1403, New York, N.W. 10017 (Tel. 212-599-1523).


POLITICAL CONDITIONS

In the period following Spain's grant of local autonomy to Equatorial Guinea in 1963, there was a great deal of political party activity. Bubi and Fernandino parties on the island preferred separation from Rio Muni or a loose federation. Ethnically based parties in Rio Muni favored independence for a united country comprising Bioko and Rio Muni, an approach that ultimately won out. (The Movimiento para la Auto-determinacion de la Isla de Bioko (MAIB) which advocates independence for the island under Bubi control, is one of the offshoots of the era immediately preceding independence). After the accession of Macias to power, political activity largely ceased in Equatorial Guinea. Opposition figures who lived among the exile communities in Spain and elsewhere agitated for reforms; some of them had been employed in the Macias and Obiang governments. After political activities in Equatorial Guinea were legalized in the early 1990s, some opposition leaders returned, but repressive actions have continued sporadically.

The country's first freely contested municipal elections were held in September 1995. Most observers agree that the elections themselves were relatively free and transparent and that the opposition parties garnered between two-thirds and three-quarters of the total vote. The government, however, delayed announcement of the results and then claimed a highly dubious 52% victory overall and the capture of 19 of 27 municipal councils. In early January 1996 Obiang called for presidential elections. International observers agreed that the campaign was marred by fraud, and most of the opposition candidates withdrew in the final week. Obiang claimed reelection with 98% of the vote. In an attempt to mollify his critics, Obiang gave minor portfolios in his cabinet to people identified as opposition figures. In the legislative election in March 1999, the party increased its majority in the 80-seat parliament from 68 to 75. The main opposition parties refused the seats they had allegedly won. In May 2000, the ruling PDGE overwhelmed its rivals in local elections. Opposition parties rejected the next election, the December 2002 Presidential election, as invalid. During this election, President Obiang was re-elected with 97% of the vote. Following his re-election Obiang formed a government based on national unity encompassing all opposition parties, except for the CPDS, which declined to join after Obiang refused to release one of their jailed leaders.

In April 2004, parliamentary and municipal elections took place. President Obiang's Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) and allied parties won 98 of 100 seats in parliament and all but seven of 244 municipal posts. International observers criticized both the election and its results.

While President Obiang's rule, in which schools reopened, primary education expanded, and public utilities and roads restored, compares favorably with Macias' tyranny and terror, it has been criticized for not implementing genuine democratic reforms. Corruption and a dysfunctional judicial system disrupt the development of Equatorial Guinea's economy and society. In 2004, the President appointed a new Prime Minister, Miguel Abia Biteo, and replaced several ministers, however, the government budget still does not include all revenues and expenditures. The United Nations Development Program has proposed a broad governance reform program, but the Equatoguinean Government is not moving rapidly to implement it.

Equatorial Guinea suffered a severe human rights setback in May 2002 when a special tribunal convicted 68 prisoners and their relatives and sentenced them 6 to 20 years in prison for an alleged attempted coup d'etat. Among the prisoners were leaders of the three main opposition parties that had remained independent from President Obiang's ruling party. There were numerous irregularities associated with the trial, including evidence of torture and a lack of substantive proof. In August 2003, 31 of these convicted prisoners were granted a presidential amnesty.

In March 2004, Zimbabwean police in Harare impounded a plane from South Africa with 64 alleged mercenaries on board. The group said they were providing security for a mine in Democratic Republic of Congo, but a couple of days later an Equatorial Guinean minister said they had detained 15 more men who he claimed were the advance party for the group captured in Zimbabwe. Nick du Toit, the leader of the group of South Africans, Armenians and one German, in Equatorial Guinea, said at his trial in Equatorial Guinea that he was playing a limited role in a coup bid organized by Simon Mann, the alleged leader of the group held in Zimbabwe, to remove Obiang from power and install an exiled opposition politician, Severo Moto.

In September 2004, Mann was sentenced to seven years in jail in Zimbabwe after being convicted of illegally trying to buy weapons. Others arrested with him were acquitted of any links to a suspected coup attempt after magistrates said prosecutors had failed to prove their case but were convicted on immigration charges to one year in jail. Both Mann's trial in Zimbabwe and the Equatorial Guinea trial began amid complaints of abuse and unfair treatment from relatives of those being held. One suspect, a German, died in prison in Equatorial Guinea of malaria (Amnesty International believes that he died as a result of the effects of torture, and has called for an investigation). In Equatorial Guinea in November 2004, a total of 22 people were convicted, including nine tried in absentia. Three Equatoguineans and three South Africans were acquitted. In June 2005, President Obiang decided to grant amnesty to the six Armenian pilots.

Although Equatorial Guinea lacks a well-established democratic tradition comparable to the developed democracies of the West, it should be noted that, out of the anarchic, chaotic, and repressive conditions of the Macias years the country has made small, haphazard steps toward the development of participatory political system.


ECONOMY

Oil and gas exports have increased substantially and will drive the economy for years to come. Real GDP growth reached 18% in 2000, 66% in 2001, 20% in 2002, 10% in 2003 and 25.7% in 2004 (est.). Per capita income rose from about $590 in 1998 to $2,000 in 2000 and $5,300 today. The energy export sector is responsible for this rapid growth. Oil production increased from 81,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 1998 to more than 400,000 bpd by 2004. Production of 500,000 bpd is projected by 2005. This is based on existing commercially viable oil and gas deposits. Exploration efforts continue in search of further potential offshore concessions.

Equatorial Guinea has other unexploited human and natural resources, including a tropical climate, fertile soils, rich expanses of water, deepwater ports, and an untapped, if unskilled, source of labor. Following independence in 1968, the country suffered under a repressive dictator-ship for 11 years, which devastated the economy. The agricultural sector, historically known for cocoa of the highest quality, never fully recovered. In 1969, Equatorial Guinea produced 36,161 tons of highly bid cocoa, but production dropped to 4,800 tons in 2000 and 3,430 tons in 2002. It increased slightly from 2003 levels to 2,906 tons by 2004. Coffee production was 126,000 metric tons in 2002, up from 67000 tons 5 years earlier. Timber is the main source of foreign exchange after oil, though it now only accounts for 2% of total export earnings. Timber production increased steadily during the 1990s; wood exports reached a record 789,000 cubic meters in 1999 as demand in Asia (mainly China) gathered pace after the 1998 economic crisis. Since 1998, production of timber has fallen closer to a sustainable level. 530,500 cubic meters were sold in 2002. Most of the production (mainly Okoume) goes to exports, and only 3% is processed locally. Bioko Island has already suffered permanent damage due to earlier exploitation. Consumer price inflation has declined from the 38.8% experienced in 1994 following the CFA franc devaluation, to 7.8% in 1998, and 4.0% in 2000, according to BEAC data. Consumer prices inflation has remained steady at around 6% since 2002.

Equatorial Guinea's economic policies, as defined by law, comprise an open investment regime. Qualitative restrictions on imports, non-tariff protection, and many import licensing requirements were lifted in 1992 when the government adopted a public investment program endorsed by the World Bank. The Government of Equatorial Guinea has sold some state enterprises. It is attempting to create a more favorable investment climate, and its investment code contains numerous incentives for job creation, training, promotion of nontraditional exports, support of development projects and indigenous capital participation, freedom for repatriation of profits, exemption from certain taxes and capital, and other benefits. Trade regulations have been further liberalized since Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC) reform codes in 1994. This included elimination of quota restrictions and reductions in the range and amounts of tariffs. The CEMAC countries agreed to the introduction of a value added tax (VAT) in 1999.

While business laws promote a liberalized economy, the business climate remains difficult. Application of the laws remains selective. Corruption among officials is widespread, and many business deals are concluded under nontransparent circumstances. A newly introduced wage law now regulates separate wage levels for the petroleum, private and government sector.

There is little industry in the country, and the local market for industrial products is small. The government seeks to expand the role of free enterprise and to promote foreign investment but has had little success in creating an atmosphere conducive to investor interest.

The Equatoguinean budget has grown enormously in the past 5 years as royalties and taxes on foreign company oil and gas production have provided new resources to a once poor government. The 2002 government revenue was about 414.5 billion CFA francs (about $805 million), up about 135% from 2000 levels. Oil revenues account for more than 81% of government revenue. Value Added Tax and trade taxes are other large revenue sources for the government.

The Equatoguinean Government has undertaken a number of reforms since 1991 to reduce its predominant role in the economy and promote private sector development. Its role is a diminishing one, although many government interactions with the private sector are at times capricious. The government is anxious for greater U.S. investment. Beginning in early 1997, the government initiated efforts to attract significant private sector involvement through cooperative efforts with the Corporate Council on Africa visit and numerous ministerial efforts. In 1998, the government privatized distribution of petroleum products. There are now Total and Mobil stations in the country. The maritime border with Nigeria was settled in 2000, allowing Equatorial Guinea to continue exploitation of its oil fields. In October 2002, the government launched a national oil company, GEPetrol, under the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons.

The government has expressed interest in privatizing the outmoded electricity utility. Several ports and a new terminal were built to accommodate the needs of the oil industry. A French company operates cellular telephone service in cooperation with a state enterprise. Most of the new infrastructure has not reached the average Equatoguinean living on the mainland. Agriculture, fishing, livestock, and tourism are among sectors the government would like targeted.

Equatorial Guinea's balance-of-payments situation has improved substantially since the mid-1990s because of new oil and gas production and favorable world energy prices. Exports totaled $2.23 billion in 2002. Crude oil exports now annually accounts for more than 97% of export earnings. Timber exports, by contrast, now represent only about 2% of export revenues. Imports into Equatorial Guinea also are growing very quickly. Imports totaled $635 million in 2002.

Equatorial Guinea in the 1980s and 1990s received foreign assistance from numerous bilateral and multi-lateral donors, including European countries, the United States, and the World Bank. Many of these aid programs have ceased altogether or have diminished. Spain, France, and the European Union continue to provide some project assistance, as do China and Cuba. The government also has discussed working with World Bank assistance to develop government administrative capacity.

Equatorial Guinea operated under an International Monetary Fund-negotiated Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) until 1996. Since then, there have been no formal agreements or arrangements. However, since 1996, the IMF has held regular held Article IV consultations (periodic country evaluations). After the 2003 consultations, IMF directors stressed the need for further improvements in governance and transparency, the attainment of a sustainable fiscal position, the implementation of structural reforms to bolster the non-oil sector, the development of a transparent framework for saving and managing part of the country's oil wealth and a comprehensive effort to reduce poverty.

Trade and Investment

With investments estimated at $11 billion, the United States is the largest cumulative bilateral foreign investor in Equatorial Guinea. In 2003, 74% of U.S. exports to Equatorial Guinea consisted of energy sector-related transportation and machinery equipment. The United States' main import from Equatorial Guinea is petroleum (99% of imports in 2003). In 1999, the European Union (EU) imported $281.7 million in goods from Equatorial Guinea, 89% of which was petroleum and 7% timber. The European Union exported $104 million to Equatorial Guinea. Approximately 20% of these exports were oil and gas-related, and the remaining 80% ranged from agricultural products to clothing to used cars.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure is generally old and in poor condition. Surface transport options are increasing as the government has invested heavily in road pavement projects. In 2002, the African Development Bank and the European Union co-financed two projects to improve the paved roads from Malabo to Luba and Riaba; and to build an interstate road network to link Equatorial Guinea to Cameroon and Gabon. The Chinese are undertaking a project to link Mongomo to Bata, both cities on the mainland. In November 2003, the government announced an ambitious ten-project program to upgrade the country's road network and improve the airport facilities at Bata, the country's second city (on the mainland). A new road links Malabo with the airport and there have been improvements in the city. The program is estimated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there are doubts over the capacity of the government to manage such a huge scheme.

Estimates of Equatorial Guinea's electricity generating capacity vary, with 15.4 megawatts (MW) of certain installed capacity, and 5-30 MW of estimated additional capacity. About 5.0 MW are located on the mainland, including 4 MW of oil-fired thermal capacity and 1 MW of hydroelectric capacity. Bioko Island receives electricity from two thermal plants and one hydroelectric plant. The expansion of natural gas production at the Alba field in recent years has provided a convenient fuel source for new power generation in the country. The 10.4-MW, natural gas-fired Punta Europa plant began operation in 1999, supplying gas-fired electricity to Bioko Island. Another 4-6 MW of generation capacity is currently under construction at the AMPCO complex on the island. Equatorial Guinea is estimated to have 2,600 MW of hydropower potential.

Equatorial Guinea's electricity sector is owned and operated by the state-run monopoly, SEGESA. The power supply is unreliable, due to aging equipment and poor management, as demonstrated by regular blackouts in Malabo. As a result, small diesel generators are widely used as a back-up source of power supply. In Malabo, the American company, Marathon Oil, built a 30 mega-watt electric power plant financed by the government, which came on line in mid-2000.

Potable water is available in the major towns but is not always reliable because of poor maintenance and mismanagement; consequently, supply interruptions are often frequent and prolonged in some neighborhoods. Some villages and rural areas are equipped with generators and water pumps, usually owned by private individuals.

Telecommunications have improved dramatically in recent years. Parastatal Getesa, a joint venture with a 40% ownership stake held by France Telecom, provides telephone service in the major cities through an efficient, digital fixed network and good mobile coverage. Getesa's fixed-line service has 9,000 subscribers and the mobile service has 28,000. Internet access is limited and has yet to make an impact on the dissemination of information.

Equatorial Guinea has two of the deepest Atlantic seaports of the region, including the main business and commercial port city of Bata. The ports of both Malabo and Bata are severely overextended and require extensive rehabilitation and reconditioning. In partnership with a U.S. petroleum company, Amerada Hess, a British company, Incat, has made significant progress in a project to renovate and expand Luba, the country's third-largest port, located on Bioko Island. The government hopes Luba will become a major transportation hub for offshore oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf of Guinea. Luba is located some 50 kilometers from Malabo and was previously virtually inactive except for minor fishing activities and occasional use to ease congestion in Malabo. Riaba, the only other port of any scale on Bioko, is less active. The continental ports of Mbini and Cogo have deteriorated as well and are now used primarily for timber.

Five small airlines now offer regular daily services between the two cities of Malabo and Bata and nearby neighboring countries. A few aging Soviet-built aircraft operated by several small carriers (one state-owned, the others private,) constitute this national aircraft fleet. The influx of oil workers has increased international air activity. Major international carriers now connect Malabo to the European cities of Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid and Zurich. A weekly business-class charter flight was providing service to Houston, Texas. The runway at Malabo's international airport (3,200 meters) is equipped with lights and can service equipment similar to DC-10s and C130s. The runway at Bata (2,400 meters) does not operate at night but can accommodate aircraft as large as B737s. Two minor airstrips (800 meters) are located at Mongomo and on the island of Annobon.

Energy Developments

Oil is Equatorial Guinea's most valuable asset. Since the discovery of the Zafiro field in 1995, production has increased more than tenfold, and oil has quickly become the country's most important export commodity, accounting for nearly 90% of the value of total exports in 2003. Equatorial Guinea is now the third largest producer of crude oil in sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Angola. Equatorial Guinea's oil reserves are located mainly in the hydrocarbon-rich Gulf of Guinea, containing estimated probable reserves as high as 10% of the world total. As a result, large amounts of foreign investment primarily by U.S. companies have poured into the country's oil sector in recent years.

Oil production from Equatorial Guinea is expanding rapidly, averaging 237,500 bbl/d in 2003, of which 206,000 was crude. This represents a tremendous increase from the 1996 oil output of 17,000 bbl/d. Production improvements and expansion projects undertaken in 2003 pushed petroleum output even higher, resulting in average production of 350,000 bbl/d for the first half of 2004. Meanwhile, the government has been vague about plans to cap production levels to extend the life of the country's petroleum reserves. Three fields—Zafiro, Ceiba, and Alba—currently account for the majority of the country's oil output.

Equatorial Guinea 's oil profits have expanded since 1998, when the country introduced more liberal regulatory and profit sharing arrangements for hydrocarbon exploration and production activities, including revised and updated Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs). As a result, government oil revenues increased from 13% to 20% of total oil export earnings. Although significant, the government's share is still relatively small by international standards.

In 2001, GEPetrol became Equatorial Guinea's national oil company. It was established as the primary state-run institution responsible for the country's downstream oil sector activities. However, since 2001 its primary focus has become managing the government's interest stakes in various PSCs with foreign oil companies. GEPetrol also partners with foreign firms to undertake exploration projects and has a say in the country's environmental policy implementation. Plans to increase the government's stake in new and existing PSCs have been discussed, but not formally pursued.

The majority of the reserves are found in the Zafiro field, located northwest of Bioko Island and south of Nigeria's offshore oil fields. In recent years, Exxon Mobil has focused on increasing production from Zafiro, expanding drilling capacity to accommodate this plan. Zafiro is Equatorial Guinea's largest oil producer, with output rising from an initial level of 7,000 bbl/d in August 1996 to approximately 280,000 bbl/d by 2004. Ceiba, Equatorial Guinea's second major producing oil field, is located just offshore of Rio Muni and is estimated to contain 300 million barrels of oil. Production at Ceiba has risen dramatically during the past 2-3 years, following improvements and upgrades to the facility. Alba, Equatorial Guinea's third significant field was discovered in 1991. Original estimates of reserves at Alba were around 68 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE), but recent exploration has increased new estimates significantly, to almost 1 billion BOE. Unlike the Zafiro or Ceiba fields, exploration and production at Alba has focused on natural gas, including condensates.

Ceiba's discovery has significantly increased interest in petroleum exploration of surrounding areas, with many new companies acquiring licenses in exploration blocks further offshore in the Rio Muni basin. International companies with interests in one or more exploration blocks include Chevron (U.S.), Vanco Energy (U.S.), Atlas Petroleum International (US), Devon Energy (US), Roc Oil (Australia), Petronas (Malaysia), Sasol Petroleum (South Africa), and Glencore (Switzerland). In October 2004, Noble Energy Equatorial Guinea, an Equatoguinean subsidiary of American Noble Energy, Inc. signed a contract to exploit a new oil field off the island of Bioko. Equatorial Guinea's total proven oil reserves are estimated at 1.1 billion barrels.

Equatorial Guinea's natural gas reserves are located offshore Bioko Island, primarily in the Alba and Zafiro oil and gas fields. Natural gas and condensate production in Equatorial Guinea has expanded rapidly in the last five years in response to new investments by major stakeholders in the Alba natural gas field. Alba, the country's largest natural gas field, contains 1.3 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven reserves, with probable reserves estimated at 4.4 Tcf or more.

Marathon Oil and GE Petrol have joined together in a $1.4 billion deal to construct a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility on Bioko Island. In May 2003, the government gave final approval for the plan to construct an LNG plant, once Marathon and GE Petrol had secured a 17-year purchase agreement with British Gas (BG) of the United Kingdom. Under the contract, the LNG facility will supply 3.4 million tons of LNG to BG, beginning in 2007. In June 2005, Marathon and GE Petrol restructured the deal to include two Japanese companies, Mitsui and Marubeni, as minority shareholders. Natural gas consumption in Equatorial Guinea has increased in recent years, along with higher production. Natural gas consumption jumped to 45 Bcf in 2002, from approximately 1 Bcf during each of the four previous years.


DEFENSE

The Equatoguinean military consists of approximately 2500 service members. The largest contingent is the Army with 1400 soldiers; the police have 400 para-military policemen, the Navy has 200 members and the Air Force has approximately 120. There is a Gendarmerie but the exact number of members is unknown. All are very poorly trained, but the government is steadily purchasing new equipment from Ukraine and China among others. In 2003, the government spent $75 million on military expenditures, about 9% of the 2002 budget. Neither the Navy nor the Air Force has trained crews to operate or maintain their equipment. Family and ethnic ties to the president determine promotions and influence within the military. Military decisionmaking is completely centralized with the President also serving as the Minister of Defense.

Between 1984 and 1992, service members went regularly to the United States on the International Military Education Training program, after which funding for this program for Equatorial Guinea ceased. U.S. military-to-military engagement has been dormant since 1997 (the year of the last Joint Combined Exchange Training Exercise), although their representatives did attend a recent military hosted conference on Gulf of Guinea Security Cooperation.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

A transitional agreement, signed in October 1968, implemented a Spanish pre-independence decision to assist Equatorial Guinea and provided for the temporary maintenance of Spanish forces there. A dispute with President Macias in 1969 led to a request that all Spanish troops immediately depart, and a large number of civilians left at the same time. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were never broken but were suspended by Spain in March 1977 in the wake of renewed disputes. After Macias' fall in 1979, President Obiang asked for Spanish assistance, and since then, Spain has regained its place of influence in Equatorial Guinea. The two countries signed permanent agreements for economic and technical cooperation, private concessions, and trade relations. Spain maintained a bilateral assistance program in Equatorial Guinea. Most Equatoguinean opposition elements (including a purported government-in-exile) are based in Spain to the annoyance of the Equatoguinean Government. Relations between the two countries grew difficult after the March 2004 coup attempt due to their hosting opposition figure Severo Moto and their belief that Spain had foreknowledge of the coup. However, the Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, visited Equatorial Guinea in March 2005.

Equatorial Guinea has had generally cordial relations with its neighbors. It is a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), which includes Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo/Brazzaville, and Gabon. Equatorial Guinea is also part of the central Africa CFA franc zone and the Cameroon-based Bank of Central African States coordinates monetary policy. The Bank of France guarantees the CFA franc, and French technical advisers work in the finance and planning ministries. France, Spain, Cuba, and China have participated in infrastructure and technical development projects.

Equatorial Guinea has minor border disputes with Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea involving coastal areas that define offshore territorial and affect ownership of potential future oil concession in the Gulf of Guinea. The Corisco border dispute with Gabon was solved by an agreement signed with the help of UN mediation in January 2004. The majority Fang ethnic group of mainland Equatorial Guinea extends both north and south into the forests of Cameroon and Gabon. Cameroon exports some food products to Equatorial Guinea and imports oil from Equatorial Guinea for its refinery at nearby Limbe. The development of the oil industry by U.S.-based companies and the lack of a well-trained work force have provided motivation for an influx of English-speaking workers (legal and illegal) from Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana. (However, relations with the Nigerian government have lately been cordial as the two countries delineated their offshore borders to facilitate development of nearby gas fields.) Roundups and expulsion of foreigners following the March 2004 coup attempt revived tensions between these neighbors.

The government's official policy is one of nonalignment and it has been reluctant to fully integrate itself into CEMAC. In its search for assistance to meet the goal of national reconstruction, the Government of Equatorial Guinea has established diplomatic relations with numerous European and Third World Countries.


U.S.-EQUATORIAL GUINEA RELATIONS

The Equatoguinean government favorably views the U.S. Government and American companies. The United States is the largest single foreign investor in Equatorial Guinea. U.S. companies have the largest and most visible foreign presence in the country. In an effort to attract increased U.S. investment, American passport-holders are entitled to visa-free entry for short visits. The United States is the only country with this privilege.

With the increased U.S. investment presence, relations between the U.S. and the Government of Equatorial Guinea have been characterized by a positive, constructive relationship. In 2003, the Department of State reopened a limited embassy in Malabo after an 8-year absence. Under the current arrangement, the U.S. Ambassador in Yaounde remains concurrently accredited to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. Consular responsibilities will remain with the U.S. embassy in Yaounde for the fore-seeable future, though the embassy maintains a consular agent in Bata.

Equatorial Guinea maintains an embassy in Washington, DC. President Obiang has strived to cultivate the Equatorial Guinea-U.S. relationship with regular visits to the U.S. for meetings with senior government and business leaders.

The 2004 U.S. State Department Human Rights report on Equatorial Guinea cited shortcomings in basic human rights, political freedom, and labor rights. Equatorial Guinea attributes deficiencies to excessive zeal on the part of local authorities and promises better control and sensitization. U.S. government policy involves constructive engagement with Equatorial Guinea to encourage an improvement in the human rights situation and positive use of petroleum funds directed toward the development of a working civil society. Equatoguineans visit the U.S. under programs sponsored by the U.S. Government, American oil companies and educational institutions. The Ambassador's Self-Help Fund annually finances a number of small grass-roots projects.

In view of growing ties between U.S. companies and Equatorial Guinea, the U.S. Government's overseas investment promotion agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), has concluded the largest agreement in Sub-Saharan Africa for a major U.S. project in Equatorial Guinea. The U.S. Agency for International Development has no Equatorial Guinea-related programs or initiatives nor is the Peace Corps present. American-based non-governmental organizations and other donor groups have very little involvement in the country.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

MALABO (E) Address: Carretera de Aeropuerto, Restaurante El Paraiso; Phone: (240) 093-457; Fax: (240) 09-84-43; Website: http://usembassy.state.go/malabo

AMB:R. Niels Marquardt
DCM/CHG:Sarah Morrison
Last Updated: 9/30/2004

The United States has re-opened a limited-function embassy in Malabo. However, inquiries should continue to be directed to the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon. The U.S. Embassy in Cameroon has moved from its previous downtown Yaounde location to a New Embassy Compound adjacent to the golf course at the base of the Mont Fébé. The new Embassy Chancery contacts are: Tel: (237) 220 15 00/Fax: (237) 220 16 20 while the Consular Section can be reached directly at Tel: (237) 220 16 03/Fax: (237) 220 1752. The mailing address is: B.P. 817, Yaounde, Came-roon. The U.S. mailing address is American Embassy Yaounde, Department of State, Washington, DC 20521-2520. Business hours are Monday to Thursday: 07:30 to 17:00 Friday: 07:30 to 12:30.


TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

January 11, 2006

Country Description:

Equatorial Guinea is a developing country in central Africa. Its capital, Malabo, is located on the island of Bioko, off the coast of Cameroon. Its principal port, Luba, is also on Bioko. The mainland territory of Equatorial Guinea is located between Cameroon and Gabon. The principal city on the mainland is Bata. Facilities for tourism are limited. Official languages are Spanish, which is widely spoken, and French, which is sometimes used in business dealings and with government officials.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

A passport and evidence of a yellow fever vaccination is required to enter Equatorial Guinea. U.S. citizens are not required to have visas to enter Equatorial Guinea for short visits. However, travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, 2020 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, telephone (202) 518-5700, fax (202) 518-5252. Overseas, inquiries may also be made at the nearest Equatoguinean embassy or consulate.

The Government of Equatorial Guinea has established stringent currency restrictions. Visitors for business or tourism must declare any currency in excess of 50,000 Central African francs (CFA) (approximately $90) upon arrival. Although this requirement is not clearly posted, travelers who fail to disclose their excess currency risk the forfeiture of any amount over the CFA 50,000 limit upon departure. They may also be frisked and have their bags searched to ascertain whether they are attempting to take excess currency out of the country.

Safety and Security:

It is not uncommon for a uniformed member of the security forces to stop motorists on the pretext of minor or nonexistent violations of the local motor vehicle regulations in order to extort small bribes. Visitors are advised not to pay bribes, and to request that the officer provide a citation to be paid at the local court. Although large public demonstrations are uncommon, U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

Violent crime is rare and the overall level of criminal activity is low in comparison to other countries in the region. However, there has been a rise in non-violent street crime and residential burglaries.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

Medical facilities are extremely limited. Pharmacies in Malabo and Bata stock basic medicines including antibiotics, but cannot be counted on to supply advanced medications. Outside of these cities, many medicines are unavailable. Travelers are advised to carry any special medication that they require. The sanitation levels in even the best hospitals are very low. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate payment for health services, and patients are expected to supply their own bandages, linen and toiletries.

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the type that predominates in Equatorial Guinea, is resistant to the antimalarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to the country are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam-TM), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone -TM). Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, including protective measures, see the CDC Travelers' Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm.

There are periodic outbreaks of cholera in Equatorial Guinea. Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine, required for entry, is very effective in preventing the disease.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Equatorial Guinea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Equatorial Guinea's road networks, both paved and unpaved, are under developed and unsafe. During the rainy season, many roads are passable only with four-wheel-drive vehicles. New road construction and repair is taking place in Malabo, Bata, and a few outlying areas, but only a fraction of the roadways have been affected. There are few road and traffic signs. Livestock and pedestrians create constant road hazards.

Travelers outside the limits of Malabo and Bata may expect to encounter occasional military roadblocks. These are in place largely for the control of illegal immigration and smuggling. Travelers should be prepared to show proper identification (for example, a U.S. passport) and to explain their reason for being at that particular location. The personnel staffing these checkpoints normally do not speak or understand English or French; travelers who do not speak Spanish would do well to have their reason for being in the country and their itinerary written down in Spanish before venturing into the countryside.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Equatorial Guinea, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Equatorial Guinea's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards.

There are no navigational aids at Bata Airport. At Malabo Airport, there are navigational aids, and the airport accommodates night landings. Special clearances are required to land in or to over fly Equatoguinean territory.

Commercial air travel to and from Equatorial Guinea can be difficult, but is improving. Some regional airlines may not meet international safety standards. The island of Bioko and the mainland are connected by several small airlines offering daily service. Malabo is served by European airlines that fly in and out of the country a few times per week from Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris and Zurich. The airlines of nearby Cameroon and Gabon also fly there, although their schedules are subject to change or cancellation without notice, and their flights tend to be extremely crowded.

Special Circumstances:

Equatorial Guinea has a strictly cash economy. Credit cards and checks are not accepted; credit card cash advances are not available and there are no ATMs. In addition, most local businesses do not accept travelers' checks, dollars or euros. However, dollars can be changed at local banks for CFA. Cash in CFA is usually the only form of payment accepted throughout the country.

Special permits from the Ministry of Information and Tourism (or from the local delegation if outside Malabo) are required for virtually all types of photography. Police or security officials may charge a fine, attempt to take a violator into custody, or seize the camera and film of persons photo-graphing the Presidential Palace and its environs, military installations, airports, harbors, government buildings, and other areas.

Travelers are advised that the possession of camouflage-patterned clothing, large knives, binoculars, firearms, or a variety of other items may be deemed suspicious by the security forces and grounds for confiscation of the item and detention of the carrier.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Equatoguinean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strictly enforced. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://www.travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

Americans living or traveling in Equatorial Guinea are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

The United States reopened its Embassy in Malabo in October 2003. However, due to limited staffing, it can offer only emergency services to U.S. citizens in distress. The U.S. Embassy in Malabo can be contacted at (240) 098-895. U.S. citizens in distress may also contact the U.S. Consular Agent in Bata at (240) 275-507. Routine services are provided through the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon, located in the Mbankolo Quartier, adjacent to the Mount Febe Golf Club; Embassy tel. (237) 220-1603, fax: (237) 220-1572. The Embassy Branch Office in Douala, Cameroon is located on Rue Flatters, in the Citibank building, tel.: (237) 342-53-31, fax: (237) 342-77-90.

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

1 Location and Size

2 Topography

3 Climate

4 Plants and Animals

5 Environment

6 Population

7 Migration

8 Ethnic Groups

9 Languages

10 Religions

11 Transportation

12 History

13 Government

14 Political Parties

15 Judicial System

16 Armed Forces

17 Economy

18 Income

19 Industry

20 Labor

21 Agriculture

22 Domesticated Animals

23 Fishing

24 Forestry

25 Mining

26 Foreign Trade

27 Energy and Power

28 Social Development

29 Health

30 Housing

31 Education

32 Media

33 Tourism and Recreation

34 Famous Equatorial Guineans

35 Bibliography

Republic of Equatorial Guinea

República de Guinea Ecuatorial

CAPITAL: Malabo (formerly Santa Isabel)

FLAG: The flag is a tricolor of green, white, and red horizontal stripes; a blue triangle joins them at the hoist. The arms in the center of the white stripe hold a cotton tree (the national symbol), six stars—one for each physical division of the country—and the motto “Unidad, Justicia, Paz.”

ANTHEM: Himno Nacional, beginning “Caminemos pisando la senda de nuestra inmensa felicidad” (“Let us walk on the path of our immense happiness”).

MONETARY UNIT: Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFA Fr), which was originally pegged to the French franc, has been pegged to the euro since January 1999 with a rate of 655.957 CFA francs to 1 euro. CFA Fr1 = $0.00208 (or $1 = CFA Fr480.56) as of 2005. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 francs.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year’s Day, 1 January; Independence Day, 5 March; Labor Day, 1 May; OAU Day, 25 May; President’s Birthday, 5 June; Armed Forces Day, 3 August; Human Rights Day, 10 December; Christmas, 25 December. Movable Christian holidays include Good Friday and Easter Monday.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.

1 Location and Size

Located on the west coast of Africa, Equatorial Guinea consists of a mainland, Río Muni, and five inhabited islands: Bioko, Annobón, Corisco, and the two small Elobeys (Elobey Chico and Elobey Grande, known together as Islas Elobey). The total area is 28,051 square kilometers (10,831 square miles). Comparatively, the area occupied by Equatorial Guinea is slightly larger than the state of Maryland. Río Muni shares borders with Cameroon and Gabon with a land boundary length of 539 kilometers (335 miles) and a coastline (Atlantic Ocean) of 296 kilometers (184 miles). The capital city, Malabo, is located on the island of Bioko.

2 Topography

Bioko and Annobón are volcanic islands that are part of the chain starting with the Cameroon

GEOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Geographic Features

Area: 28,051 sq km (10,830 sq mi)

Size ranking: 141 of 194

Highest elevation: 3,008 meters (9,869 feet) at Santa Isabel Peak (Pico Basile)

Lowest elevation: Sea level at the Atlantic Ocean

Land Use*

Arable land: 5%

Permanent crops: 4%

Other: 91%

Weather**

Average annual precipitation: (Malabo): 193 centimeters (76 inches)

Average temperature in January: (Malabo): 16–33°c (61–91°f)

Average temperature in July: (Malabo): 24°c (76°f)

* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.

Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.

Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.

** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.

Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.

Highlands and outcropping into the Atlantic as far as Saint Helena. Río Muni is a fluvial mainland plateau, except for the sandy shore and the ridges of the Sierra Cristal range that separate the coast from the interior plateau. The highest point is Santa Isabel, at 3,008 meters (9,869 feet). The lowest point is at sea level (Atlantic Ocean).

The Muni and Ntem rivers, on the south and north boundaries of Río Muni, are estuaries navigable for about 20 kilometers (12 miles). The Mbini River, midway between them, is typical of the cascading streams that drain all of Río Muni. It is also the longest river in the country with a length of 248 kilometers (155 miles). Bioko has short cascading streams; Annobón has only storm arroyos (dry creeks that fill with water only after heavy rains). Most of the country, including the islands, consists of tropical rain forest. On Annobón, volcanic deposits restrict agriculture, and the Muni estuarial islands are sandy, but the rest of the country has tropical humus conducive to agriculture.

3 Climate

Equatorial Guinea has a tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. From June to August, Río Muni is dry and Bioko wet; from December to February, the reverse is true. The temperature at Malabo, Bioko, in January ranges from 16 to 33°c (61 to 91°F). Annual rainfall varies from 193 centimeters (76 inches) at Malabo to 1,092 centimeters (430 inches) at Ureka, Bioko, but Río Muni is somewhat drier.

4 Plants and Animals

Dense tropical rain forest vegetation prevails throughout Equatorial Guinea. There are 140 species of trees, especially palms and hardwoods. Yams and bananas were introduced by the early inhabitants and became staples. Monkeys, chimpanzees, elephants, and gray doves are common.

5 Environment

Equatorial Guinea’s most significant environmental problems are deforestation, water pollution, desertification, and the preservation of wildlife. The forests are threatened by agricultural expansion, fires, and grazing. The nation’s wild-life is threatened by the expansion of population centers. The country has three Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance. In 2006, threatened species included 17 types of mammals, 6 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 8 species of fish, and 61 species of plants. Endangered species include the drill (Papio leucophaeus), Preuss’s monkey, and the green sea, hawksbill, and olive ridley turtles.

6 Population

The population was estimated at 504,000 in 2005 and was projected to reach 762,000 for the year 2025. Population density in 2005 was about 18 per square kilometer (47 per square mile). The principal town is Malabo, on Bioko, which had about 95,000 people in 2005.

7 Migration

In 2005, the estimated net migration rate was zero. However, migration to Spain is a traditional and ongoing occurrence. Between 80% and 90% of Equatorial Guinean nationals who go to Spain do not return. There were approximately 1,000 migrants in Equatorial Guinea in 2000.

8 Ethnic Groups

The largest single tribe of Equatorial Guineans is the Fang (Fon, or Pamúe). The Bubi on Bioko are descendants of the indigenous African Bantu-speaking population that fled from the Cameroonian and Riomunian mainland in the thirteenth century. Fernandinos, who are descendants of mainland slaves liberated by the British navy in the nineteenth century, and Europeans, especially Spanish Asturians and Catalonians, have long dominated commerce and government. It is estimated that the 67 Fang clans represent 80% of the population. Europeans, mostly Spanish, number less than 1,000.

9 Languages

Spanish is the official language of the government, commerce, and schools. French is also an official language. The principal vernacular is Fang, which, like all the country’s indigenous languages, is a Bantu tongue. Bubi and Ibo are also spoken. Annobón uses the fãd’Ambo, a pidgin form of Bantu speech with heavy sixteenth-century Portuguese inflection. Much petty commerce is conducted in pidgin English (Pichinglis).

10 Religions

About 93% of the population is Christian. Within the Christian population, 87% are Roman Catholic, and about 4.5% are mainline Protestant, primarily Baptist and Episcopalian. Though there is no state religion, a 1992 law established official preferences for the Catholic Church and the Reform Church of Equatorial Guinea, based on the traditional importance of these two denominations in popular culture. Religious study (primarily Catholic) is required in public schools. African traditional religions are still practiced among the indigenous tribes.

11 Transportation

There were 2,880 kilometers (1,790 miles) of highways in Equatorial Guinea in 2002, none of which were paved. The chief ports are Bata and Mbini in Río Muni and Malabo and Luba on Bioko. In 2005, the country had one merchant ship in service. Bata’s airport was the first major air transport facility. About 21,000 passengers are serviced there yearly. As of 2004, there were

only four airports, three of which have paved runways.

12 History

Bioko was apparently uninhabited when the Bubi came by sea from the mainland in the 13th century. For the next four centuries, Río Muni seems to have been occupied by the Bantu in a series of waves that superseded the Pygmies. In 1778, Portugal transferred its nominal claims over present-day Equatorial Guinea to Spain in return for Spanish concessions in southern Brazil. The primary Spanish mainland explorations were undertaken between 1875 and 1885.

Equatorial Guinea became a province of Spain in 1958.

On 12 October 1968, the colony became the independent Republic of Equatorial Guinea. On 23 August 1972, Francisco Macías Nguema was proclaimed president for life. Seven years later, he was overthrown in a military coup. Under the rule of Macías Nguema’s nephew, Lieutenant-Colonel Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, corruption continued to flourish, with political opponents and others imprisoned or put to death. In office since 1979, he was elected head of state without opposition on 25 June 1989. Since 17 November 1991, Equatorial Guinea has officially had a constitutional democracy

BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Name: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

Position: President of a republic

Took Office: 3 August 1979

Birthplace: Acoa-Kam, Equatorial Guinea

Birthdate: 5 June 1942

Education: Saragossa Military Academy, Spain, 1965

Spouse: Constancia

Children: Several children

with multiparty elections. In reality, Obiang’s Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) controls the country.

In elections held on 15 December 2002, Obiang officially was reelected with 97.1% of the vote, but as in the past, the elections were marred by fraud and were not regarded as legitimate by either domestic or international observers. The judiciary, which often has come under international scrutiny, scheduled a national conference in January 2003 to seek ways to improve human rights and to strengthen rule of law.

In 2004, opposition groups made two failed attempts to overthrow the government. As of 2005, Obiang’s health seemed to be failing and it was speculated that his son, commonly referred to as Theodorín, would be his heir if Obiang does not finish his third term or does not run for reelection in 2009.

13 Government

Since adopting the 17 November 1991 constitution, the country has officially been a constitutional democracy with a multiparty system of elections. However, since President Obiang became president in 1979, his party, the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE), has controlled the country. The president appoints a prime minister who is nominally the head of government. There is a House of People’s Representatives with 100 members elected by direct popular vote for five-year terms.

The country is divided into seven provinces, which are further subdivided into districts and 244 municipalities.

14 Political Parties

From 1979–92, the Democratic Party for Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) was the only legal party. In 1992, the government began to recognize other political parties, but these have not gained any significant power within the government. The Progress Party was banned by presidential decree in 1997 as the government accused the party leader of planning a coup. Party membership is restricted to those who had lived continuously in Equatorial Guinea for 10 years. The Convergence Part for Social Democracy (CPDS), the Party for Progress of Equatorial Guinea (PPGE), the Popular Action of Equatorial Guinea (APGE), and the Popular Union (UP) were among the 12 registered opposition parties functioning in the country as of 2006. Only two parties—PDGE with 98 seats and CPDS with 2—won seats in parliament in the 2004 elections.

15 Judicial System

The court system includes a Supreme Court, two appeals courts, lower provincial courts, military courts, and customary (traditional) courts. A Constitutional Court established in 1993 decides constitutional issues. Under the 1991 constitution, the judiciary is not independent of the executive branch. The president has full power to appoint and dismiss judges at any time.

16 Armed Forces

In 2005, military personnel numbered 1,320— army, 1,100; navy, 120; and air force, 100. Paramilitary forces included the civil guard and the coast guard. The military budget for 2005 was $7.3 million.

17 Economy

The agricultural sector employs the majority of the population. The country exports cocoa, coffee, and timber, and imports large quantities of foodstuffs.

In 1994, France suddenly devalued the CFA franc, the currency of the African nations that were tied historically to France, by 50%. Prices for almost all imported goods soared and people were encouraged to buy goods that were made locally instead of imports. However, the value of exports increased, particularly the value of the country’s newest product, oil. By 1998 economic growth returned to around 15 to 20%. Growth continued at that level through 2003.

Oil production began in 1991 and new reserves were discovered in 1995. Oil income fueled economic growth from 1998 through 2004. Other natural resources that are undeveloped are titanium, iron ore, manganese, uranium, and gold.

18 Income

In 2005, Equatorial Guinea’s gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $25.7 billion, or $50,200 per person. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 19%. The average inflation rate in 2002 was 5%.

Yearly Growth Rate

This economic indicator tells by what percent the economy has increased or decreased when compared with the previous year.

19 Industry

Equatorial Guinea’s manufacturing sector is small. Two sawmills lead industrial production, followed by cement, bleach, and tuna canning plants. The petroleum mining industry is growing rapidly. Oil in 2004 accounted for over 88% of gross domestic product (GDP) and over 97% of exports.

20 Labor

Most of the labor force was employed in subsistence agriculture in 2002. The unemployment rate is estimated at 30%. The Small Farmers Syndicate, established in 2001, was the first and only legal union as of 2005. There was a monthly minimum wage of about $100 in 2002 for unskilled workers, with the minimum for oil sector professionals set at 10 times that amount. The legal minimum age for employment is 14 years, but the government does not enforce this. The standard workweek is 35 hours.

Components of the Economy

This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.

21 Agriculture

An estimated 8% of the land is engaged in crop production and agriculture employs about 71% of the population.

The main food crop is cassava, producing 45,000 tons in 2004. Sweet potatoes are the second-largest food crop, with 36,000 tons produced in 2004, followed by bananas (20,000 tons). In 2004, coffee production was reported at an estimated 3,500 tons and cocoa production was estimated at 2,400 tons. However, it is believe that some of the coffee and cocoa produced is actually smuggled out of the country for profit instead of being delivered to state marketing agents.

22 Domesticated Animals

Livestock production is hindered by the presence of trypanosomiasis (pronounced TRI-pan-o-so-MY-a-sis; sleeping sickness) and other tropical deterrents. In 2005, there were 37,600 sheep, 9,000 goats, 6,100 hogs, and 5,000 cattle.

23 Fishing

Annobón residents survive almost entirely on fishing and retain their traditional preeminence in offshore whaling and turtle gathering. Bioko is also a major fishing center, the chief catches being perch, tuna, mackerel, cod, pike, shark, and crayfish. In 2003 the total catch was about 3,500 tons.

24 Forestry

Timber from Río Muni is Equatorial Guinea’s leading export. Forests cover over 62% of the land area. The mainland produces okoumé and akoga from rain forests of considerable age. In 2004, roundwood (unsawed timber that is not cut in squares, such as poles) production was estimated at 811,000 cubic meters (28.6 million cubic feet). Exports of forest products amounted to $97 million.

25 Mining

Geological surveys show deposits of bauxite, alluvial gold, copper, diamond, titanium-bearing sands, ilmenite beach sands, lead, phosphates, zinc, iron, manganese, tantalum, and uranium in Rio Muni. However, there has been no significant exploitation of these minerals. In 2004, miners produced 500 kilograms (1.102 pounds) of gold and small amounts of clay, gravel, and sand.

26 Foreign Trade

Leading exports include petroleum, timber, and cocoa. Major imports are machinery, building materials, food and beverages, and petroleum products. Spain, the United States, and China are the principal export markets.

Yearly Balance of Trade

The balance of trade is the difference between what a country sells to other countries (its exports) and what it buys (its imports). If a country imports more than it exports, it has a negative balance of trade (a trade deficit). If exports exceed imports there is a positive balance of trade (a trade surplus).

27 Energy and Power

Electricity production totaled 25 million kilowatt hours in 2002. Equatorial Guinea’s total oil production in 2005 averaged 420,000 barrels per day. Proven oil reserves were estimated at 1.28 billion barrels. A methanol plant on Bioko began natural gas production in 2001.

28 Social Development

Social insurance including disability, old age, sickness, and work injury benefits are available for some employees. Farmers and other agricultural works are not covered under the plans. A great majority of the population goes without safe drinking water, electricity, basic education, or minimal health care. Women have the same

Selected Social Indicators

The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2006. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world’s 6.5 billion people live in high-income countries, while 37% live in low-income countries.

IndicatorEquatorial Guinea Low-income countriesHigh-income countriesUnited States
sources: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2006; Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006; World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.
Per capita gross national income (GNI)*$7,580 $2,258$31,009$39,820
Population growth rate2.1% 2%0.8%1.2%
People per square kilometer of land18 803032
Life expectancy in years: male48 587675
female51 608280
Number of physicians per 1,000 people0.3 0.43.72.3
Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)n.a. 431615
Literacy rate (15 years and older)87% 65%>95%99%
Television sets per 1,000 peoplen.a. 84735938
Internet users per 1,000 people10 28538630
Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)n.a. 5015,4107,843
CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)3.07 0.8512.9719.92
* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNI is calculated by dividing a country’s GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.
n.a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than

legal rights as men, but in practice face discrimination. Male-dominated traditions and customs lead many parents to withdraw their daughters from school. Human rights violations are common.

29 Health

The national health system of Equatorial Guinea consists of four levels: health posts in each village of 600 people, dispensaries in health centers with a qualified nurse at the intermediate level, district level hospitals, and two referral hospitals at the most centralized level. In 2004, there were an estimated 25 physicians, 40 nurses, 1 dentist, 1 pharmacist, and 2 midwives for every 100,000 people.

In 2005, the infant mortality rate was 91 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy was 49.7 years.

Major health problems are preventable diseases, mainly malaria, parasitic disease, upper respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, and complications of pregnancy. In the continental zone, sickle cell anemia is common. In 2004, the number of people living with human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) was estimated at 5,900. In 2003, deaths from AIDS were estimated at 370.

In 1995 there were about 50,000 households with an average of eight persons per household.

31 Education

Education is free and compulsory from 6 to 11 years of age. Primary education is for five years followed by four years of secondary in the first stage and three subsequent years of secondary education in the second stage. In 2001, it was estimated that about 87% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 24% of those eligible attend secondary school. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level is not reported officially, but is believed to average about 43 to 1. The ratio at the secondary level is about 23 to 1.

The National University of Equatorial Guinea is the main university. As of 2004, the adult literacy rate was estimated at 87% (males, 92.1%; females 76.4%).

32 Media

In 2003, there were about 9,600 mainline telephones and 41,500 mobile phones in use throughout the country. Equatorial Guinea has two government-owned radio stations broadcasting in Spanish, French, and local languages, including Fang, Bubi, and Combe. There is one television station, also government owned. Cable television is also available. There are about 180,000 radios and 4,000 televisions nationwide. As of 2006, about 10 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.

Poto Poto, published in Spanish and Fang, may be the only daily national newspaper. There were five general-interest newspapers published regularly in 2002.

Although the constitution of Equatorial Guinea provides for free speech and a free press, the government is said to severely restrict these freedoms in practice, censoring all criticism of the president and security forces. Access to foreign publications is limited.

33 Tourism and Recreation

Because Equatorial Guinea has undergone many years of international isolation, its tourism industry is undeveloped.

34 Famous Equatorial Guineans

Francisco Macías Nguema (1924–1979) was president until his overthrow and execution. Lieutenant-Colonel Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (1942– ) has ruled the country since 1979.

35 Bibliography

BOOKS

Fegley, Randall. Equatorial Guinea. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio, 1991.

Liniger-Goumaz, Max. Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea. 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Sundiata, I. K. Equatorial Guinea: Colonialism, State Terror, and the Search for Stability. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990.

WEB SITES

Country Analysis Briefs. www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Equatorial_Guinea/Background.html. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Country Pages. www.state.gov/p/af/ci/ek/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

Government Home Page. ceiba-guinea-ecuatorial.org. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

Compiled from the November 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Equatorial Guinea

PROFILE

GEOGRAPHY

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

DEFENSE

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-EQUATORIAL GUINEA RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Location: Western Africa, bordering the Bay of Biafra. Bordering nations—Cameroon, Gabon.

Area: 28,050 sq. km; slightly smaller than Maryland.

Cities: Capital—Malabo. Other cities—Bata (also capital of Littoral province on the mainland).

Terrain: Varies. Bioko Island is volcanic, with three major peaks of 9,876 feet, 7,416 feet and 6,885 feet. Behind the coastal plain, the mainland provinces are hilly at a level of approximately 2,000 feet, with some 4,000-foot peaks. Annobon Island is volcanic.

Climate: Tropical; always hot, humid. Bata on the mainland is somewhat drier and cooler.

People

Nationality: Noun—Equatorial Guinean(s), Equatoguinean(s) Adjective—Equatorial Guinean, Equatoguinean.

Population: (July 2005 est.) 540,109.

Annual growth rate: (2003 est.) 24.1%; 2.8% (1975-2002).

Ethnic groups: The Fang ethnic group of the mainland constitutes the great majority of the population and dominates political life and business. The Bubi group comprises about 50,000 people living mainly in Bioko Island. The Annobonese on the island of Annobon are estimated at about 3,000 in number. The other three ethnic groups are found on the coast of Rio Muni and include the Ndowe and Kombe (about 3,000 each) and the Bujebas (about 2,000). The pygmy populations have long been integrated into the dominant Bantu-speaking cultures. Europeans are less than 1,000, mostly Spanish.

Languages: Official—Spanish, French; other—pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo.

Religion: Nominally Christian and predominantly Roman Catholic; pagan practices.

Education: Primary school compulsory for ages 6-14. Attendance (2002 est.)—85%. Adult literacy (2003 est.)—85.7%.

Health: (2003 est.) Life expectancy—49 years. Infant mortality rate—89/1,000.

Government

Type: Nominally multi-party Republic with strong domination by the executive branch.

Independence: October 12, 1968 (from Spain).

Constitution: Approved by national referendum November 17, 1991; amended January 1995.

Government branches: Executive—President (Chief of State) and a Council of Ministers appointed by the president. Legislative—100-member Chamber of People’s Representatives (members directly elected by universal suffrage to serve five-year terms). Judicial—Supreme Tribunal.

Political subdivisions: Seven provinces—Annobon, Bioko Norte, Bioko Sur, Centro Sur, Kie-Ntem, Littoral, Wele-Nzas.

Political parties: The ruling party is the Partido Democratico de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), formed July 30, 1987. Numerous other parties were allowed to form in the early 1990s.

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal adult.

Economy

GDP: (2005 est.) $25.69 billion.

GDP growth rate: (2004 est.) 25.7%.

Inflation rate: (2004 est. average) 5.8%.

Unemployment rate: (1998 est.) 30%.

Natural resources: Petroleum, timber, small, unexploited deposits of gold, manganese, and uranium.

Agriculture: (1999 est.) 16% of GDP. Products—coffee, cocoa, rice, yams, cassava (tapioca), bananas, palm oil nuts, manioc, livestock, and timber.

Industry: (1999 est.) 75.3% of GDP. Types—petroleum, fishing, saw milling, natural gas.

Services: (2001) 4.1% of GDP.

Trade: (2003 est.) Exports—$2.6 billion: hydrocarbons (97%), timber (2%), others (1%). Imports—$1.2 billion. Major trading partners—United States, Spain, China, Canada, France, Great Britain, Cameroon and Norway.

Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine (CFA) Franc.

GEOGRAPHY

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is located in west central Africa. Bioko Island lies about 40 kilometers (25 mi.) from Cameroon. Annobon Island lies about 595 kilometers (370 mi.) southwest of Bioko Island. The larger continental region of Rio Muni lies between Cameroon and Gabon on the mainland; it includes the islands of Corisco, Elobey Grande, Elobey Chico, and adjacent islets.

Bioko Island, called Fernando Po until the 1970s, is the largest island in the Gulf of Guinea—2,017 square kilometers (780 sq. mi.). It is shaped like a boot, with two large volcanic formations separated by a valley that bisects the island at its narrowest point. The 195-kilometer (120-mi.) coastline is steep and rugged in the south but lower and more accessible in the north, with excellent harbors at Malabo and Luba, and several scenic beaches between those towns.

On the continent, Rio Muni covers 26,003 square kilometers (10,040 sq. mi.). The coastal plain gives way to a succession of valleys separated by low hills and spurs of the Crystal Mountains. The Rio Benito (Mbini), which divides Rio Muni in half, is unnavigable except for a 20-kilometer stretch at its estuary. Temperatures and humidity in Rio Muni are generally lower than on Bioko Island.

Annobon Island, named for its discovery on New Year’s Day 1472, is a small volcanic island covering 18 square kilometers (7 sq. mi.). The coastline is abrupt except in the north; the principal volcanic cone contains a small lake. Most of the estimated 1,900 inhabitants are fisherman specializing in traditional, small-scale tuna fishing and whaling. The climate is tropical—heavy rainfall, high humidity, and frequent seasonal changes with violent windstorms.

PEOPLE

The majority of the Equatoguinean people are of Bantu origin. The largest tribe, the Fang, is indigenous to the mainland, but substantial migration to Bioko Island has resulted in Fang dominance over the earlier Bantu inhabitants. The Fang constitute 80% of the population and are themselves divided into 67 clans. Those in the northern part of Rio Muni speak Fang-Ntumu, while those in the south speak Fang-Okah; the two dialects are mutually unintelligible. The Bubi, who constitute 15% of the population, are indigenous to Bioko Island. In addition, there are coastal tribes, sometimes referred to as “Playeros,” consisting of Ndowes, Bujebas, Balengues, and Bengas on the mainland and small islands, and “Fernandinos,” a Creole community, on Bioko. Together, these groups comprise 5% of the population. There are also foreigners from neighboring Cameroon, Nigeria, and Gabon.

Spanish and French are both official languages, though use of Spanish predominates. The Roman Catholic Church has greatly influenced both religion and education.

Equatoguineans tend to have both a Spanish first name and an African first and last name. When written, the Spanish and African first names are followed by the father’s first name (which becomes the principal surname) and the mother’s first name. Thus people may have up to four names, with a different surname for each generation.

HISTORY

The first inhabitants of the region that is now Equatorial Guinea are believed to have been Pygmies, of whom only isolated pockets remain in northern Rio Muni. Bantu migrations between the 17th and 19th centuries brought the coastal tribes and later the Fang. Elements of the latter may have generated the Bubi, who immigrated to Bioko from Cameroon and Rio Muni in several waves and succeeded former Neolithic populations. The Annobon population, native to Angola, was introduced by the Portuguese via Sao Tome.

The Portuguese explorer, Fernando Po (Fernao do Poo), seeking a route to India, is credited with having discovered the island of Bioko in 1471. He called it Formosa (“pretty flower”), but it quickly took on the name of its European discoverer. The Portuguese retained control until 1778, when the island, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger and Ogoue Rivers were ceded to Spain in exchange for territory in South America (Treaty of Pardo). From 1827 to 1843, Britain established a base on the island to combat the slave trade. The Treaty of Paris settled conflicting claims to the mainland in 1900, and periodically, the mainland territories were united administratively under Spanish rule.

Spain lacked the wealth and the interest to develop an extensive economic infrastructure in what was commonly known as Spanish Guinea during the first half of this century. However, through a paternalistic system, particularly on Bioko Island, Spain developed large cacao plantations for which thousands of Nigerian workers were imported as laborers. At independence in 1968, largely as a result of this system, Equatorial Guinea had one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa. The Spanish also helped Equatorial Guinea achieve one of the continent’s highest literacy rates and developed a good network of health care facilities.

In 1959, the Spanish territory of the Gulf of Guinea was established with status similar to the provinces of metropolitan Spain. As the Spanish Equatorial Region, a governor general ruled it exercising military and civilian powers. The first local elections were held in 1959, and the first Equatoguinean representatives were seated in the Spanish parliament.

Under the Basic Law of December 1963, limited autonomy was authorized under a joint legislative body for the territory’s two provinces. The name of the country was changed to Equatorial Guinea. Although Spain’s commissioner general had extensive powers, the Equatorial Guinean General Assembly had considerable initiative in formulating laws and regulations.

In March 1968, under pressure from Equatoguinean nationalists and the United Nations, Spain announced that it would grant independence to Equatorial Guinea. A constitutional convention produced an electoral law and draft constitution. In the presence of a UN observer team, a referendum was held on August 11, 1968, and 63% of the electorate voted in favor of the constitution, which provided for a government with a General Assembly and a Supreme Court with judges appointed by the president.

In September 1968, Francisco Macias Nguema was elected first president of Equatorial Guinea, and independence was granted in October. In July 1970, Macias created a single-party state and by May 1971, key portions of the constitution were abrogated. In 1972 Macias took complete control of the government and assumed the title of President-for-Life. The Macias regime was characterized by abandonment of all government functions except internal security, which was accomplished by terror; this led to the death or exile of up to one-third of the country’s population. Due to pilferage, ignorance, and neglect, the country’s infrastructure—electrical, water, road, transportation, and health—fell into ruin. Religion was repressed, and education ceased. The private and public sectors of the economy were devastated. Nigerian contract laborers on Bioko, estimated to have been 60,000, left en masse in early 1976. The economy collapsed, and skilled citizens and foreigners left.

In August 1979, Macias’ nephew from Mongomo and former director of the infamous Black Beach prison, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, led a successful coup d’etat; Macias was arrested, tried, and executed. Obiang assumed the Presidency in October 1979. Obiang initially ruled Equatorial Guinea with the assistance of a Supreme Military Council. A new constitution, drafted in 1982 with the help of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, came into effect after a popular vote on August 15, 1982; the Council was abolished, and Obiang remained in the presidency for a 7-year term. He was reelected in 1989. In February 1996, he again won reelection with 98% of the vote; several opponents withdrew from the race, however, and international observers criticized the election. Subsequently, Obiang named a new cabinet, which included some opposition figures in minor portfolios.

Despite the formal ending of one-party rule in 1991, President Obiang and a circle of advisors (drawn largely from his own family and ethnic group) maintain real authority. The President names and dismisses cabinet members and judges, ratifies treaties, leads the armed forces, and has considerable authority in other areas. He appoints the governors of Equatorial Guinea’s seven provinces. The opposition had few electoral successes in the 1990s. By early 2000, President Obiang’s PDGE party fully dominated government at all levels. In December 2002, President Obiang won a new seven-year mandate with 97% of the vote. Reportedly, 95% of eligible voters voted in this election, although many observers noted numerous irregularities.

GOVERNMENT

The 1982 constitution gives the President extensive powers, including naming and dismissing members of the cabinet, making laws by decree, dissolving the Chamber of Representatives, negotiating and ratifying treaties and calling legislative elections. The President retains his role as commander in chief of the armed forces maintains close supervision of military activity. In June 2004, the President reorganized the cabinet and created two new positions: Minister of National Security and Director of National Forces. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and operates under powers designated by the President. The Prime Minister coordinates government activities in areas other than foreign affairs, national defense, and security.

The Chamber of Representatives is comprised of 100 members elected by direct suffrage for 5-year terms. In practice, the Chamber is not independent and rarely acts without presidential approval or direction. A new National Assembly was directly elected in April 2004. There are 100 members in this body, of which 14 are from the loyal opposition and 2 from opposition parties (the CPDS: Convergencia Para la Democracia Social).

The President appoints the governors of the seven provinces. Each province is divided administratively into districts and municipalities. The internal administrative system falls under the Ministry of Territorial Administration; several other ministries are represented at the provincial and district levels.

The judicial system follows similar administrative levels. At the top are the President and his judicial advisors (the Supreme Court). In descending rank are the appeals courts, chief judges for the divisions, and local magistrates. Tribal laws and customs are honored in the formal court system when not in conflict with national law. The current court system, which often uses customary law, is a combination of traditional, civil, and military justice, and it operates in an ad hoc manner for lack of established procedures and experienced judicial personnel.

The other official branch of the government is the State Council. The State Council’s main function is to serve as caretaker in case of death or physical incapacity of the President. It comprises the following ex officio members: the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the President of the National Assembly and the Chairman of the Social and Economic Council.

Although the abuses and atrocities that characterized the Macias years have been eliminated, effective rule of law does not exist and the government is ultimately run by the Presidency. Religious freedom is tolerated.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 1/24/2007

Pres.: Teodoro OBIANG Nguema Mbasogo, Brig. Gen. (Ret.)

Prime Min.: Ricardo MANGUE Obama Nfube

First Vice Prime Min. in charge of Human Rights: Aniceto EBIAKA Mohote

Second Vice Prime Min. in charge of the Interior: Demetrio ELO Ndong Nsefumu

Sec. Gen. of the Govt. in charge of Administrative Coordination: Fortunado OFA Mbo

Min. of Agriculture & Forests: Teodoro Nguema OBIANG Mangu

Min. of Civil Service & Administrative Planning: Vincente Eate TOMI

Min. of Economy, Commerce, & Promotion: Jaime Ela NDONG

Min. of Education, Science, & Sports: Cristobal Menana ELA

Min. of Finance & Budget: Mercelino Owono EDU

Min. of Fishing & the Environment: Vincente Rodriguez SIOSA

Min. of Foreign Affairs, Intl. Cooperation, & Francophone Affairs: Pastor Micha Ondo BILE

Min. of Health: Antonio Martin NDONG Ntutumu

Min. of Information, Culture, Tourism, & Govt. Spokesman: Santiago NSOBEYA Efuman Nchama

Min. of Infrastructure & Urban Planning: Fidel NSUE Micha

Min. of Integration: Baltasar Engonga EDJO

Min. of Interior & Local Corporations: Clemente ENGONGA Nguema Onguene

Min. of Justice, Culture, & Penitentiary Institutions: Mauricio BOKUNG Asumu

Min. of Labor & Social Security: Evangelina OYO Ebule

Min. of Mines, Industry, & Energy: Antanasio ELA Ntugu Nsa

Min. of National Defense: Antonio MBA Nguema, Gen.

Min. of National Security: Manuel Nguema MBA Ma Mba, Col.

Min. of Mines, Industry, & Energy: Antanasio Ela NTUGU Nsa

Min. of Planning, Economic Development, & Public Investment: Jose ELA Oyana

Min. of Social Affairs & the Promotion of Women: Eulalia ENVO Bela

Min. of Transportation, Technology, & Posts & Telecommunications: Demetrio Elo Ndong NSEFUMU

Min. at the Presidency in Charge of Missions: Alejandro EVUNA Owono Asangono

Min. at the Presidency in Charge of Political Affairs & Admin.: Carmelo MODU Acuse Bindang

Min. at the Presidency in Charge of Information, Culture, & Tourism: Alfonso NSUE Mokuy

Min. in Charge of Relations With Parliament: Angel MASIE Mibuy

Ambassador to the US: Purificacion Angue ONDO

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Lino Sima Ekua AVOMO

Equatorial Guinea maintains an embassy at 2020 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 (Tel. (202) 518-5700, Fax. (202) 518-5252). Its mission to the United Nations is at 801 Second Avenue, Suite 1403, New York, N.W. 10017 (Tel. 212-599-1523).

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

In the period following Spain’s grant of local autonomy to Equatorial Guinea in 1963, there was a great deal of political party activity. Bubi and Fernandino parties on the island preferred separation from Rio Muni or a loose federation. Ethnically based parties in Rio Muni favored independence for a united country comprising Bioko and Rio Muni, an approach that ultimately won out. (The Movimiento para la Auto-deter-minacion de la Isla de Bioko (MAIB) which advocates independence for the island under Bubi control, is one of the offshoots of the era immediately preceding independence). After the accession of Macias to power, political activity largely ceased in Equatorial Guinea. Opposition figures who lived among the exile communities in Spain and elsewhere agitated for reforms; some of them had been employed in the Macias and Obiang governments. After political activities in Equatorial Guinea were legalized in the early 1990s, some opposition leaders returned, but repressive actions have continued sporadically.

The country’s first freely contested municipal elections were held in September 1995. Most observers agree that the elections themselves were relatively free and transparent and that the opposition parties garnered between two-thirds and three-quarters of the total vote. The government, however, delayed announcement of the results and then claimed a highly dubious 52% victory overall and the capture of 19 of 27 municipal councils. In early January 1996 Obiang called for presidential elections. International observers agreed that the campaign was marred by fraud, and most of the opposition candidates withdrew in the final week. Obiang claimed reelection with 98% of the vote. In an attempt to mollify his critics, Obiang gave minor portfolios in his cabinet to people identified as opposition figures. In the legislative election in March 1999, the party increased its majority in the 80-seat parliament from 68 to 75. The main opposition parties refused the seats they had allegedly won. In May 2000, the ruling PDGE overwhelmed its rivals in local elections. Opposition parties rejected the next election, the December 2002 Presidential election, as invalid. During this election, President Obiang was re-elected with 97% of the vote. Following his re-election Obiang formed a government based on national unity encompassing all opposition parties, except for the CPDS, which declined to join after Obiang refused to release one of their jailed leaders.

In April 2004, parliamentary and municipal elections took place. President Obiang’s Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) and allied parties won 98 of 100 seats in parliament and all but seven of 244 municipal posts. International observers criticized both the election and its results.

While President Obiang’s rule, in which schools reopened, primary education expanded, and public utilities and roads restored, compares favorably with Macias’ tyranny and terror, it has been criticized for not implementing genuine democratic reforms. Corruption and a dysfunctional judicial system disrupt the development of Equatorial Guinea’s economy and society. In 2004, the President appointed a new Prime Minister, Miguel Abia Biteo, and replaced several ministers; however, the government budget still did not include all revenues and expenditures. The United Nations Development Program proposed a broad governance reform program, but the Equatoguinean Government was not moving rapidly to implement it. In August 2006 a new Prime Minister, Ricardo Mangue, was named.

Equatorial Guinea suffered a severe human rights setback in May 2002 when a special tribunal convicted 68 prisoners and their relatives and sentenced them 6 to 20 years in prison for an alleged attempted coup d’etat. Among the prisoners were leaders of the three main opposition parties that had remained independent from President Obiang’s ruling party. There were numerous irregularities associated with the trial, including evidence of torture and a lack of substantive proof. In August 2003, 31 of these convicted prisoners were granted a presidential amnesty.

In March 2004, Zimbabwean police in Harare impounded a plane from South Africa with 64 alleged mercenaries on board. The group said they were providing security for a mine in Democratic Republic of the Congo, but a couple of days later an Equatorial Guinean minister said they had detained 15 more men who he claimed were the advance party for the group captured in Zimbabwe. Nick du Toit, the leader of the group of South Africans, Armenians and one German, in Equatorial Guinea, said at his trial in Equatorial Guinea that he was playing a limited role in a coup bid organized by Simon Mann, the alleged leader of the group held in Zimbabwe, to remove Obiang from power and install an exiled opposition politician, Severo Moto.

In September 2004, Mann was sentenced to seven years in jail in Zimbabwe after being convicted of illegally trying to buy weapons. Others arrested with him were acquitted of any links to a suspected coup attempt after magistrates said prosecutors had failed to prove their case but were convicted on immigration charges to one year in jail. Both Mann’s trial in Zimbabwe and the Equatorial Guinea trial began amid complaints of abuse and unfair treatment from relatives of those being held. One suspect, a German, died in prison in Equatorial Guinea of malaria (Amnesty International believed that he died as a result of the effects of torture, and called for an investigation). In Equatorial Guinea in November 2004, a total of 22 people were convicted, including nine tried in absentia. Three Equatoguineans and three South Africans were acquitted. In June 2005, President Obiang decided to grant amnesty to the six Armenian pilots.

Although Equatorial Guinea lacks a well-established democratic tradition comparable to the developed democracies of the West, it should be noted that, out of the anarchic, chaotic, and repressive conditions of the Macias years the country has made small, haphazard steps toward the development of participatory political system.

ECONOMY

Oil and gas exports have increased substantially and will drive the economy for years to come. Real GDP growth reached 18% in 2000, 66% in 2001, 20% in 2002, 10% in 2003 and 25.7% in 2004 (est.). Per capita income rose from about $590 in 1998 to $2,000 in 2000 and $5,300 today. The energy export sector is responsible for this rapid growth. Oil production increased from 81,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) in 1998 to more than 300,000 bbl/d by 2004, and is currently capped at 350,000 bbl/d. Exploration efforts continue in search of further potential offshore concessions.

Equatorial Guinea has other unexploited human and natural resources, including a tropical climate, fertile soils, rich expanses of water, deepwater ports, and an untapped, if unskilled, source of labor. Following independence in 1968, the country suffered under a repressive dictatorship for 11 years, which devastated the economy. The agricultural sector, historically known for cocoa of the highest quality, never fully recovered. In 1969, Equatorial Guinea produced 36,161 tons of highly bid cocoa, but production dropped to 4,800 tons in 2000 and 3,430 tons in 2002. It increased slightly from 2003 levels to 2,906 tons by 2004. Coffee production was 126,000 metric tons in 2002, up from 67000 tons 5 years earlier. Timber is the main source of foreign exchange after oil, though it now only accounts for 2% of total export earnings. Timber production increased steadily during the 1990s; wood exports reached a record 789,000 cubic meters in 1999 as demand in Asia (mainly China) gathered pace after the 1998 economic crisis. Since 1998, production of timber has fallen closer to a sustainable level. 530,500 cubic meters were sold in 2002. Most of the production (mainly Okoume) goes to exports, and only 3% is processed locally. Bioko Island has already suffered permanent damage due to earlier exploitation. Consumer price inflation has declined from the 38.8% experienced in 1994 following the CFA franc devaluation, to 7.8% in 1998, and 4.0% in 2000, according to BEAC data. Consumer prices inflation has remained steady at around 6% since 2002.

Equatorial Guinea’s economic policies, as defined by law, comprise an open investment regime. Qualitative restrictions on imports, non-tariff protection, and many import licensing requirements were lifted in 1992 when the government adopted a public investment program endorsed by the World Bank. The Government of Equatorial Guinea has sold some state enterprises. It is attempting to create a more favorable investment climate, and its investment code contains numerous incentives for job creation, training, promotion of nontraditional exports, support of development projects and indigenous capital participation, freedom for repatriation of profits, exemption from certain taxes and capital, and other benefits. Trade regulations have been further liberalized since Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC) reform codes in 1994. This included elimination of quota restrictions and reductions in the range and amounts of tariffs. The CEMAC countries agreed to the introduction of a value added tax (VAT) in 1999.

While business laws promote a liberalized economy, the business climate remains difficult. Application of the laws remains selective. Corruption among officials is widespread, and many business deals are concluded under nontransparent circumstances. A wage law now regulates separate wage levels for the petroleum, private, and government sector.

There is little industry in the country, and the local market for industrial products is small. The government seeks to expand the role of free enterprise and to promote foreign investment but has had little success in creating an atmosphere conducive to investor interest. The Equatoguinean budget has grown enormously in the past 5 years as royalties and taxes on foreign company oil and gas production have provided new resources to a once poor government. The 2005 government revenue was about $1.97 billion. Oil revenues account for more than 81% of government revenue. Value Added Tax and trade taxes are other large revenue sources for the government.

The Equatoguinean Government has undertaken a number of reforms since 1991 to reduce its predominant role in the economy and promote private sector development. Its role is a diminishing one, although many government interactions with the private sector are at times capricious. The government is anxious for greater U.S. investment. Beginning in early 1997, the government initiated efforts to attract significant private sector involvement through cooperative efforts with the Corporate Council on Africa visit and numerous ministerial efforts. In 1998, the government privatized distribution of petroleum products. There are now Total and Mobil stations in the country. The maritime border with Nigeria was settled in 2000, allowing Equatorial Guinea to continue exploitation of its oil fields. In October 2002, the government launched a national oil company, GEPetrol, under the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons.

The government has expressed interest in privatizing the outmoded electricity utility. Several ports and a new terminal were built to accommodate the needs of the oil industry. A French company operates cellular telephone service in cooperation with a state enterprise. Most of the new infrastructure has not reached the average Equatoguinean living on the mainland. Agriculture, fishing, livestock, and tourism are among sectors the government would like targeted.

Equatorial Guinea’s balance-of-payments situation has improved substantially since the mid-1990s because of new oil and gas production and favorable world energy prices. Exports totaled $6.72 billion in 2005. Crude oil exports now annually accounts for more than 97% of export earnings. Timber exports, by contrast, now represent only about 2% of export revenues. Imports into Equatorial Guinea also are growing very quickly. Imports totaled $1.86 billion in 2005.

Equatorial Guinea in the 1980s and 1990s received foreign assistance from numerous bilateral and multilateral donors, including European countries, the United States, and the World Bank. Many of these aid programs have ceased altogether or have diminished. Spain, France, and the European Union continue to provide some project assistance, as do China and Cuba. The government also has discussed working with World Bank assistance to develop government administrative capacity.

Equatorial Guinea operated under an International Monetary Fund-negotiated Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) until 1996. Since then, there have been no formal agreements or arrangements. However, since 1996, the IMF has held regular held Article IV consultations (periodic country evaluations). After the 2003 consultations, IMF directors stressed the need for further improvements in governance and transparency, the attainment of a sustainable fiscal position, the implementation of structural reforms to bolster the non-oil sector, the development of a transparent framework for saving and managing part of the country’s oil wealth and a comprehensive effort to reduce poverty.

Trade and Investment

With investments estimated at $11 billion, the United States is the largest cumulative bilateral foreign investor in Equatorial Guinea. In 2003, 74% of U.S. exports to Equatorial Guinea consisted of energy sector-related transportation and machinery equipment. The United States’ main import from Equatorial Guinea is petroleum (99% of imports in 2003). In 1999, the European Union (EU) imported $281.7 million in goods from Equatorial Guinea, 89% of which was petroleum and 7% timber. The European Union exported $104 million to Equatorial Guinea. Approximately 20% of these exports were oil and gas-related, and the remaining 80% ranged from agricultural products to clothing to used cars.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure is generally old and in poor condition. Surface transport options are increasing as the government has invested heavily in road pavement projects. In 2002, the African Development Bank and the European Union co-financed two projects to improve the paved roads from Malabo to Luba and Riaba; and to build an interstate road network to link Equatorial Guinea to Cameroon and Gabon. The Chinese are undertaking a project to link Mongomo to Bata, both cities on the mainland. In November 2003, the government announced an ambitious ten-project program to upgrade the country’s road network and improve the airport facilities at Bata, the country’s second city (on the mainland). A new road links Malabo with the airport and there have been improvements in the city. The program is estimated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there are doubts over the capacity of the government to manage such a huge scheme.

Estimates of Equatorial Guinea’s electricity generating capacity vary, with 15.4 megawatts (MW) of certain installed capacity, and 5-30 MW of estimated additional capacity. About 5.0 MW are located on the mainland, including 4 MW of oil-fired thermal capacity and 1 MW of hydroelectric capacity. Bioko Island receives electricity from two thermal plants and one hydroelectric plant. The expansion of natural gas production at the Alba field in recent years has provided a convenient fuel source for new power generation in the country. The 10.4-MW, natural gas-fired Punta Europa plant began operation in 1999, supplying gas-fired electricity to Bioko Island. Another 4-6 MW of generation capacity is currently under construction at the AMPCO complex on the island. Equatorial Guinea is estimated to have 2,600 MW of hydropower potential.

Equatorial Guinea’s electricity sector is owned and operated by the state-run monopoly, SEGESA. The power supply is unreliable, due to aging equipment and poor management, as demonstrated by regular blackouts in Malabo. As a result, small diesel generators are widely used as a back-up source of power supply. In Malabo, the American company, Marathon Oil, built a 30 mega-watt electric power plant financed by the government, which came on line in mid-2000.

Potable water is available in the major towns but is not always reliable because of poor maintenance and mismanagement; consequently, supply interruptions are often frequent and prolonged in some neighborhoods. Some villages and rural areas are equipped with generators and water pumps, usually owned by private individuals.

Telecommunications have improved dramatically in recent years. Parastatal Getesa, a joint venture with a 40% ownership stake held by France Telecom, provides telephone service in the major cities through an efficient, digital fixed network and good mobile coverage. Getesa’s fixed-line service has 9,000 subscribers and the mobile service has 28,000. Internet access is limited and has yet to make an impact on the dissemination of information.

Equatorial Guinea has two of the deepest Atlantic seaports of the region, including the main business and commercial port city of Bata. The ports of both Malabo and Bata are severely overextended and require extensive rehabilitation and reconditioning. In partnership with a U.S. petroleum company, Amerada Hess, a British company, Incat, has made significant progress in a project to renovate and expand Luba, the country’s third-largest port, located on Bioko Island. The government hopes Luba will become a major transportation hub for offshore oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf of Guinea. Luba is located some 50 kilometers from Malabo and was previously virtually inactive except for minor fishing activities and occasional use to ease congestion in Malabo. Riaba, the only other port of any scale on Bioko, is less active. The continental ports of Mbini and Cogo have deteriorated as well and are now used primarily for timber.

Five small airlines now offer regular daily services between the two cities of Malabo and Bata and nearby neighboring countries. A few aging Soviet-built aircraft operated by several small carriers (one state-owned, the others private,) constitute this national aircraft fleet. In March of 2006 the European Union fully banned most airlines based in Equatorial Guinea from flying into the EU. The influx of oil workers has increased international air activity. Major international carriers now connect Malabo to the European cities of Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid and Zurich. A weekly business-class charter flight was providing service to Houston, Texas. The runway at Malabo’s international airport (3,200 meters) is equipped with lights and can service equipment similar to DC-10s and C130s. The runway at Bata (2,400 meters) does not operate at night but can accommodate aircraft as large as B737s. Two minor airstrips (800 meters) are located at Mongomo and on the island of Annobon.

Energy Developments

Oil is Equatorial Guinea’s most valuable asset. Since the discovery of the Zafiro field in 1995, production has increased more than tenfold, and oil has quickly become the country’s most important export commodity, accounting for nearly 90% of the value of total exports in 2003. Equatorial Guinea is now the third largest producer of crude oil in sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Angola. Equatorial Guinea’s oil reserves are located mainly in the hydrocarbon-rich Gulf of Guinea, containing estimated probable reserves as high as 10% of the world total. As a result, large amounts of foreign investment primarily by U.S. companies have poured into the country’s oil sector in recent years.

Oil production from Equatorial Guinea is expanding rapidly, averaging 237,500 bbl/d in 2003, of which 206,000 was crude. This represents a tremendous increase from the 1996 oil output of 17,000 bbl/d. Production improvements and expansion projects undertaken in 2003 pushed petroleum output even higher, resulting in average production of 350,000 bbl/d for the first half of 2004. In October 2004, the government capped production levels at 350,000 bbl/d to extend the life of the country’s petroleum reserves. Three fields—Zafiro, Ceiba, and Alba—currently account for the majority of the country’s oil output.

Equatorial Guinea’s oil profits have expanded since 1998, when the country introduced more liberal regulatory and profit sharing arrangements for hydrocarbon exploration and production activities, including revised and updated Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs). As a result, government oil revenues increased from 13% to 20% of total oil export earnings. Although significant, the government’s share is still relatively small by international standards.

In 2001, GEPetrol became Equatorial Guinea’s national oil company. It was established as the primary state-run institution responsible for the country’s downstream oil sector activities. However, since 2001 its primary focus has become managing the government’s interest stakes in various PSCs with foreign oil companies. GEPetrol also partners with foreign firms to undertake exploration projects and has a say in the country’s environmental policy implementation. Plans to increase the government’s stake in new and existing PSCs have been discussed, but not formally pursued.

The majority of the reserves are found in the Zafiro field, located northwest of Bioko Island and south of Nigeria’s offshore oil fields. In recent years, Exxon Mobil has focused on increasing production from Zafiro, expanding drilling capacity to accommodate this plan. Zafiro is Equatorial Guinea’s largest oil producer, with output rising from an initial level of 7,000 bbl/d in August 1996 to approximately 280,000 bbl/d by 2004. Ceiba, Equatorial Guinea’s second major producing oil field, is located just offshore of Rio Muni and is estimated to contain 300 million barrels of oil. Production at Ceiba has risen dramatically during the past 2-3 years, following improvements and upgrades to the facility. Alba, Equatorial Guinea’s third significant field was discovered in 1991. Original estimates of reserves at Alba were around 68 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE), but recent exploration has increased new estimates significantly, to almost 1 billion BOE. Unlike the Zafiro or Ceiba fields, exploration and production at Alba has focused on natural gas, including condensates.

Ceiba’s discovery has significantly increased interest in petroleum exploration of surrounding areas, with many new companies acquiring licenses in exploration blocks further offshore in the Rio Muni basin. International companies with interests in one or more exploration blocks include Chevron (U.S.), Vanco Energy (U.S.), Atlas Petroleum International (U.S.), Devon Energy (U.S.), Roc Oil (Australia), Petronas (Malaysia), Sasol Petroleum (South Africa), and Glencore (Switzerland). In October 2004, Noble Energy Equatorial Guinea, an Equatoguinean subsidiary of American Noble Energy, Inc. signed a contract to exploit a new oil field off the island of Bioko. Equatorial Guinea’s total proven oil reserves are estimated at 1.1 billion barrels.

Equatorial Guinea’s natural gas reserves are located offshore Bioko Island, primarily in the Alba and Zafiro oil and gas fields. Natural gas and condensate production in Equatorial Guinea has expanded rapidly in the last five years in response to new investments by major stakeholders in the Alba natural gas field. Alba, the country’s largest natural gas field, contains 1.3 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven reserves, with probable reserves estimated at 4.4 Tcf or more.

Marathon Oil and GE Petrol have joined together in a $1.4 billion deal to construct a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility on Bioko Island. In May 2003, the government gave final approval for the plan to construct an LNG plant, once Marathon and GE Petrol had secured a 17-year purchase agreement with British Gas (BG) of the United Kingdom. Under the contract, the LNG facility will supply 3.4 million tons of LNG to BG, beginning in 2007. In June 2005, Marathon and GE Petrol restructured the deal to include two Japanese companies, Mitsui and Marubeni, as minority shareholders. Natural gas consumption in Equatorial Guinea has increased in recent years, along with higher production. Natural gas consumption jumped to 45 Bcf in 2002, from approximately 1 Bcf during each of the four previous years.

DEFENSE

The Equatoguinean military consists of approximately 2,500 service members. The largest contingent is the Army with 1,400 soldiers; the police have 400 para-military policemen, the Navy has 200 members and the Air Force has approximately 120. There is a Gendarmerie but the exact number of members is unknown. All are very poorly trained, but the government is steadily purchasing new equipment from Ukraine and China among others. In 2003, the government spent $75 million on military expenditures, about 9% of the 2002 budget. Neither the Navy nor the Air Force has trained crews to operate or maintain their equipment. Family and ethnic ties to the president determine promotions and influence within the military. Military decision-making is completely centralized with the President also serving as the Minister of Defense.

Between 1984 and 1992, service members went regularly to the United States on the International Military Education Training program, after which funding for this program for Equatorial Guinea ceased. U.S. military-to-military engagement has been dormant since 1997 (the year of the last Joint Combined Exchange Training Exercise), although their representatives did attend a recent military hosted conference on Gulf of Guinea Security Cooperation.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

A transitional agreement, signed in October 1968, implemented a Spanish pre-independence decision to assist Equatorial Guinea and provided for the temporary maintenance of Spanish forces there. A dispute with President Macias in 1969 led to a request that all Spanish troops immediately depart, and a large number of civilians left at the same time. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were never broken but were suspended by Spain in March 1977 in the wake of renewed disputes. After Macias’ fall in 1979, President Obiang asked for Spanish assistance, and since then, Spain has regained its place of influence in Equatorial Guinea. The two countries signed permanent agreements for economic and technical cooperation, private concessions, and trade relations. Spain maintained a bilateral assistance program in Equatorial Guinea. Most Equatoguinean opposition elements (including a purported government-in-exile) are based in Spain to the annoyance of the Equatoguinean Government. Relations between the two countries grew difficult after the March 2004 coup attempt due to their hosting opposition figure Severo Moto and their belief that Spain had foreknowledge of the coup. However, the Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, visited Equatorial Guinea in March 2005.

Equatorial Guinea has had generally cordial relations with its neighbors. It is a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), which includes Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo/Brazzaville, and Gabon. Equatorial Guinea is also part of the central Africa CFA franc zone, and the Cameroon-based Bank of Central African States coordinates monetary policy. The Bank of France guarantees the CFA franc, and French technical advisers work in the finance and planning ministries. France, Spain, Cuba, and China have participated in infrastructure and technical development projects. Equatorial Guinea had a minor border dispute with Cameroon that was resolved by the International Court of Justice in 2002. The Corisco border dispute with Gabon was solved by an agreement signed with the help of UN mediation in January 2004, but the small island of Mbane and potentially oil-rich waters surrounding it remain contested. The majority Fang ethnic group of mainland Equatorial Guinea extends both north and south into the forests of Cameroon and Gabon. Cameroon exports some food products to Equatorial Guinea and imports oil from Equatorial Guinea for its refinery at nearby Limbe. The development of the oil industry by U.S.-based companies and the lack of a well-trained work force have provided motivation for an influx of English-speaking workers (legal and illegal) from Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana. (However, relations with the Nigerian Government have lately been cordial as the two countries delineated their offshore borders to facilitate development of nearby gas fields.) Roundups and expulsion of foreigners following the March 2004 coup attempt revived tensions between these neighbors.

The government’s official policy is one of nonalignment and it has been reluctant to fully integrate itself into CEMAC. In its search for assistance to meet the goal of national reconstruction, the Government of Equatorial Guinea has established diplomatic relations with numerous European and third world countries.

U.S.-EQUATORIAL GUINEA RELATIONS

The Equatoguinean Government favorably views the U.S. Government and American companies. The United States is the largest single foreign investor in Equatorial Guinea. U.S. companies have the largest and most visible foreign presence in the country. In an effort to attract increased U.S. investment, American passport-holders are entitled to visa-free entry for short visits. The United States is the only country with this privilege. With the increased U.S. investment presence, relations between the U.S. and the Government of Equatorial Guinea have been characterized by a positive, constructive relationship. Equatorial Guinea maintains an embassy in Washington, DC. President Obiang has worked to cultivate the Equatorial Guinea-U.S. relationship with regular visits to the U.S. for meetings with senior government and business leaders.

The 2005 U.S. State Department Human Rights report on Equatorial Guinea cited shortcomings in basic human rights, political freedom, and labor rights. Equatorial Guinea attributes deficiencies to excessive zeal on the part of local authorities and promises better control and sensitization. U.S. Government policy involves constructive engagement with Equatorial Guinea to encourage an improvement in the human rights situation and positive use of petroleum funds directed toward the development of a working civil society. Equatoguineans visit the U.S. under programs sponsored by the U.S. Government, American oil companies, and educational institutions. The Ambassador’s Self-Help Fund annually finances a number of small grassroots projects.

In view of growing ties between U.S. companies and Equatorial Guinea, the U.S. Government’s overseas investment promotion agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), has concluded the largest agreement in Sub-Saharan Africa for a major U.S. project in Equatorial Guinea. The U.S. Agency for International Development has no Equatorial Guinea-related programs or initiatives nor is the Peace Corps present. American-based non-governmental organizations and other donor groups have very little involvement in the country.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

MALABO (E) Address: Carretera de Aeropuerto KM-3 (El Paraiso), Apt. 95, Malabo Equatorial Guinea; Phone: (240) 09.88.95; Fax: (240) 09.88.94; Workweek: 8:30-5, M-F; Website: http://malabo.usembassy.gov/.

AMB:Donald C. Johnson
DCM:Sarah Morrison
CON:Maureen McGovern
MGT:Maureen McGovern
DAO:Ross Clemons
FMO:Robert Gresbrink
IMO:George B. Green
ISO:Lynne Hermanson
ISSO:Lynne Hermanson
RSO:Wade L. Boston

Last Updated: 12/13/2006

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : January 11, 2006

Country Description: Equatorial Guinea is a developing country in central Africa. Its capital, Malabo, is located on the island of Bioko, off the coast of Cameroon. Its principal port, Luba, is also on Bioko. The mainland territory of Equatorial Guinea is located between Cameroon and Gabon. The principal city on the mainland is Bata. Facilities for tourism are limited. Official languages are Spanish, which is widely spoken, and French, which is sometimes used in business dealings and with government officials.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A passport and evidence of a yellow fever vaccination is required to enter Equatorial Guinea. U.S. citizens are not required to have visas to enter Equatorial Guinea for short visits. However, travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, 2020 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, telephone (202) 518-5700, fax (202) 518-5252. Overseas, inquiries may also be made at the nearest Equato-guinean embassy or consulate.

The Government of Equatorial Guinea has established stringent currency restrictions. Visitors for business or tourism must declare any currency in excess of 50,000 Central African francs (CFA) (approximately $90) upon arrival. Although this requirement is not clearly posted, travelers who fail to disclose their excess currency risk the forfeiture of any amount over the CFA 50,000 limit upon departure. They may also be frisked and have their bags searched to ascertain whether they are attempting to take excess currency out of the country.

Safety and Security: It is not uncommon for a uniformed member of the security forces to stop motorists on the pretext of minor or nonexistent violations of the local motor vehicle regulations in order to extort small bribes. Visitors are advised not to pay bribes, and to request that the officer provide a citation to be paid at the local court. Although large public demonstrations are uncommon, U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Violent crime is rare and the overall level of criminal activity is low in comparison to other countries in the region. However, there has been a rise in non-violent street crime and residential burglaries.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities are extremely limited. Pharmacies in Malabo and Bata stock basic medicines including antibiotics, but cannot be counted on to supply advanced medications. Outside of these cities, many medicines are unavailable. Travelers are advised to carry any special medication that they require. The sanitation levels in even the best hospitals are very low. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate payment for health services, and patients are expected to supply their own bandages, linen and toiletries. Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the type that predominates in Equatorial Guinea, is resistant to the antimalarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to the country are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam—TM), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone -TM).

Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, including protective measures, see the CDC Travelers’ Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm. There are periodic outbreaks of cholera in Equatorial Guinea. Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine, required for entry, is very effective in preventing the disease. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Equatorial Guinea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Equatorial Guinea’s road networks, both paved and unpaved, are underdeveloped and unsafe. During the rainy season, many roads are passable only with four-wheel-drive vehicles. New road construction and repair is taking place in Malabo, Bata, and a few outlying areas, but only a fraction of the roadways have been affected. There are few road and traffic signs. Livestock and pedestrians create constant road hazards. Travelers outside the limits of Malabo and Bata may expect to encounter occasional military roadblocks. These are in place largely for the control of illegal immigration and smuggling. Travelers should be prepared to show proper identification (for example, a U.S. passport) and to explain their reason for being at that particular location. The personnel staffing these checkpoints normally do not speak or understand English or French; travelers who do not speak Spanish would do well to have their reason for being in the country and their itinerary written down in Spanish before venturing into the countryside.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Equatorial Guinea, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Equatorial Guinea’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov. There are no navigational aids at Bata Airport. At Malabo Airport, there are navigational aids, and the airport accommodates night landings. Special clearances are required to land in or to over fly Equato-guinean territory. Commercial air travel to and from Equatorial Guinea can be difficult, but is improving. Some regional airlines may not meet international safety standards. The island of Bioko and the mainland are connected by several small airlines offering daily service. Malabo is served by European airlines that fly in and out of the country a few times per week from Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris and Zurich. The airlines of nearby Cameroon and Gabon also fly there, although their schedules are subject to change or cancellation without notice, and their flights tend to be extremely crowded.

Special Circumstances: Equatorial Guinea has a strictly cash economy. Credit cards and checks are not accepted; credit card cash advances are not available and there are no ATMs. In addition, most local businesses do not accept travelers’ checks, dollars or euros. However, dollars can be changed at local banks for CFA. Cash in CFA is usually the only form of payment accepted throughout the country. Special permits from the Ministry of Information and Tourism (or from the local delegation if outside Malabo) are required for virtually all types of photography. Police or security officials may charge a fine, attempt to take a violator into custody, or seize the camera and film of persons photographing the Presidential Palace and its environs, military installations, airports, harbors, government buildings, and other areas. Travelers are advised that the possession of camouflage-patterned clothing, large knives, binoculars, firearms, or a variety of other items may be deemed suspicious by the security forces and grounds for confiscation of the item and detention of the carrier.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Equatoguinean laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strictly enforced. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Equatorial Guinea are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy.

International Adoption : July 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: Intercountry adoption from Equatorial Guinea is rare. As of July 2006, the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon, which issues immigrant visas for citizens of Equatorial Guinea, has not issued an adoption visa to an orphan from Equatorial Guinea in five years. The U.S. Embassy in Malabo continues to seek clarification from the government of Equatorial Guinea on the legal procedures for intercountry adoption.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adopting Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel. state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy :
Carretera Aeropuerto KM-3, El
Paraiso
Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
http://usembassy.state.gov/malabo
Tel: 09.88.95
Fax: 09.88.94
[email protected]

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Equatorial Guinea may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Equatorial Guinea. General questions regarding inter-country adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

Type of Government

By constitution Equatorial Guinea is a multiparty republic. The president serves as head of state and commander of the armed forces while an appointed prime minister serves as head of government. A unicameral legislature is constituted by direct, popular vote. The nation’s leading legal body is the Supreme Tribunal, with justices appointed by the president. In practice, however, the government is authoritarian, with power concentrated in the executive branch.

Background

Equatorial Guinea, one of the smallest countries in Africa, consists of a small territory on the continent’s western coast, known as Rio Muni, and several nearby islands, the largest of which is Bioko. The first inhabitants of Rio Muni were hunter-gatherer tribes from nearby regions, including the Baku pygmies. Between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD, members of the Bantu ethno-linguistic group occupied the region and established a procession of transient states. In the following centuries the Fang tribe, the region’s largest ethnic group, controlled the coastal area of the mainland, until it was driven into the interior in the seventeenth century by Muslim slave traders.

The Bubi tribe settled the island of Bioko in the thirteenth century and lived in isolation until the arrival of Europeans in the fifteenth century. Portuguese explorer Fernão do Pó was the first European to visit Bioko; for many years thereafter the island was named for him. The Portuguese established plantations on Bioko, utilizing imported slave labor, and eventually occupied Rio Muni as well. In 1798 Portugal and Spain negotiated a treaty that gave Spain control of Bioko and Rio Muni in exchange for territory in South America.

Though the Spanish hoped to use their African colonies for the slave trade, disease—especially yellow fever and malaria—hindered attempts to form lasting settlements. Unable to utilize the territories, the Spanish leased Rio Muni and Bioko to Britain. When the British abolished the slave trade in 1807, they began using Bioko and Rio Muni to monitor and disrupt that kind of commerce. In fact, Bioko became a haven for freed slaves who could not be repatriated. The integration of former slaves from a number of African and West Indian nations led to the development of a creole-linguistic population.

The Spanish eventually reclaimed Equatorial Guinea and established their own administration. By the mid nineteenth century, they were using Bioko as a penal colony and developing plantations for coffee and cotton production. Though an independence movement emerged toward the end of the nineteenth century, conflict between Spanish authorities and the native inhabitants was rare.

After the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) the territorial administration began to disintegrate. In 1959 the government reclassified both Bioko and Rio Muni as autonomous provinces of Spain, granting Spanish citizenship to all residents. In 1963 the Spanish held a plebiscite, or common vote, asking the population to decide whether to maintain Spanish colonial status. The population voted for autonomy, resulting in a new administrative system in which Spain controlled the central government but native leaders had regional authority. The Spanish established health-care facilities and encouraged native participation in public education, which led to Equatorial Guinea’s having one of the highest literacy rates in Africa.

After leaders of the independence movement petitioned Spain for further democratic reforms, the colonial government held a public referendum on a new constitution, which was approved. Legislative elections followed. In October 1968 Equatorial Guinea was granted full independence.

Government Structure

The republic is divided into seven administrative districts. Provincial governors are appointed directly by the president, and provincial assemblies are elected by popular vote. Each province is further divided into districts and municipalities.

The executive branch is organized according to a parliamentary model, with a president serving as head of state and commander of the armed forces and a prime minister serving as head of government. The president, who appoints ministers to serve in the executive cabinet, has the power to create law by decree and to negotiate and implement treaties and international agreements without legislative oversight. The president also has the power to dissolve the legislature and call for new elections. According to the constitution, the president is elected by direct, popular vote to serve a maximum of two terms of seven years.

The Chamber of Representatives is constituted by popular vote from the nation’s seven administrative districts, which function as multimember electoral units. The one hundred representatives, who serve five-year terms, can stand for re-election. By constitution the Chamber has the responsibility to develop legislation, but in practice it is subordinate to the executive branch. It has no power to approve and ratify treaties negotiated by the president or to approve the president’s use of emergency powers.

The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court, with sixteen justices appointed directly by the president to serve five-year terms. Though the constitution calls for an independent judicial branch, the Supreme Court rarely opposes presidential authority. Below the Supreme Court are the appellate courts, the district courts, and the local courts. The penal code combines elements of Spanish law and tribal customs.

Political Parties and Factions

The Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea), or PDGE, was established by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (1942–) in 1987, at which time it was the nation’s only legal political party. It has controlled the government ever since. In the 2002 presidential poll Obiang reportedly won more than 97 percent of the popular vote, though observers believe election procedures were seriously flawed. The PDGE rules in an alliance with minor political parties; in the 2004 legislative elections, they won ninety-eight of the one hundred seats in the Chamber of Representatives.

The Convergence for Social Democracy (CPS) is the only opposition party that was able to elect members to the legislature during the 2004 elections. The CPS nominated Celestino Bonifacio Bacale for president in 2002, but according to official figures, he won only 2 percent of the popular vote. Bacale and the CPS accused Obiang’s party of fraud and intimidation during both elections. The CPS’s platform focuses on democratizing political procedures and instituting socialist economic initiatives.

For many years several independence movements have existed on Bioko—they seek independence from the central government. The largest group is the Movimiento para la Auto-determinación de la Isla de Bioko (Movement for Self-Determination of Bioko), or MAIB. MAIB, like several similar organizations, is led by the Bubi ethnic group, which constitutes the majority on the island. During the administration of the nation’s first president, Francisco Macías Nguema (1924–1979), the Bubi tribe and the independence movement were nearly eliminated by internal security forces. Since Obiang took office in 1987, MAIB has experienced a slight resurgence but is still considered illegal and operates in secret.

Major Events

The nation’s first constitution, established in 1968, provided for a strong executive office. Nguema, who was a member of the Fang ethnic group, quickly utilized that authority to establish a dictatorial regime. Portions of the constitution were abrogated in the 1970s; for example, the multiparty system was replaced with a single party, the Partido Nacional de los Trabajadores (United National Workers Party), or PUNT.

Nguema, who named himself “president for life” in 1972, violently suppressed civil liberties and political opposition. More than 30 percent of the population was killed or fled the country between 1970 and 1976, which brought the nation close to economic collapse. Despite protests from foreign governments and human-rights organizations, Nguema continued to detain, arrest, and execute political adversaries. Meanwhile, the people who remained in the country lived in extreme poverty, and the nation’s infrastructure deteriorated.

In 1979 Nguema’s regime was overthrown in a military coup led by Obiang, his nephew. Nguema was eventually arrested, convicted of genocide, and executed. Obiang established a transitional government under the leadership of a military council. Although he allowed some civilian participation in the government and, with the advice of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, enacted a new constitution in 1982, his regime was essentially authoritarian.

After his party was accused of rigging the 1889 elections, Obiang announced his intentions to revise the political system and allow other parties to participate. While some revisions were made, Obiang won the 1996 election with more than 90 percent of the popular vote, according to government tallies. Numerous groups accused the government of voter intimidation and fraud. Under pressure from foreign governments and human-rights groups, he reconstituted his cabinet to include members of opposition groups and other political parties among his ministers, but his efforts were criticized as ineffective and largely symbolic.

Twenty-First Century

Though the nation has had significant export revenues—it is one of the world’s leading suppliers of oil—most of the money has ended up in the hands of political leaders. Little has been done to reduce poverty and unemployment and repair the nation’s infrastructure.

Obiang was re-elected in 2002; according to government sources, he won more than 97 percent of the popular vote. His political party also won majorities in the 2004 legislative and municipal elections. In both instances, domestic and international observers criticized the regime for utilizing intimidation to prevent legitimate outcomes.

In 2004 the government prevented a coup attempt, later called the “Wongo coup,” which involved Zimbabwean and South African mercenaries working on behalf of exiled political leaders. Prominent British business leaders—including Mark Thatcher (1953–), the son of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher (1925–)—provided financial support. Some analysts believe the coup leaders intended to gain control over the nation’s oil industry by installing a puppet government.

Hyden, Goran. African Politics in Comparative Perspective . New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Klitgaard, Robert E. Tropical Gangsters: One Man’s Experience With Development and Decadence in Deepest Africa . New York: Basic Books, 1990.

Roberts, Adam. The Wonga Coup: Guns, Thugs, and a Ruthless Determination to Create Mayhem in an Oil-Rich Corner of Africa . New York: PublicAffairs Books, 2006.

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

  • Area: 10,831 mi (28,051 sq km) / World Rank: 144
  • Location: Western Africa, bordering Cameroon to the north, Gabon to the south and east, and the Bight of Biafra in the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Crossed by the equator, all of the country is in the Eastern Hemisphere, parts are in the Southern and the Northern Hemispheres.
  • Coordinates: 2°00′N, 10°00′E
  • Borders: 334 mi (539 km) total / Cameroon, 117 mi (189 km); Gabon, 217 mi (350 km)
  • Coastline: 183 mi (296 km)
  • Territorial Seas: 12 NM
  • Highest Point: Santa Isabel, 9,865 ft (3,007 m)
  • Lowest Point: Sea level
  • Longest Distances: Mbini: 154 mi (248 km) ENE-WSW / 104 mi (167 km) SSE-NNW; Bioko 46 mi (74 km) NE-SW / 23 mi (37 km) SE-NW
  • Longest River: Mbini, 155 mi (248 km)
  • Natural Hazards: violent windstorms, flash floods
  • Population: 486,060 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 160
  • Capital City: Malabo, located on north coast of Bioko Island
  • Largest City: Malabo, 112,800 (2002 est.)

OVERVIEW

Equatorial Guinea consists of a mainland province, Mbini (Río Muni), and five inhabited islands: Isla de Bioko (formerly Macias Nguema Biyogo, and prior to that Fernando Po), Annabón (formerly Pagalu), Ilas Elobey, made up of Elobey Grande and Elobey Chico, and Isla de Corisco. Bioko is located 20 mi (32 km) from the coast of Cameroon, and Annabón is located 220 mi (350 km) from mainland Gabon. Corisco and the Elobey Islands are off the southwest coast of Mbini close to the Gabonese coast. The total land area is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland.

Mbini on the African mainland is a jungle enclave with a coastal plain rising steeply toward the west. In the interior the plain gives way to a succession of valleys separated by low hills and spurs of the Crystal Mountains. The islands are all volcanic in origin. In 2002 Equatorial Guinea was in the midst of maritime boundary and border disputes with Nigeria, Cameroon, and Gabon.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS

Bioko has two large volcanic formations separated by a valley that bisects the island. In the north of the island is Santa Isabel (9,865 ft / 3,007 m). In the south is Gran Caldera (7,416 ft / 2,261 m). All of the other islands are also volcanic, but of much lower elevation. On the mainland the coastal plains rise to interior ridges of the Crystal Mountains, which separates the coast from the inland plateau. The highest peaks are Monte Chocolate (3,609 ft / 1,100 m) and Monte Chime (3,937 ft / 1,200 m).

INLAND WATERWAYS

The main rivers are the Mbini (formerly Río Benito), the Ntem (formerly Río Campo), and Río Muni. The Mbini, which divides the mainland province of the same name into two, is not navigable except for a 12 mi (20 km) stretch. The Ntem flows along part of the northern border with Cameroon. The Río Muni is not properly a river at all but an estuary of several rivers among which the Utamboni is the most notable. The islands have only storm arroyos and small cascading rivers.

THE COAST, ISLANDS, AND THE OCEAN

Oceans and Seas

The islands and mainland are separated by the Bight of Biafra. The Bight is part of the broad Gulf of Guinea, from which the country takes its name. The Gulf is part of the Atlantic Ocean.

Major Islands

Bioko is a volcanic island roughly 779 sq mi (2,018 sq km) in size, making it the largest island in the Gulf of Guinea. The other islands are also volcanic, but are much smaller than Bioko. Annabón is 7 sq mi (18 sq km) in size, Corisco covers 6 sq mi (15 sq km), and the Great and Little Elobeys are each about 1 sq mi (2.5 sq km). Bioko and Annabón are part of the volcanic chain starting with the Cameroon Highlands and outcropping into the Atlantic as far as St. Helena.

Population Centers – Equatorial Guinea
(2002 POPULATION ESTIMATES)
Name Population
Malabo (capital) 112,800
Bata 40,000
SOURCE : Projected from 1983 data, United Nations Statistics Division, and 1999 data, World Bank.
Provinces – Equatorial Guinea
2000 POPULATION ESTIMATES
Name Population Area (sq mi) Area (sq km) Capital
Annobón 4,400 6.6 17 Palé
Bioko Norte 112.800 300 776 Malabo
Bioko Sur 12,200 479.2 1,241 Luba
Centro Sur 69,000 3,384 9,931 Evinayong
Kié-Ntem 87,200 1,522 3,943 Ebebiyin
Litoral 118,000 2,573 6,665 Bata
Wele-Nzas 62,000 2,115 5,478 Mongomo
SOURCE : Geo-Data, 1989 ed., and United States Agency for International Development, Africa Division.

The Coast and Beaches

Sandy shores and estuaries make up the coastal mainland. Near Mbini's southern tip, Cabo San Juan protrudes into the sea. On Bioko the coastline is high and rugged in the south but lower and more accessible in the north.

CLIMATE AND VEGETATION

Temperature

Equatorial Guinea lies near the equator and as a result has a warm climate that varies mainly by altitude. At Malabo, temperatures range from 61°F (16°C) to 91°F (33°C). In Mbini, the average temperature is about 80°F (27°C ).

Rainfall

Annual rainfall varies from 76 in (193 cm) at Malabo to 430 in (1,092 cm) at Ureka, and also on Bioko Island.

Forests and Jungles

Most of the country, including the islands, is tropical rain forest.

HUMAN POPULATION

The population growth rate is 2.46 percent and life expectancy at birth is 54 years. Population density was about 40 per sq mi (15 per sq km) in 1996, and approximately 48 percent of the population was urban. Bioko Island is the most densely settled part of the country.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Equatorial Guinea is rich in petroleum, timber, and unexploited deposits of gold, manganese, uranium, titanium, and iron ore. Although little of the land is considered arable, most of the population is engaged in subsistence farming. Offshore oil deposits are at the heart of Equatorial Guinea's maritime boundary disputes.

FURTHER READINGS

"A Corner of Africa Where Dreams Gush Like Oil." New York Times, July 28, 2000, p. A4.

Hecht, David. "Gushers of Wealth, But Little Trickles Down: Oil in Equatorial Guinea." Christian Science Monitor, July 21, 1999, p. 7.

Onishi, Norimitsu. "Oil Riches, and Risks, in Tiny African Nation." New York Times, July 23, 2000, pp. A1, A4.

World Resources Institute and World Bank. Tropical Forests: A Call for Action, Washington D.C.: World Resources Institute and World Bank, 1985.

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

At a Glance

Official Name: Republic of Equatorial Guinea

Continent: Africa

Area: 10,830 square miles (28,050 sq km)

Population: 486,060

Capital City: Malabo

Largest City: Bata (24,100)

Unit of Money: CFA franc

Major Languages: Spanish (official), Fang

Literacy: 79%

Land Use: 5% arable, 4% crops, 46% forest, 45% other

Natural Resources: Timber, crude oil

Government: Republic

Defense: 2.5 million

The Place

Equatorial Guinea is on the western coast of Africa. In addition to its mainland territory, the country also consists of five islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Mainland Equatorial Guinea is called Rio Muni. It accounts for 10,045 square miles (26,117 sq km) of the country's total land area. The mainland has rolling hills and many forests.

Bioko—the country's largest island, is located about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Rio Muni. It measures about 779 square miles (2,020 sq km). Bioko is a mountainous island with a rocky coast. Much of its interior is wooded—the most common species are African walnuts and mahoganies. Because of its volcanic origin, the island has rich, fertile soil. Many crops grow here, including bananas, coffee beans, and cocoa beans.

Equatorial Guinea lies on the equator and has a tropical climate. The average annual temperature is around 77° F (25° C). The country receives about 80 inches (200 cm) of rain annually, with the wettest season lasting from December to February.

The People

Almost 80% of Equatorial Guineans live on the mainland. The majority of people here belong to the Fang, an African ethnic group. Many people living on the island of Bioko are also of African descent and belong to the Bubi or Fernandino ethnic groups.

More than 60% of the population lives in rural areas. Most rural dwellers are farmers, but some also fish and work in lumber camps. Urban dwellers usually work in small factories.

The largest problem for Equatorial Guineans is the country's poor health system. Although improving basic health services is a government priority, there are very few doctors and little funding. As a result, malaria, measles, and other infectious diseases spread quickly. The country's death rate is slightly higher than most African countries, and the average life expectancy is 52 years of age.

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Equatorial Guinea

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Compiled from the November 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Equatorial Guinea

PROFILE
GEOGRAPHY
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
DEFENSE
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-EQUATORIAL GUINEA RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Location: Western Africa, bordering the Bay of Biafra. Bordering nations—Cameroon, Gabon.

Area: 28,050 sq. km; slightly smaller than Maryland.

Cities: Capital—Malabo. Other cities—Bata (also capital of Littoral province on the mainland).

Terrain: Varies. Bioko Island is volcanic, with three major peaks of 9,876 feet, 7,416 feet and 6,885 feet. Behind the coastal plain, the mainland provinces are hilly at a level of approximately 2,000 feet, with some 4,000 foot peaks. Annobon Island is volcanic.

Climate: Tropical; always hot, humid. Bata on the mainland is somewhat drier and cooler.


People

Nationality: Noun—Equatorial Guinean(s), Equatoguinean(s) Adjective—Equatorial Guinean, Equatoguinean.

Population: (mid-2002 UN est.) 510,000.

Annual growth rate: (2002 est.) 2.8%.

Ethnic groups: The Fang ethnic group of the mainland constitutes the great majority of the population and dominates political life and business. The Bubi group comprises about 50,000 people living mainly in Bioko Island. The Annobonese on the island of Annobon are estimated at about 3,000 in number. The other three ethnic groups are found on the coast of Rio Muni and include the Ndowe and Kombe (about 3,000 each) and the Bujebas (about 2,000). The pygmy populations have long been integrated into the dominant Bantu-speaking cultures. Europeans less than 1,000, mostly Spanish.

Languages: Official—Spanish, French; other—pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo.

Religion: Nominally Christian and predominantly Roman Catholic; pagan practices.

Education: Primary school compulsory for ages 6-14. Attendance—unknown. Literacy (2000 est.)—83% (UN Development Programme's Human Development Report, 2002).

Health: (2000 est.) Life expectancy—50 years. Infant mortality rate—105/1,000.


Government

Type: Nominally multi-party Republic with strong domination by the executive branch.


Independence: October 12, 1968 (from Spain).

Constitution: Approved by national referendum November 17, 1991; amended January 1995.

Branches: Executive—President (Chief of State) and a Council of Ministers appointed by the president. Legislative—80 member House of People's Representatives (members directly elected by universal suffrage to serve five-year terms). Judicial—Supreme Tribunal.

Administrative subdivisions: Seven provinces—Annobon, Bioko Norte, Bioko Sur, Centro Sur, Kie-Ntem, Litoral, Wele-Nzas.

Political parties: The ruling party is the Partido Democratico de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), formed July 30, 1987. Numerous other parties were allowed to form in the early 1990s.

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal adult.


Economy

GDP: (2002 est.) $2.5 billion.

GDP growth rate: 23.8% (IMF 2001 est.).

GDP per capita: (2002 est.) $4,900.

Inflation rate: (2002 est.) 9%.

Unemployment rate: N/A.

Natural resources: Petroleum, timber, small, unexploited deposits of gold, manganese, and uranium.

Agriculture: (1999 est.) 16% of GDP. Products—coffee, cocoa, rice, yams, cassava (tapioca), bananas, palm oil nuts, manioc (tapioca), livestock, and timber.

Industry: (1999 est.) 75.3% of GDP. Types—petroleum, fishing, saw milling, natural gas.

Services: (2001) 5.4% of GDP.

Trade: (2000 est.) Exports—$1,363 million: hydrocarbons (95%), timber (2%-3%), others (3%-2%). Imports—$542 million. Major trading partners—United States, China, France, Spain, Cameroon, Great Britain, and Gabon. The United States is the largest cumulative bilateral foreign investor in Equatorial Guinea. The majority of U.S. exports to Equatorial Guine a consist of energy sector-related transportation and machinery equipment. The United States main import from Equatorial Guinea is petroleum. In 1999, the European Union (EU) imported $281.7 million in goods from Equatorial Guinea, 89% of which was petroleum and 7% timber. The European union exported $104 million to Equatorial Guinea. Approximately 20% of these exports were oil and gas-related, and the remaining 80% ranged from agricultural products to clothing to used cars.

Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine (CFA) franc (XAF).

Fiscal year: April 1-March 31.


GEOGRAPHY

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is located in west central Africa. Bioko Island lies about 40 kilometers (25 mi.) from Cameroon. Annobon Island lies about 595 kilometers (370 mi.) southwest of Bioko Island. The larger continental region of Rio Muni lies between Cameroon and Gabon on the mainland; it includes the islands of Corisco, El obey Grande, El obey Chico, and adjacent islets.


Bioko Island, called Fernando Po until the 1970s, is the largest island in the Gulf of Guinea—2,017 square kilometers (780 sq. mi.). It is shaped like a boot, with two large volcanic formations separated by a valley that bisects the island at its narrowest point. The 195-kilometer (120-mi.) coastline is steep and rugged in the south but lower and more accessible in the north, with excellent harbors at Malabo and Luba, and several scenic beaches between those towns.

On the continent, Rio Muni covers 26,003 square kilometers (10,040 sq. mi.). The coastal plain gives way to a succession of valleys separated by low hills and spurs of the Crystal Mountains. The Rio Benito (Mbini), which divides Rio Muni in half, is unnavigable except for a 20-kilometer stretch at its estuary. Temperatures and humidity in Rio Muni are generally lower than on Bioko Island.


Annobon Island, named for its discovery on New Year's Day 1472, is a small volcanic island covering 18 square kilometers (7 sq. mi.). The coastline is abrupt except in the north; the principal volcanic cone contains a small lake. Most of the estimated 1,900 inhabitants are fisherman specializing in traditional, small scale tuna fishing and whaling. The climate is tropical—heavy rainfall, high humidity, and frequent seasonal changes with violent windstorms.


PEOPLE

The majority of the Equatoguinean people are of Bantu origin. The largest tribe, the Fang, is indigenous to the mainland, but substantial migration to Bioko Island has resulted in Fang dominance over the earlier Bantu inhabitants. The Fang constitute 80% of the population and are themselves divided into 67 clans. Those in the northern part of Rio Muni speak Fang -Ntumu, while those in the south speak Fang-Okah; the two dialects are mutually unintelligible. The Bubi, who constitute 15% of the population, are indigenous to Bioko Island. In addition, there are coastal tribes, sometimes referred to as "Playeros": Ndowes, Bujebas, Balengues, and Bengas on the mainland and small islands, and "Fernandinos," a Creole community, on Bioko. Together, these groups comprise 5% of the population. There are a growing number of foreigners from neighboring Cameroon, Nigeria, and Gabon. In 2001, there were about 280 Americans residing in Equatorial Guinea.

Spanish and French are both official languages, though use of Spanish predominates. The Roman Catholic Church has greatly influenced both religion and education.


Equatoguineans tend to have both a Spanish first name and an African first and last name. When written, the Spanish and African first names are followed by the father's first name (which becomes the principal surname) and the mother's first name. Thus people may have up to four names, with a different surname for each generation.


HISTORY

The first inhabitants of the region that is now Equatorial Guinea are believed to have been Pygmies, of whom only isolated pockets remain in northern Rio Muni. Bantu migrations between the 17th and 19th centuries brought the coastal tribes and later the Fang. Elements of the latter may have generated the Bubi, who immigrated to Bioko from Cameroon and Rio Muni in several waves and succeeded former Neolithic populations. The Annobon population, native to Angola, was introduced by the Portuguese via Sao Tome.


The Portuguese explorer, Fernando Po (Fernao do Poo), seeking a route to India, is credited with having discovered the island of Bioko in 1471. He called it Formosa ("pretty flower"), but it quickly took on the name of its European discoverer. The Portuguese retained control until 1778, when the island, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger and Ogoue Rivers were ceded to Spain in exchange for territory in South America (Treaty of Pardo). From 1827 to 1843, Britain established a base on the island to combat the slave trade. Conflicting claims to the mainland were settled in 1900 by the Treaty of Paris, and periodically, the mainland territories were united administratively under Spanish rule.


Spain lacked the wealth and the interest to develop an extensive

economic infrastructure in what was commonly known as Spanish Guinea during the first half of this century. However, through a paternalistic system, particularly on Bioko Island, Spain developed large cacao plantations for which thousands of Nigerian workers were imported as laborers. At independence in 1968, largely as a result of this system, Equatorial Guinea had one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa. The Spanish also helped Equatorial Guine a achieve one of the continent's highest literacy rates and developed a good network of health care facilities.

In 1959, the Spanish territory of the Gulf of Guinea was established with status similar to the provinces of metropolitan Spain. As the Spanish Equatorial Region, it was ruled by a governor general exercising military and civilian powers. The first local elections were held in 1959, and the first Equatoguinean representatives were seated in the Spanish parliament. Under the Basic Law of December 1963, limited autonomy was authorized under a joint legislative body for the territory's two provinces. The name of the country was changed to Equatorial Guinea. Although Spain's commissioner general had extensive powers, the Equatorial Guinean General Assembly had considerable initiative in formulating laws and regulations.

In March 1968, under pressure from Equatoguinean nationalists and the United Nations, Spain announced that it would grant independence to Equatorial Guinea. A constitutional convention produced an electoral law and draft constitution. In the presence of a UN observer team, a referendum was held on August 11, 1968, and 63% of the electorate voted in favor of the constitution, which provided for a government with a General Assembly and a Supreme Court with judges appointed by the president.


In September 1968, Francisco Macias Nguema was elected first president of Equatorial Guinea, and independence was granted in October. In July 1970, Macias created a single-party state and by May 1971, key portions of the constitution were abrogated. In 1972 Macias took complete control of the government and assumed the title of President-for-Life. The Macias regime was characterized by abandonment of all government functions except internal security, which was accomplished by terror; this led to the death or exile of up to one-third of the country's population. Due to pilferage, ignorance, and neglect, the country's in frastructure—electrical, water, road, transportation, and health—fell into ruin. Religion was repressed, and education ceased. The private and public sectors of the economy were devastated. Nigerian contract laborers on Bioko, estimated to have been 60,000, left en masse in early 1976. The economy collapsed, and skilled citizens and foreigners left.


In August 1979, Macias' nephew from Mongomo and former director of the infamous Black Beach prison, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, led a successful coup d'etat; Macias was arrested, tried, and executed. Obiang assumed the Presidency in October 1979. Obiang initially ruled Equatorial Guinea with the assistance of a Supreme Military Council. A new constitution, drafted in 1982 with the help of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, came into effect after a popular vote on August 15, 1982; the Council was abolished, and Obiang remained in the presidency for a 7-year term. He was reelected in 1989. In February 1996, he again won reelection with 98% of the vote; several opponents withdrew from the race, however, and the election was criticized by international observers. Subsequently, Obiang named a new cabinet, which included some opposition figures in minor portfolios.


Despite the formal ending of one-party rule in 1991, President Obiang and a circle of advisors (drawn largely from his own family and ethnic group) maintain real authority. The President names and dismisses cabinet members and judges, ratifies treaties, leads the armed forces, and has considerable authority in other areas. He appoints the governors of Equatorial Guinea's six provinces. The opposition had few electoral successes in the 1990s. By the early 21th century, President Obiang's PDGE party fully dominated government at all levels.


GOVERNMENT

The 1982 constitution gives the President extensive powers, including naming and dismissing members of the cabinet, making laws by decree, dissolving the Chamber of Representatives, negotiating and ratifying treaties and calling legislative elections. The President retains his role as commander in chief of the armed forces and minister of defense, and he maintains close supervision of the military activity. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and operates under powers designated by the President. The Prime Minister coordinates government activities in areas other than foreign affairs, national defense and security.


The Chamber of Representatives is comprised of 15 members appointed by the President and 45 members chosen by indirect elections; the term is 5 years. Adult citizens elect officials by secret ballot in their towns and villages. These officials then become electors who choose the 45 representatives from their own number, one per district, to serve in the national legislature. In practice, the Chamber is not independent and is unable to act without presidential approval or direction.


The President appoints the governors of the seven provinces. Each province is divided administratively into districts and municipalities. The internal administrative system falls under the Ministry of Territorial Administration; several other ministries are represented at the provincial and district levels.

The judicial system follows similar administrative levels. At the top are the President and his judicial advisors (the Supreme Court). In descending rank are the appeals courts, chief judges for the divisions, and local magistrates. Tribal laws and customs are honored in the formal court system when not in conflict with national law. The current court system, which often uses customary law, is a combination of traditional, civil, and military justice, and it operates in an ad hoc manner for lack of established procedures and experienced judicial personnel.


The other official branch of the government is the State Council. The State Council's main function is to serve as caretaker in case of death or physical incapacity of the President. It comprises the following ex officio members: the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the President of the National Assembly and the Chairman of the Social and Economic Council.


Although the abuses and atrocities that characterized the Macias years have been eliminated, effective rule of law does not exist and the government is ultimately run by the Presidency. Religious freedom is tolerated.


Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 6/17/03


President: Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Teodoro, Brig. Gen. (Ret.)

Prime Minister: Rivas, Candido Muatetema

First Dep. Prime Min.: Oyono Ndong, Miguel

Dep. Prime Min.: Ndong, Demetrio Elo

Sec. Gen. of the Govt.: Eyegue Obama Asue, Francisco Pascual

Min. of State for Agriculture, Fisheries, & Animal Husbandry: Camo, Gregorio Boho

Min. of State in Charge of Economy & Commerce: Nguema Onguene, Marcelino, M.D.

Min. of State in Charge of Planning & International Cooperation: Ndong Mba, Anatolio

Min. of State for Economy & Commerce: Nguema Onguene, Marcelina, M.D.

Min. of State for Education & Science: Ngu, Antonio Fernando Nve

Min. of State for Forestry, Fishing, & Environment: Obiang, Teodoro Nguema

Min. of State for Health & Social Welfare: Onguene, Marcelino Nguema

Min. of State for Information, Tourism, and Culture: Esono, Lucas Nguema

Min. of State for Labor & Social Security: Nfube, M. Ricardo Mangue Obama

Min. of State for the Interior & Local Corporations: Ndong, Demetrio Elo

Min. of State for Missions: Evuna Owono Asangono, Alejandro

Min. of State at the Presidency in Charge of Relations with Assemblies & Legal Matters: Boriko, Miguel Abia Biteo

Min. of State at the Presidency in Charge of Special Duties: Evuna Owono Asangono, Alejandro

Min. of State for Transport & Communication: Ntutumu, Marcelino Oyono

Min. of Agriculture, Fisheries, & Animal Husbandry: Nsue, Constantine Eko

Min. of Civil Service & Administrative Reforms: Tang, Ignacio Milam

Min. of Culture, Tourism, & Francophone Affairs: Nse Nfumu, Augustin

Min. of Economic Affairs & Finance: Edjo, Baltasar Engonga

Min. of Education, Science, & Francophone Affairs: Nfumu, Santiago Ngua

Min. of Employment & Social Security: Congue, Constantino

Min. of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, & Francophone Affairs: Efuman, Santiago Nsobeya

Min. of Forestry & Environment: Obiang, Teodoro Nguema

Min. of Health & Social Welfare: Ntutumu, Juan Antonio

Min. of Industry, Commerce, & Small Enterprises: Nsue, Constantino Ekong

Min. of Information, Tourism, & Culture: Esono, Lucas Nguema

Min. of Interior & Local Corporations: Onguene, Clemente Engonga Nguema

Min. of Justice & Religion: Nsue, Ruben Maye

Min. of Labor & Social Promotion: Cayetano Toherida, Ernesto Maria

Min. of Mines & Energy: Ela, Cristobal Menana

Min. of Planning & Economic Development: Mbo, Fortunato Ofa

Min. of Public Works, Housing, & Urban Affairs: Ndong, Florentino Nkogo

Min. of Social Affairs & Women's Development: Asangono, Teresa Efua

Min. of Territorial Admin. & Local Govt.: Ndong Ela Mangue, Julio

Min. of Youth & Sports: Ntutumu, Juan Antonio Bibang

Min. Del. to Agriculture, Livestock, & Rural Development: Obama, Carlos Eyi

Min. Del. for Civil Service & Administrative Reform: Borilo, Caridad Besari

Min. Del. for Communications & Transports: Ngomo, M. Jeremias Ondo

Min. Del. of Economic Affairs & Finance: Abia, Miguel

Min. Del. of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, & Francophone Affairs: Ebang, Jos Ela

Min. Del. for Justice & Religion: Ebule, Filomena Evangelina Oyo

Min. Del. for Labor & Social Security: Awong, Secundino Oyono

Min. Del. of National Defense: Nsomo, Melanio Ebendeng, Brig. Gen.

Min. Del. for National Security: Mba, Manuel Nguema, Col.

Min. Del. for Public Works, Housing, & Urgan Affairs: Acuse, Carmelo Modu

Min. Del. to the Presidency in Charge of Youth & Sports: Eyegue Obama Asue, Francisco Pascual

Vice Min. of Culture, Tourism, & Crafts Promotion: Mibuy, Anacleto Olo

Vice Min. of Economy & Finance: Edu, Marcelino Oyono

Vice Min. of Education & Science: Nguema, Filiberto Ntutumu

Vice Min. of Forestry, Fishing, & Environment: Ivina, Joaquin Mecheba

Vice Min. of Health & Social Welfare: Fernandex, Tomas Mecheba

Vice Min. of Industry, Commerce, & Small Enterprises: Ava, Basilio

Vice Min. of Justice & Religious Affairs: Ngomo Mbengono, Francisco Javier

Vice Min. of Planning & Economic Development: Nchama, Antonio Javier Nguema

Vice Min. of Press, Radio, & Television: Mokuy, Alfonso Nsue

Vice Min. of Public Works, Housing, & Urban Affairs: Matta, Ceferino Eburi

Vice Min. of Tourism & Culture: Torrez, Hilario Sisa

Sec. of State for Energy: Ondo, Miguel Ekua

Sec. of State for International Cooperation & Francophone Affairs: Ekua, Lino Sima

Sec. of State for Mines: Lima, Gabriel Mbega Obiang

Sec. of State for National Defense: Ngua, Francisco Edu, Col.

Sec. of State for National Security: Mba Nguema, Antonio

Sec. of State for Press, Radio, & Television: Ngua Nfumu, Santiago

Sec. of State for Treasury & Budget: Edjo, Melchor Esono

Ambassador to the US: Ondo Bile, Pastor Micha

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Avomo, Lino Sima Ekua



Equatorial Guinea maintains an embassy in Washington, D.C. at 1712 I Street NW, Suite 410, Washington, DC 20005 (Tel. (202) 393-0525, Fax. (202) 393-0348). Its mission to the United Nations is at 801 Second Avenue, Suite 1403, New York, N.W. 10017 (Tel. 212-599-1523).


POLITICAL CONDITIONS

In the period following Spain's grant of local autonomy to Equatorial Guinea in 1963, there was a great deal of political party activity. Bubi and Fernandino parties on the island preferred separation from Rio Muni or a loose federation. Ethnically based parties in Rio Muni favored independence for a united country comprising Bioko and Rio Muni, an approach that ultimately won out. (The Movimiento para la Auto-determinacion de la Isla de Bioko (MAIB) which advocates independence for the island under Bubi control, is one of the offshoots of the era immediately preceding independence). After the accession of Macias to power, political activity largely ceased in Equatorial Guinea. Opposition figures who lived among the exile communities in Spain and elsewhere agitated for reforms; some of them had been employed in the Macias and Obiang governments. After political activities in Equatorial Guinea were legalized in the early 1990s, some opposition leaders returned to test the waters, but repressive actions have continued sporadically.


With the prodding of the United Nations, the United States, Spain, and other donor countries, the government undertook an electoral census in 1995. Freely contested municipal elections, the country's first, were held in September. Most observers agree that the elections themselves were relatively free and transparent and that the opposition parties garnered between two-thirds and three-quarters of the total vote. The government, however, delayed announcement of the results and then claimed a highly dubious 52% victory overall and the capture of 19 of 27 municipal councils. Ironically, Malabo's council went to the opposition. In early January 1996 Obiang called presidential elections to be held in 6 weeks. The campaign was marred by allegations of fraud, and most of the other candidates withdrew in the final week. Obiang claimed re-election with 98% of the vote. International observers agreed the election was not free or fair. In an attempt to ameliorate his critics, Obiang announced his new cabinet, giving minor portfolios to some people identified by the government as being opposition figures.


In the legislative election in March 1999, the party increased its majority in the 80-seat parliament from 68 to 75. The main opposition parties, the Convergencia para la democracia Social (CPDS) and the Union Popular (UP) supposedly won four seats and one seat, respectively, in Parliament; they refused to accept them. Local elections in May 2000 saw the PDGE overwhelm its rivals once again, winning a clean sweep of all major municipalities. However, the main opposition parties rejected the elections as invalid and boycotted them in December 2002.


The December 2002 presidential was marred by problems similar to those of the elections of the 1990s. Capitalizing on opposition disorganization, Obiang re-scheduled the elections from 2003 to the end of 2002. Obiang was re-elected as president with an overwhelming 97 percent of the vote in a poll characterized by mismanagement, irregularities and severe limits on opposition campaign activities. Following his re-election Obiang formed a government of national unity encompassing all opposition parties, except for the CPDS, which declined to join after Obiang refused to release one of their jailed leaders.

Since independence, the two Presidents (Macias and his nephew Obiang) have been the dominant political forces. Since 1979, President Obiang has been constrained only by a need to maintain a consensus among his advisers and political supporters, most of whom are drawn from the Nguema family in Mongomo, in the eastern part of Rio Muni. The Nguema family is part of the Esangui subclan of the Fang. Alleged coup attempts in 1981 and 1983 raised little sympathy among the populace.


President Obiang's rule, in which schools were permitted to reopen and primary education expanded, and public utilities and roads restored, compares favorably with Macias' tyranny and terror. It has been criticized for not implementing genuine democratic reforms. Corruption and a dysfunctional judicial system disrupt the development of Equatorial Guinea's economy and society. In March 2001 the President appointed a new Prime Minister, Candido Muatetema Rivas, and replaced several ministers perceived to be especially corrupt. However, the government budget still does not include all revenues and expenditures. The United Nations Development Program has proposed a broad governance reform program, but the Equato Guinean Government was not moving rapidly to implement it.


Equatorial Guinea suffered a severe human rights setback in May 2002 when a special tribunal convicted 68 prisoners and their relatives and sentenced them from 6 to 20 years in prison for a purported coup d'etat plot attempt against President Obiang. Those sentenced included leaders of the three main opposition parties that remained independent from President Obiang's ruling party. There were numerous irregularities associated with the trial, including evidence of torture and a lack of substantive proof. In August 2003, 31 of these convicted prisoners were granted a presidential amnesty on the anniversary of Obiang's 1979 overthrow of his uncle, President Macias.


Although Equatorial Guinea lacks a well-established democratic tradition comparable to the developed democracies of the West, it should be noted that, out of the anarchic, chaotic, and repressive conditions of the Macias years the country has made small, haphazard steps toward the development of participatory political system.


ECONOMY

Oil and gas exports have increased substantially and will drive the economy for years to come. Real GDP growth reached 23% in 1999, 18% in 2000, 66% in 2001 and 24% in 2002. Per capita income doubled from about $1,000 in 1998 to $2,000 in 2000 and $4,900 today. The energy export sector is responsible for this rapid growth. Oil production has increased from 81,000 barrels per day in 1998 to more that 350,000 bpd by 2003. Production of 500,000 bpd is projected by 2005. This is based on existing commercially viable oil and gas deposits. Exploration efforts continue in search of further potential offshore concessions.


Equatorial Guinea has other unexploited human and natural resources, including a tropical climate, fertile soils, rich expanses of water, deepwaterports, and an untapped, if unskilled, source of labor. Following independence in 1968, the country suffered under a repressive dictatorship for 11 years, which devastated the economy. The agricultural sector, which historically was known for cocoa of the highest quality, has never fully recovered. In 1969 Equatorial Guinea produced 36,161 tons of highly bid cocoa, but production dropped to 4,800 tons in 2000 and 2,700 tons in 2001. Coffee production also dropped to 100,000 metric tons in 2000. Timber is the main source of foreign exchange after oil, though it now only accounts for 3% of total export earnings. Timber production increased steadily during the 1990s; wood exports reached a record 789,000 cubic meters in 1999 as demand in Asia (mainly China) gathered pace after the 1998 economic crisis. Most of the production (mainly Okoume) goes to exports, and only 3% is processed locally. Environmentalists fear that exploitation at this level is unsustainable and point out to the permanent damage already inflicted on the forestry reserves on Bioko.


Consumer price inflation has declined from the 38.8% experienced in 1994 following the CFA franc devaluation, to 7.8% in 1998, and 1.0% in 1999, according to BEAC data. Consumer prices inflation has remained steady at 6% since 2002.


Equatorial Guinea's policies, as defined by law, comprise an open investment regime. Qualitative restrictions on imports, nontariff protection, and many import licensing requirements were lifted when in 1992 the government adopted a public investment program endorsed by the World Bank. The Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea has sold some state enterprises. It is attempting to create a more favorable investment climate, and its investment code contains numerous incentives for job creation, training, promotion of nontraditional exports, support of development projects and indigenous capital participation, freedom for repatriation of profits, exemption from certain taxes and capital, and other benefits. Trade regulations have been further liberalized since Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC) reform codes in 1994. This included elimination of quota restrictions and reductions in the range and amounts of tariffs. The CEMAC countries agreed to the introduction of a value added tax (VAT) in 1999.


While business laws promote a liberalized economy, the business climate remains difficult. Application of the laws remains selective. Corruption among officials is widespread, and many business deals are concluded under nontransparent circumstances. A newly introduced wage law now regulates separate wage levels for the petroleum, private and government sector.

There is little industry in the country, and the local market for industrial products is small. The government seeks to expand the role of free enterprise and to promote foreign investment but has had little success in creating an atmosphere conducive to investor interest.


The Equatoguinean budget has grown enormously in the past 5 years as royalties and taxes on foreign company oil and gas production have provided new resources to a once poor government. The 2001 budget foresaw revenues of about 154 billion CFA francs (about U.S.$200 million), up about 50% from 2000 levels. Oil revenues account for more than two-thirds of government revenue, and VAT and trade taxes are the other large revenue sources.


The Equatoguinean Government has undertaken a number of reforms since 1991 to reduce its predominant role in the economy and promote private sector development. Its role is a diminishing one, although many government interactions with the private sector are at times capricious. The government is anxious for greater U.S. investment. Beginning in early 1997, the government initiated efforts to attract significant private sector involvement through cooperative efforts with the Corporate Council on Africa visit and numerous ministerial effort s. In 1998, the government privatized distribution of petroleum products. There are now Total and Mobil stations in the country. The government has expressed interest in privatizing the outmoded electricity utility. A French company operates cellular telephone service in cooperation with a state enterprise. Agriculture, fishing, livestock, and tourism are among sectors the government would like targeted.

Equatorial Guinea's balance-of-payments situation has improved substantially since the mid-1990s because of new oil and gas production and favorable world energy prices. Exports totaled $2.45 billion in 2002. Crude oil exports now annually accounted for more than 90% of export earnings. Timber exports, by contrast, now represent only about 3% of export revenues. Imports into Equatorial Guinea also are growing very quickly. Imports totaled U.S. $260 million.


Equatorial Guinea in the 1980s and 1990s received foreign assistance from numerous bilateral and multilateral donors, including European countries, the United States, and the World Bank. Many of these aid programs have ceased altogether or have diminished. Spain, France, and the European Union continue to provide some project assistance, as do China and Cuba. The government also has discussed working with World Bank assistance to develop government administrative capacity.


Equatorial Guinea operated under an International Monetary Fund-negotiated Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) until 1996. Since then, there have been no formal agreements or arrangements. Since 1996, the IMF has held regular held Article IV consultations (periodic country evaluations). After the 1999 consultations, IMF directors stressed the need for Equatorial Guinea to establishg reater fiscal discipline, accountability, and more transparent man agement of public sector resources, especially energy sector revenue. IMF officials also have emphasized the need for economic data. Since 1999, the Equatoguinean Government has attempted to meet IMF requests for transparency and openness in its treasury accounts.


Infrastructure

Infrastructure is generally old and in poor condition. Surface transport options are increasing as the government has invested heavily in road pavement projects. The African Development Bank is helping to improve the paved roads from Malabo to Luba and Riaba; the Chinese are undertaking a project to link Mongomo to Bata on the mainland, and the European Union is financing an inter-states road network linking Equatorial Guinea to Cameroon and Gabon. Road maintenance is often inadequate.


Electricity is available in Equatorial Guinea's larger towns thanks to three small overworked hydropower facilities and a number of aged generators. In 1999, national production was about 13,000 KwH. In Malabo, the American company, Marathon Oil, built a 10 me ga-watts electricity plant financed by the government, which came in line in mid-2000, and plans to double capacity are advancing. This plant provides improved service to the capital, although there are still occasional outages. On the mainland the largest city, Bata, still has regular blackouts.


Water is only available in the major towns and is not always reliable because of poor maintenance and mismanagement. Some villages and rural areas are equipped with generators and water pumps, usually owned by private individuals.


Parastatal Getesa, a joint venture with a minority ownership stake held by a French subsidiary of France Telecom, provides telephone service in the major cities. The land-based system is overextended, but Getesa has introduced a popular GSM system, which is generally reliable in Malabo and Bata.


Equatorial Guinea has two of the deepest Atlantic seaports of the region, including the main business and commercial port city of Bata. The ports of both Malabo and Bata are severely overextended and require extensive rehabilitation and reconditioning. In partnership with U.S. petroleum company Amerada Hess, British company, Incat, has made significant progress in a project to renovate and expand Luba, the country's third-largest port, located on Bioko Island. The government hopes Luba will become a major transportation hub for offshore oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf of Guinea. Luba is located some 50 kilometers from Malabo and was previously virtually inactive except for minor fishing activities and occasional use to ease congestion in Malabo. Riaba is the other port of any scale on Bioko but is less active. The continental ports of Mbini and Cogo have deteriorated as well and are now used primarily for timber activities.


Five small airlines now offer regular daily services between the two cities of Malabo and Bata and nearby neighboring countries. A few aging Soviet-built aircraft operated by several small carriers (one state-owned, the others private,) constitute this national aircraft fleet. The influx of oil workers have increased international air activity. Major international carriers now connect Malabo to Amsterdam, Madrid and Zurich in Europe. A weekly business-class charter flight provides service to Houston, Texas. The runway at Malabo's international airport (3,200 meters) is equipped with lights and can service equipment similar to DC 10s and Cl3Os. The one at Bata (2,400 meters) does not operate at night but can accommodate aircraft as large as B737s. Two minor airstrips (800 meters) are located at Mongomo and on the island of Annobon.


Energy Developments

After a slow start, Equatorial Guinea has recently emerged as Africa's third largest major oil producer with its location in one of the most promising hydrocarbon regions in the world. The main oil fields, Zafiro and Alba, are both located offshore of Bioko island. Daily production now exceeds 350,000 bpd.


In 1995 Mobil (now ExxonMobil) discovered the large Zafiro field, with estimated reserves of 400m barrels. Production began in 1996. The company announced a 3-year U.S.$1bn rapid development program to boost output to 130,000 b/d by early 2001. Progress was delayed due to a contractual dispute with the government and by unexpectedly difficult geology. The difference with the government was eventually resolved.

In 1998 a more liberal regulatory and profit-sharing arrangement for hydrocarbon exploration and production activities was introduced. It revised and updated the production-sharing contract, which, until then, had favored Western operators heavily. As a result domestic oil receipt rose from 13% to 20% of oil export revenue. However, the government's share remains relatively poor by international standards.


In 1997 CMS Nomeco (now Marathon Oil) moved to expand its operation with a U.S.$300m methanol plant. The plant entered production in 2000 and help boost condensate output from Alba field.


In August 1999 the government closed bidding on a new petroleum-licensing round for 53 unexplored deepwater blocks and seven shallow water blocks. The response was small due to a combination of factors, including falling oil prices, restructuring within the oil industry, and uncertainty over and undemarcated maritime border with Nigeria (resolved by 2000).


In late 1999 Triton Energy, (now part of Amerada Hess), discovered La Ceiba in block G in an entirely new area offshore the mainland of the country. Triton expects a U.S.$200m development program to enable La Ceiba and associated fields to produce 100,000 b/d by late 2001, despite disappointments and technical problems at the beginning of the year.


With an upturn in oil prices, exploration intensified in 2000. In April 2000 U.S.-based Vanco Energy signed a production-sharing contract for the offshore block of Corisco Deep. In May 2000, Chevron was granted block L, offshore Rio Muni, and a further three production-sharing contracts (for blocks J, I, and H) were signed with Atlas petroleum, a Nigerian company.


In early 2001 the government announced plans to establish a national oil company, GEPetrol, to allow Equatorial Guinea to take a greater stake in the sector and to facilitate the more rapid transfer of skills. However, critics fear that such a company may become a vehicle for opaque accounting and inertia of the sort that has hindered development in neighboring countries including Angola, Cameroon, and Nigeria.


Further explorations in the Corisco Bay area (bordering Gabon) and near the maritime boundary with Cameroon could be complicated by minor border disputes between Equatorial Guinea and its two neighbors. Though these disputes remain unresolved, all three countries have proved willing to settle their differences via diplomatic means, including the execution of agreements on joint exploratory efforts.


DEFENSE

The military of Equatorial Guinea was reorganized in 1979. It consists of approximately 2,500 service members. The army has 1,400 soldiers, the police 400 paramilitary men, the navy 200 service members, and the air force about 120 members. There is a Gendarmerie, but the number of members is unknown. Overall the military is poorly trained and equipped, but acquisitions and training have increased. It has mostly small arms, rocket launched grenades, and mortars. Few of its soviet-style light-armored vehicles or trucks are operational.


U.S. military-to-military engagement has been dormant since 1997 (the year of the last Joint Combined Exchange Training Exercise). Between 1984 and 1992, service members went regularly to the United States on the International Military Education Training program, after which funding for this program for Equatorial Guine a ceased. The government spent 6.5% of its annual budget on defense in 2000 and 4.5% of its budget on defense in 2001. It recently acquired some Chinese artillery pieces, some Ukrainian patrol boats, and some Ukrainian Helicopter Gunships. The Equatoguineans rely on foreigners to operate and maintain this equipment as they are not sufficiently trained to do so.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

A transitional agreement, signed in October 1968, implemented a Spanish pre-independence decision to assist Equatorial Guinea and provided for the temporary maintenance of Spanish forces there. A dispute with President Macias in 1969 led to a request that all Spanish troops immediately depart, and a large number of civilians left at the same time. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were never broken but were suspended by Spain in March 1977 in the wake of renewed disputes. After Macias' fall in 1979, President Obiang asked for Spanish assistance, and since then, Spain has regained as place of influence in Equatorial Guinea. The two countries signed permanent agreements for economic and technical cooperation, private concessions, and trade relations. President Obiang made an official visit to Madrid in March 2001, and senior Spanish Foreign Ministry officials visited Malabo during 2001 as well. Spain maintained a bilateral assistance program in Equatorial Guinea. Most Equatoguinean opposition elements (including a purported government-in-exile) are based in Spain to the annoyance of the government of Malabo.


Equatorial Guinea has had generally cordial relations with its neighbors. It is member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), which includes Cameroon, Central African Republic, C had, Congo/Brazzaville, and Gabon. Equatorial Guinea is also part of the central Africa CFA franc zone and the Cameroon-based Bank of Central African States coordinates monetary policy. The CFA franc is guaranteed by the Bank of France and French technical advisers work in the finance and planning ministries. France, Spain, Cuba, China have participated in infrastructure and technical development projects.

Equatorial Guinea has minor border disputes with Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea involving coastal areas which define off-shore territorial and affect ownership of potential future oil concession in the Gulf of Guinea. The majority Fang ethnic group of mainland Equatorial Guinea extends both north and south into the forests of Cameroon and Gabon. Cameroon exports some food products to Equatorial Guinea and imports oil from Equatorial Guinea for its refinery at nearby Limbe.


The development of the oil industry by U.S.-based companies and the lack of a well-trained work force have provided motivation for an influx of English-speaking workers (legal and illegal) from Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana. Cameroon has criticized Equatorial Guinea about perceived mistreatment of Cameroonians working in Equatorial Guinea. Nigerian workers in Equatorial Guinea have also made similar complaints. However, relations with the Nigerian government have lately been cordial as the two countries delineated their offshore borders to facilitate development of nearby gas fields.


The government's official policy is one of nonalignment and it has been reluctant to fully integrate itself into CEMAC. In its search for assistance to meet the goal of national reconstruction, the Government of Equatorial Guinea has established diplomatic relations with numerous Europe an and Third World Countries.


U.S.-EQUATORIAL GUINEA RELATIONS

The Equatoguinean government favorably views the U.S. government and American companies. The United States is the largest-single foreign investor in Equatorial Guinea, which is the fourth-largest destination in Sub-Saharan Africa for American Investment. U.S. companies have the largest and most visible foreign presence in the country. In an effort to attract increased U.S. investment, American passport-holders are entitled to visa-free entry for short visits. The United States is the only country with this privilege.


With the increased U.S. investment presence, relations between the U.S. and the Government of Equatorial Guinea have been characterized by a positive, constructive relationship. In 2003, the Department of State reopened a limited Embassy in Malabo after an eight-year absence. In the interim, diplomatic functions were handled by the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon. Under the current arrangement, the U.S. Ambassador in Yaounde remains concurrently accredited to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. Consular responsibilities will remain with the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde for the foreseeable future, though the Embassy maintains a Bata-based consular agent.


Equatorial Guinea maintains an embassy in Washington. President Obiang has strived to cultivate the Equatorial Guinea-U.S. relationship with regular visits to the U.S. for meetings with senior government and business leaders.


The 2002 U.S. State Department Human Rights report on Equatorial Guinea cited shortcomings in basic human rights, political freedom, and labor rights. Equatorial Guinea attributes deficiencies to excessive zeal on the part of local authorities and promises better control and sensitization. U.S. government policy involves constructive engagement with Equatorial Guinea to encourage an improvement in the human rights situation and positive use of petroleum funds directed toward the development of a working civil society. Equatoguineans visit the U.S. under programs sponsored by the U.S. Government, American oil companies and educational institutions. The Ambassador's Self-Help Fund and the Democracy and Human Rights Funds together annually finance a number of small grassroots projects.


In view of growing ties between U.S. companies and Equatorial Guinea, the U.S. Government's overseas investment promotion agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), has concluded the largest agreement in Sub-Saharan Africa for a major U.S. project in Equatorial Guinea. The U.S. Agency for International Development has no Equatorial Guinea-related programs or initiatives nor is the Peace Corps present. American-based non-governmental organizations and other donor groups have very little involvement in the country.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

The United States has re-opened a limited-function Embassy in Malabo (http://usembassy.state.gov/malabo/). However, inquiries should continue to be directed to the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon.


Yaounde, Cameroon (E), rue Nachtigal, B.P. 817 • Pouch address: Dept. of State, 2520 Yaounde Pl., Washington, D.C. 20521-2520; Tel (237) 223-40-14, or (237) 222-25-89, Fax 223-07-53; CON Fax 223-05-81; IRM Tel 223-43-72; DAO Tel 222-03-17. Website: usembassy.state.gov/Yaounde

AMB: George M. Staples
AMB OMS: Ellen Ansah-Twum
DCM: Steven Coffman
DCM OMS: Gisele Wentling
MGT: [Vacant]
PAO: Andree Johnson
APAO: Jose Santacana
POL/ECO: Linda Specht
CLO: Janet Peterson
CON: Elizabeth Pelletreau
POL/CON: Dana Francis
GSO: Jadine R. Hill
FMO: Paul Bottse
IMO: Les Oly
IMS: Jon Peterson
IMS: Harold Griffin
RISO: Sherri Jackson
RSO: Michael Olson
ARSO: James Gayhart
DAO: MAJ Ron Kinser
RB&F: Francisco Iloret
RHRO: Julia Sullivan
FAO: Joseph Hayden

Douala [BO], Tel (237) 42-53-31 and 42-03-03, Fax 42-77-90

DIR: Marcia Oshianike

Last Modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2003


TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
March 6, 2003


Country Description: Equatorial Guinea is a developing country in central Africa. Its capital, Malabo, is located on the island of Bioko, off the coast of Cameroon. Its principal port, Luba, is also on Bioko. The mainland territory of Equatorial Guinea is located between Cameroon and Gabon. The principal city on the mainland is Bata. Facilities for tourism are limited. Official languages are Spanish, which is widely spoken, and French, which is sometimes used in business dealings and with government officials.


Entry and Exit Requirements: A passport and evidence of a yellow fever vaccination are required to enter Equatorial Guinea. U.S. citizens are not required to have visas to enter Equatorial Guinea. However, travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, 2020 16th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, telephone (202) 518-5700, fax (202) 518-5252. Overseas, inquiries may also be made at the nearest Equatoguinean embassy or consulate.


In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.


Dual Nationality: In addition to being subject to all Equatorial Guinea laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Equatorial Guinea citizens. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.


Safety and Security: It is not uncommon for a uniformed member of the security forces to stop motorists on the pretext of minor or nonexistent violations of the local motor vehicle regulations in order to extort small bribes. Visitors are advised not to pay bribes, and to request that the officer provide a citation to be paid at the local court. Although large public demonstrations are uncommon, U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations.


Crime: Violent crime is rare and the overall level of criminal activity is low in comparison to other countries in the region. However, there has been a rise in non-violent street crime and residential burglaries. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help U.S. citizens understand the local criminal justice process and find an attorney if needed.


The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Consular Agent in Equatorial Guinea or to the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa" for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. Both are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.


Medical Facilities: Medical facilities are extremely limited. Pharmacies in Malabo and Bata are well stocked, but in other areas many medicines are unavailable. Travelers are advised to carry any special medication that they require. The sanitation levels in even the best hospitals are very low. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate payment for health services.


Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.


When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of 50,000 dollars (US). Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.


Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

Other Health Information: Malaria is prevalent in Equatorial Guinea. P. falciparum malaria, the serious and sometimes fatal strain in Equatorial Guinea, is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to Equatorial Guinea are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam - tm), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone - tm), as well as other protective measures to prevent insect bites, such as the use of insect repellent. The CDC has determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate antimalarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and antimalarial drugs, please visit the CDC Travelers ' Health website at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm.


There are periodic outbreaks of cholera in Equatorial Guinea. Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine, required for entry, is very effective in preventing the disease.


CDC may recommend other vaccinations for your protection. For information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect-bite protection, please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC -FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Equatorial Guinea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.


Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair To Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Nonexistent


Equatorial Guinea's road networks, both paved and unpaved, are underdeveloped and unsafe. During the rainy season, many roads are passable only with four-wheel-drive vehicles. New road construction and repair is taking place in Malabo, Bata, and a few outlying areas, but only a fraction of the roadways have been affected. There are few road and traffic signs. Livestock and pedestrians create constant road hazards.


Travelers outside the limits of Malabo and Bata may expect to encounter occasional military roadblocks. These are in place largely for the control of illegal immigration and smuggling. Travelers should be prepared to show proper identification (U.S. passport) and to explain their reason for being at that particular location. The personnel staffing these checkpoints normally do not speak or understand English or French; travelers who do not speak Spanish would do well to have their reason for being in the country and their itinerary written down in Spanish before venturing into the countryside.


For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html.


Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Equatorial Guinea by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Equatoguinean Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For further information, regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.


There are no navigational aids at Bata Airport. At Malabo Airport, there are navigational aids, and the airport is installing facilities for night landings. Special clearances are required to land in or to overfly Equatoguinean territory.


Commercial air travel to and from Equatorial Guinea can be difficult. The country is served by two European airlines that fly in and out of the country a few times per week. The airlines of nearby Cameroon and Gabon also fly there, although their schedules are subject to change without notice, and the flights tend to be extremely crowded. The FAA has not assessed either Cameroon or Gabon's civilaviation authority for compliance with international safety standards.


Currency Restrictions: The Government of Equatorial Guinea has established stringent currency restrictions. Visitors for business or tourism must declare any currency in excess of CFA 50, 000 (currently, approximately 70 U.S. dollars) upon arrival. Although this requirement is not clearly posted, travelers who fail to disclose their excess currency risk the forfeiture of any amount over the CFA 50,000 limit upon departure. They may also be frisked and have their bags searched to ascertain whether they are attempting to take excess currency out of the country.

Equatorial Guinea has a strictly cash economy. Credit cards and checks are not accepted; credit card cash advances are not available. In addition, most local businesses do not accept travelers' checks or dollars. However, dollars can be changed at local banks for Central African francs (CFA). Cash in CFA is usually the only form of payment accepted throughout the country.


Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those of the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law in Equatorial Guinea can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Equatorial Guinea's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strictly enforced. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.


Photography Restrictions: Special permits from the Ministry of Information and Tourism (or from the local delegation if outside Malabo) are required for virtually all types of photography. Police or security officials may charge a fine, attempt to take a violator into custody, or seize the camera and film of persons photographing the Presidential Palace and its environs, military installations, airports, harbors, government buildings, and other areas.


Customs Restrictions: Travelers are advised that the possession of camouflage-patterned clothing, large knives, binoculars, firearms, or a variety of other items may be deemed suspicious by the security forces and grounds for confiscation of the item and detention of the carrier.


U.S. Representation: The United States closed its Embassy in Malabo in November 1995. The U.S. does have a consular agent based in Bata who travels to Malabo bi-monthly. The consular agent is available to assist American citizens with problems that may arise during their sojourns in the country. The consular agent may be reached at (240) 7-5507. U.S. citizens are encouraged to register their presence in Equatorial Guinea with the consular agent, with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon, or with the Embassy Branch Office in Douala, Cameroon. Travelers may also obtain updated travel and security information from these offices. The U.S. Embassy in Yaounde is located on Rue Nachtigal. The mailing address is B.P. 817, Yaounde, Cameroon, telephone (237) 223-40-14, fax (237) 223-07-53. The Embassy office in Douala can be contacted at (237) 342-53-31, fax (237) 342-77-90.

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

POPULATION 498,144
ROMAN CATHOLIC 80 percent
PROTESTANT 5 percent
MUSLIM 4.1 percent
AFRICAN TRADITIONAL 3.4 percent
ANIMIST 2.1 percent
BAHAI 0.5 percent
NONRELIGIOUS 4.9 percent

Country Overview

INTRODUCTION

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea consists of a number of islands and islets—including Bioko (previously known as Fernando Po), Annobón, Corisco, and the two Elobeys—off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea. In addition, the country includes the mainland enclave of Río Muni (also known as Mbini), which is bordered by Cameroon to the north and Gabon to the east and south.

At the time of its discovery by Portuguese mariners in the 1470s, Fernando Po was inhabited by Bubi speakers who sought to avoid Europeans during the Atlantic slave trade period. Inhabitants in heavily forested Río Muni—including Ndowe and other coastal groups, Bayele, and the majority Fang ethnic group—entered into sustained contact with Europeans in the nineteenth century. Missionary efforts by Protestants began on Fernando Po in the 1820s and on the mainland in 1875. Lasting Catholic presence dates from the 1850s on Fernando Po, which became known as Bioke in 1979.

In 2004 there were three Roman Catholic dioceses in Equatorial Guinea: Bata and Ebebiyin in Río Muni, as well as the archdiocese of Malabo on Bioko. The Spanish colonial government hampered Protestant missionary efforts, but today there are a growing number of Christian groups, including Seventh-day Adventists, Assemblies of God, Jehovah's Witnesses, and nondenominational evangelical groups. Fang speakers, many of whom also belong to Christian churches, practice the Bwiti religion, which combines elements of ancestor veneration and Christian beliefs and rituals.

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

Although a 1992 law states official preferences for the Catholic Church and the Reform Church of Equatorial Guinea, other Christian groups operate without government interference. Freedom of worship is protected by law, but the government imposes restrictions on clergy critical of the regime. Religious organizations must register with the Ministry of Justice and Religion, a process that may take several years.

Major Religion

CHRISTIANITY

DATE OF ORIGIN Fifteenth century c.e.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS 399,000

HISTORY

Although Portuguese Catholic missionaries visited Fernando Po as early as the late fifteenth century, no lasting Christian influence took place until the nineteenth century, in part because of the violence of the slave trade and the reticence of the Bubi peoples on the island. British and, later, Jamaican Baptist missionaries worked on Fernando Po from 1827 until expelled by the Spanish in 1858. American Presbyterians served on Corisco Island from 1850 to 1875 and then in Río Benito on the mainland until 1924. Sustained Roman Catholic presence on Fernando Po dates from the beginnings of Spanish colonial activity in the 1850s. During the colonial period from the 1850s to 1968, the Catholic Church, along with the colonial administration and commercial interests, played a crucial role in strengthening Spanish influence. At the time of independence in 1968, the Catholic Church played a strong and vital social role in the country.

During the turbulent dictatorship of Equatorial Guinea's first president, Francisco Macías Nguema (ruled 1968–79), all sectors of society, including Christian churches, were severely oppressed. Foreign priests were expelled; Guinean clerics were imprisoned, tortured, forced into exile, and sometimes killed. In 1978 all Church activities were banned. With the 1979 overthrow of Macías by his nephew, Lt. Col. Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the most severe religious restrictions were lifted. Missionaries returned, and religious activities resumed. Nonetheless, the Obiang government, which held power at the start of the twenty-first century, remained extremely sensitive to political criticism, including that coming from the Catholic clergy.

EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS

Rev. John Clarke directed Jamaican Baptist missionary efforts in Fernando Po and the adjacent mainland from 1841 until 1858, when Protestant missionaries were expelled by the Spanish. Clarke and his associates opened a number of mission stations on the island. He gained a sympathetic linguistic and cultural understanding of the Bubis and the Fernandinos (descendants of freed slaves and laborers from the West African mainland).

Ildefonso Obama Obono (born in 1938) became Catholic archbishop of Malabo in 1991. Prior to that he served as bishop of Ebebiyin from 1982 to 1991. He has advocated human rights and democratic reforms.

MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS

Ikengue Ibiya (or Ibia J'Ikengue, 1834–1901), a Benga from Corisco Island, was trained by the American Presbyterians; in 1875 he became the first Protestant pastor from the future Equatorial Guinea. His Benga-language Customs of the Benga excoriates Benga religious and cultural practices as superstition and idolatry while making a strong case for Christian evangelization.

Spanish Claretian missionary Pedro Armengol Coll (1859–1918) served from 1904 to 1918 as the first bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Fernando Po. His 1911 memoirs recount Catholic missionary work on the island.

HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES

There are cathedrals in Malabo, Bata, and Ebebiyin, as well as numerous Catholic and other Christian churches and chapels throughout the country. Malabo Cathedral, completed in 1916, is in the Spanish gothic style. During the Macías era Malabo Cathedral was desacralyzed and turned into an arsenal. Other churches were turned into cocoa sheds. Since Macía'ss overthrow in 1979, such churches have returned to their original religious function.

WHAT IS SACRED?

Christian churches in Equatorial Guinea contain standard sacred objects, such as Communion bread and wine, as well as crosses and religious medallions. During the Macías era the president sought to impose his own personality cult and proclaimed himself the "unique miracle of Equatorial Guinea"; his portrait had to be hung in all Christian churches.

HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

Equatorial Guineans celebrate standard Christian holidays, including Christmas, Easter, Good Friday, Easter Monday, and, among Catholics, Immaculate Conception. Holidays, including secular holidays such as Independence Day (12 October), Human Rights Day (10 December), and President Obiang's birthday (5 June), are marked by religious services and traditional dances.

MODE OF DRESS

Today Guinean Christians have largely adopted Western-style dress, as well as West African styles made from brightly colored imported cloth.

DIETARY PRACTICES

Under the Spanish colonial system, educated Catholic Africans could become emancipated, making them honorary Spaniards who could consume the bread and wine of the Mass. Aside from Catholic dietary restrictions during Lent, which include fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, most Christians do not eat a special diet.

RITUALS

Catholics in Equatorial Guinea practice standard weekly and daily Mass and prayer services. High Mass is performed at the cathedrals of Malabo, Bata, and Ebebiyin. Adherents of the syncretic Bwiti religion incorporate Christian prayers, biblical readings, and hymns into all-night rituals that include ingestion of the hallucinogen iboga.

RITES OF PASSAGE

Aside from standard Catholic sacraments such as baptism, first Communion, confirmation, reconciliation, marriage, Holy Orders, and anointing of the sick, there appear to be no distinct Christian rites of passage in Equatorial Guinea. Male children are circumcised. Marriage may entail transfer of bride wealth (goods and money) from the groom's family to the bride's family. Like other central Africans, Equatorial Guineans practice end of mourning ceremonies up to a year or more after the death of important adults. These ceremonies involve dances, feasting, performances (of the Mvett epic), and Christian observances.

MEMBERSHIP

Equatorial Guinea has the highest proportion of baptized Catholics on the African continent, which indicates the success of evangelization efforts during the colonial period. Although Catholics faced severe persecution under Macías Nguema, the Catholic Church was able to pursue its activities in the 1980s and 1990s without major government interference. Because of the high percentage of Catholics in the country, church membership is transferred within families rather than through active proselytizing.

Methodists are the principal Protestant group on Bioko. The Evangelical Church, supported by the Presbyterian Church of the United States and the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade of the United Kingdom, are the largest Protestant denominations in Río Muni. Protestant evangelization efforts were impeded by the Spanish colonial government and under Macías Nguema. Protestant groups have been able to operate more freely since 1979, when Obiang Nguema assumed office. The Spanish-language version of Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club is broadcast daily via satellite television.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

During the colonial period the Catholic Church ran almost all of the schools, hospitals, and orphanages in Equatorial Guinea. After independence in 1968 social and educational efforts were severely disrupted under Macías. Clerics were silenced, often through arrest, expulsion, and violence. The Vatican misunderstood the gravity of the situation, advising priests and seminarians who had fled to return to Equatorial Guinea, where they were often arrested. In the 1970s the papal nuncio in Yaoundé, Cameroon, advised the Catholic Church to remain quiet in order not to endanger religious personnel who had remained in the country. With the arrival of Obiang Nguema in 1979, overseas missionaries and exiled priests returned. In the 1990s priests and even Archbishop Ildefonso Obama Obono denounced government persecutions and human rights abuses and continued to face government intimidation, arrest, and torture.

SOCIAL ASPECTS

Most Christian denominations in Equatorial Guinea oppose polygamy, which nevertheless remains widespread. In the nineteenth century women unhappy in polygamous unions sometimes sought refuge in neighboring mission stations. Today among most ethnic groups except the Bubi, women, in the case of marital dissolution, are required to return bride wealth given to their family at the time of marriage. In most cases the husband maintains custody of children born during the marriage, while the wife's family retains custody of children born prior to the marriage. Women have the legal right to own and inherit property but in practice have few opportunities to accumulate wealth.

POLITICAL IMPACT

As early as the 1850s the Catholic Church enjoyed privileged relations with the Spanish colonial government, which, in an effort to weaken British presence in Fernando Po, expelled Protestant missionaries. During the colonial period the Catholic Church remained a pillar of the Spanish colonial system, and at the time of independence the church was perhaps the strongest and most unifying institution in the country. Macías Nguema, who saw the church as a threat, unleashed successive waves of restrictions, persecution, and violence against clerics. In 1976 Bishop A.M. Ndongo of the Bata Diocese was killed while in a Bata prison. Bishop Nzé Abuy and numerous other religious personnel, including Protestants, were forced into exile.

In 1991 President Obiang agreed to a multiparty political system but has continued to use the state security apparatus and electoral fraud to maintain a firm grip on power. Throughout the 1990s, while many priests practiced self-censorship, those who did speak out against the political situation frequently faced harassment and arrest. In 1998 Archbishop Obama denounced persecution and ill treatment of Catholic priests and nuns. He also called for free and fair presidential elections.

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES

The Catholic Church opposes divorce, abortion, and most forms of birth control. As a testament to long-term Catholic influence in Equatorial Guinea, Spanish laws that prohibited abortion remained in effect until 1991. Since then new laws have continued to prohibit abortion and impose harsh penalties upon both those who perform abortions and women who consent to them. Abortions, however, may be carried out to save the life of a woman or to preserve her mental or physical health.

CULTURAL IMPACT

Christian artists in Equatorial Guinea have painted biblical scenes with African participants and settings. Catholic and Protestant hymns have been translated into Bubi, Fang, Benga, and other African languages. Hymns are also performed using African tones and rhythms, while contemporary Guinean music draws on African as well as Catholic and Protestant choral traditions.

Other Religions

Prior to Christian evangelization ethnic groups in Equatorial Guinea practiced African traditional religions. The Bubi of Fernando Po revered the Supreme Creator, Dupe, and worshiped the elements. The high priest conserved the sacred fire and blessed the yam plantations. Fang peoples on the mainland conserved ancestor relics (byeri in Fang), particularly crania of prominent forebears and accompanying statues, that were placated, fed, and consulted before important undertakings, such as hunting expeditions, marriage, and war. Fang also believed in the supernatural efficacy of many medicines or charms (byang) composed from a wide variety of ingredients: plants, animals, humans, and manufactured objects. Many precolonial Fang religious practices required elaborate rites of purification and sacrifice to the ancestors. Antiwitchcraft ceremonies also entailed rituals to identify and combat suspected evildoers.

Well into the twentieth century Fang speakers still practiced a number of initiation rites, which continue to inform beliefs about wealth, power, and social success. Young men underwent initiation in melan ceremonies in which they consumed a plant with hallucinatory properties. Ngil, or Ngyi, was a men's initiation society devoted to settling judicial affairs and combating witchcraft. Women were initiated into Mevungu, a society devoted to fertility and protection.

The Bwiti religion is also practiced by Fang speakers. Originally an ancestor religion among peoples in southern Gabon, Bwiti spread to Fang migrant laborers in the early twentieth century and eventually to Río Muni. Bwiti, which draws on ancestor religions and Christianity, requires substantial initiation rites, including ingestion of the hallucinogen iboga, which enables initiates to contact the spirits.

In the slightly more open political climate since the 1990s, political opponents have denounced ritual murders, which in some cases involved the removal of the victim's organs to make "medicines." Some ritual crimes are thought to have political significance.

Since 1970 the number of Muslims has grown, mainly due to the influx of West African merchants. Their practices are similar to Muslims in neighboring countries in the region.

John Cinnamon

See Also Vol. 1: Christianity, Roman Catholicism

Bibliography

Ensema, Nzang M. Cien años de evangelización en Guinea Ecuatorial. Barcelona: Editions Claret, 1983.

Fegley, Randall, comp. Equatorial Guinea. World Bibliographic Series, vol. 136. Oxford: Clio Press, 1991.

Fernández, C. Misiones y Misioneros en la Guinea Española. Madrid: Editorial COCULSA, 1962.

Liniger-Goumax, Max. Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea. 3rd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. 2000.

Martín de Molono, A. La ciudad de Clarence: Primeros años de la actual ciudad de Malabo, capital de Guinea Ecuatorial, 1827–1859. Madrid-Malabo: Centro Cultural Hispano-Guineano, 1993.

Perrois, Louis, and Marta Sierra Delage. The Art of Equatorial Guinea: The Fang Tribes. New York: Rizzoli, 1990.

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Equatorial Guinea

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Compiled from the January 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Equatorial Guinea


PROFILE

Geography

Location: Western Africa, bordering the Bay of Biafra. Bordering nations—Cameroon, Gabon.

Area: 28,050 sq. km; slightly smaller than Maryland.

Cities: Capital—Malabo. Other cities—Bata (also capital of Littoral province on the mainland).

Terrain: Varies. Bioko Island is volcanic, with three major peaks of 9,876 feet, 7,416 feet and 6,885 feet. Behind the coastal plain, the mainland provinces are hilly at a level of approximately 2,000 feet, with some 4,000-foot peaks. Annobon Island is volcanic.

Climate: Tropical; always hot, humid. Bata on the mainland is somewhat drier and cooler.

People

Nationality: Noun—Equatorial Guinean(s), Equatoguinean(s) Adjective—Equatorial Guinean, Equatoguinean.

Population: (July 2004 est.) 523,051

Annual growth rate: (2003 est.) 24.1%; 2.8% (1975-2002)

Ethnic groups: The Fang ethnic group of the mainland constitutes the great majority of the population and dominates political life and business. The Bubi group comprises about 50,000 people living mainly in Bioko Island. The Annobonese on the island of Annobon are estimated at about 3,000 in number. The other three ethnic groups are found on the coast of Rio Muni and include the Ndowe and Kombe (about 3,000 each) and the Bujebas (about 2,000). The pygmy populations have long been integrated into the dominant Bantu-speaking cultures. Europeans are less than 1,000, mostly Spanish.

Languages: Official—Spanish, French; other—pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo.

Religions: Nominally Christian and predominantly Roman Catholic; pagan practices.

Education: Primary school compulsory for ages 6-14. Attendance-(2002 est.) 85%. Adult Literacy (2002 est.)—84.2% (UN Development Programme's Human Development Report, 2003).

Health: (2002 est.) Life expectancy—49 years. Infant mortality rate—101/1,000.

Government

Type: Nominally multi-party Republic with strong domination by the executive branch.

Independence: October 12, 1968 (from Spain).

Constitution: Approved by national referendum November 17, 1991; amended January 1995.

Branches: Executive—President (Chief of State) and a Council of Ministers appointed by the president. Legislative—100 member Chamber of People's Representatives (members directly elected by universal suffrage to serve five-year terms). Judicial—Supreme Tribunal.

Administrative subdivisions: Seven provinces—Annobon, Bioko Norte, Bioko Sur, Centro Sur, Kie-Ntem, Littoral, Wele-Nzas.

Political parties: The ruling party is the Partido Democratico de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), formed July 30, 1987. Numerous other parties were allowed to form in the early 1990s.

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal adult.

Economy

GDP: (2003 est.) $2.6 billion.

GDP growth rate: 24.1%-BEAC 2004 est. 20.9% (2002 est.—EIU) GDP per capita: (2003 est.) $5,300.

Inflation rate: (2003 est.) 6% average, 10.8% year-end (EIU).

Unemployment rate: (1998 est.) 30%.

Natural resources: Petroleum, timber, small, unexploited deposits of gold, manganese, and uranium.

Agriculture: (1999 est.) 16% of GDP. Products—coffee, cocoa, rice, yams, cassava (tapioca), bananas, palm oil nuts, manioc, livestock, and timber.

Industry: (1999 est.) 75.3% of GDP. Types—petroleum, fishing, saw milling, natural gas.

Services: (2001) 4.1% of GDP.

Trade: (2003 est.) Exports—$2.6 billion: hydrocarbons (97%), timber (2%), others (1%). Imports—$1.2 billion. Major trading partners—United States, Spain, China, Canada, France, Great Britain, Cameroon and Norway.

Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine (CFA) Franc


GEOGRAPHY

The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is located in west central Africa. Bioko Island lies about 40 kilometers (25 mi.) from Cameroon. Annobon Island lies about 595 kilometers (370 mi.) southwest of Bioko Island. The larger continental region of Rio Muni lies between Cameroon and Gabon on the mainland; it includes the islands of Corisco, Elobey Grande, Elobey Chico, and adjacent islets.

Bioko Island, called Fernando Po until the 1970s, is the largest island in the Gulf of Guinea—2,017 square kilometers (780 sq. mi.). It is shaped like a boot, with two large volcanic formations separated by a valley that bisects the island at its narrowest point. The 195-kilometer (120-mi.) coastline is steep and rugged in the south but lower and more accessible in the north, with excellent harbors at Malabo and Luba, and several scenic beaches between those towns.

On the continent, Rio Muni covers 26,003 square kilometers (10,040 sq. mi.). The coastal plain gives way to a succession of valleys separated by low hills and spurs of the Crystal Mountains. The Rio Benito (Mbini), which divides Rio Muni in half, is unnavigable except for a 20-kilometer stretch at its estuary. Temperatures and humidity in Rio Muni are generally lower than on Bioko Island.

Annobon Island, named for its discovery on New Year's Day 1472, is a small volcanic island covering 18 square kilometers (7 sq. mi.). The coastline is abrupt except in the north; the principal volcanic cone contains a small lake. Most of the estimated 1,900 inhabitants are fisherman specializing in traditional, small-scale tuna fishing and whaling. The climate is tropical—heavy rainfall, high humidity, and frequent seasonal changes with violent windstorms.


PEOPLE

The majority of the Equatoguinean people are of Bantu origin. The largest tribe, the Fang, is indigenous to the mainland, but substantial migration to Bioko Island has resulted in Fang dominance over the earlier Bantu inhabitants. The Fang constitute 80% of the population and are themselves divided into 67 clans. Those in the northern part of Rio Muni speak Fang-Ntumu, while those in the south speak Fang-Okah; the two dialects are mutually unintelligible. The Bubi, who constitute 15% of the population, are indigenous to Bioko Island. In addition, there are coastal tribes, sometimes referred to as "Playeros," consisting of Ndowes, Bujebas, Balengues, and Bengas on the mainland and small islands, and "Fernandinos," a Creole community, on Bioko. Together, these groups comprise 5% of the population. There are also foreigners from neighboring Cameroon, Nigeria, and Gabon.

Spanish and French are both official languages, though use of Spanish predominates. The Roman Catholic Church has greatly influenced both religion and education.

Equatoguineans tend to have both a Spanish first name and an African first and last name. When written, the Spanish and African first names are followed by the father's first name (which becomes the principal surname) and the mother's first name. Thus people may have up to four names, with a different surname for each generation.


HISTORY

The first inhabitants of the region that is now Equatorial Guinea are believed to have been Pygmies, of whom only isolated pockets remain in northern Rio Muni. Bantu migrations between the 17th and 19th centuries brought the coastal tribes and later the Fang. Elements of the latter may have generated the Bubi, who immigrated to Bioko from Cameroon and Rio Muni in several waves and succeeded former Neolithic populations. The Annobon population, native to Angola, was introduced by the Portuguese via Sao Tome.

The Portuguese explorer, Fernando Po (Fernao do Poo), seeking a route to India, is credited with having discovered the island of Bioko in 1471. He called it Formosa ("pretty flower"), but it quickly took on the name of its European discoverer. The Portuguese retained control until 1778, when the island, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger and Ogoue Rivers were ceded to Spain in exchange for territory in South America (Treaty of Pardo). From 1827 to 1843, Britain established a base on the island to combat the slave trade. The Treaty of Paris settled conflicting claims to the mainland in 1900, and periodically, the mainland territories were united administratively under Spanish rule.

Spain lacked the wealth and the interest to develop an extensive economic infrastructure in what was commonly known as Spanish Guinea during the first half of this century. However, through a paternalistic system, particularly on Bioko Island, Spain developed large cacao plantations for which thousands of Nigerian workers were imported as laborers. At independence in 1968, largely as a result of this system, Equatorial Guinea had one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa. The Spanish also helped Equatorial Guinea achieve one of the continent's highest literacy rates and developed a good network of health care facilities.

In 1959, the Spanish territory of the Gulf of Guinea was established with

status similar to the provinces of metropolitan Spain. As the Spanish Equatorial Region, a governor general ruled it exercising military and civilian powers. The first local elections were held in 1959, and the first Equatoguinean representatives were seated in the Spanish parliament. Under the Basic Law of December 1963, limited autonomy was authorized under a joint legislative body for the territory's two provinces.

The name of the country was changed to Equatorial Guinea. Although Spain's commissioner general had extensive powers, the Equatorial Guinean General Assembly had considerable initiative in formulating laws and regulations. In March 1968, under pressure from Equatoguinean nationalists and the United Nations, Spain announced that it would grant independence to Equatorial Guinea. A constitutional convention produced an electoral law and draft constitution. In the presence of a UN observer team, a referendum was held on August 11, 1968, and 63% of the electorate voted in favor of the constitution, which provided for a government with a General Assembly and a Supreme Court with judges appointed by the president.

In September 1968, Francisco Macias Nguema was elected first president of Equatorial Guinea, and independence was granted in October. In July 1970, Macias created a single-party state and by May 1971, key portions of the constitution were abrogated. In 1972 Macias took complete control of the government and assumed the title of President-for-Life. The Macias regime was characterized by abandonment of all government functions except internal security, which was accomplished by terror; this led to the death or exile of up to one-third of the country's population. Due to pilferage, ignorance, and neglect, the country's infrastructure—electrical, water, road, transportation, and health—fell into ruin. Religion was repressed, and education ceased. The private and public sectors of the economy were devastated. Nigerian contract laborers on Bioko, estimated to have been 60,000, left en masse in early 1976. The economy collapsed, and skilled citizens and foreigners left.

In August 1979, Macias' nephew from Mongomo and former director of the infamous Black Beach prison, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, led a successful coup d'etat; Macias was arrested, tried, and executed. Obiang assumed the Presidency in October 1979. Obiang initially ruled Equatorial Guinea with the assistance of a Supreme Military Council. A new constitution, drafted in 1982 with the help of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, came into effect after a popular vote on August 15, 1982; the Council was abolished, and Obiang remained in the presidency for a 7-year term. He was reelected in 1989. In February 1996, he again won reelection with 98% of the vote; several opponents withdrew from the race, however, and international observers criticized the election. Subsequently, Obiang named a new cabinet, which included some opposition figures in minor portfolios.

Despite the formal ending of one-party rule in 1991, President Obiang and a circle of advisors (drawn largely from his own family and ethnic group) maintain real authority. The President names and dismisses cabinet members and judges, ratifies treaties, leads the armed forces, and has considerable authority in other areas. He appoints the governors of Equatorial Guinea's seven provinces. The opposition had few electoral successes in the 1990s. By early 2000, President Obiang's PDGE party fully dominated government at all levels. In December 2002, President Obiang won a new seven-year mandate with 97% of the vote. Reportedly, 95% of eligible voters voted in this election, although many observers noted numerous irregularities.


GOVERNMENT

The 1982 constitution gives the President extensive powers, including naming and dismissing members of the cabinet, making laws by decree, dissolving the Chamber of Representatives, negotiating and ratifying treaties and calling legislative elections. The President retains his role as commander in chief of the armed forces maintains close supervision of military activity. In June 2004, the President reorganized the cabinet and created two new positions: Minister of National Security and Director of National Forces. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and operates under powers designated by the President. The Prime Minister coordinates government activities in areas other than foreign affairs, national defense and security.

The Chamber of Representatives is comprised of 100 members elected by direct suffrage for 5-year terms. In practice, the Chamber is not independent and rarely acts without presidential approval or direction. A new National Assembly was directly elected in April 2004. There are 100 members in this body, of which 14 are from the loyal opposition and 2 from opposition parties (the CPDS: Convergencia Para la Democracia Social).

The President appoints the governors of the seven provinces. Each province is divided administratively into districts and municipalities. The internal administrative system falls under the Ministry of Territorial Administration; several other ministries are represented at the provincial and district levels.

The judicial system follows similar administrative levels. At the top are the President and his judicial advisors (the Supreme Court). In descending rank are the appeals courts, chief judges for the divisions, and local magistrates. Tribal laws and customs are honored in the formal court system when not in conflict with national law. The current court system, which often uses customary law, is a combination of traditional, civil, and military justice, and it operates in an ad hoc manner for lack of established procedures and experienced judicial personnel.

The other official branch of the government is the State Council. The State Council's main function is to serve as caretaker in case of death or physical incapacity of the President. It comprises the following ex officio members: the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the President of the National Assembly and the Chairman of the Social and Economic Council.

Although the abuses and atrocities that characterized the Macias years have been eliminated, effective rule of law does not exist and the government is ultimately run by the Presidency. Religious freedom is tolerated.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 6/21/04

President: Obiang Nguema Mbasogo , Teodoro, Brig. Gen. (Ret.)
Prime Minister: Biteo Borico , Miguel Abia
First Vice Prime Min.: Ntutumu , Mercelino Oyono
Second Vice Prime Min.: Nfubea , Ricardo Mangue Obama
Sec. Gen. of the Government: Ntutumu , Antonio Martine Ndong
Min. of Agriculture & Forests: Obiang Mangu , Teodoro Nguema
Min. of Economy, Commerce, & Promotion: Ndong , Jaime Ela
Min. of Education, Science, & Sports: Ela , Cristobal Menana
Min. of Finance & Budget: Edu , Mercelino Owono
Min. of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, & Francophone Affairs: Bill , Micha Ondo, Pastor
Min. of Information, Tourism, & Culture: Mokuy , Alfonso Nsue
Min. of Interior & Local Corporations: Onguene , Clemente Engonga Nguema
Min. of Justice, Culture, & Penitentiary Institutions: Mibuy , Angle Masii
Min. of National Defense: Mba Nguema , Antonio, Gen.
Min. of National Security: Mba , Manuel Nguema Mba Ma, Col.
Min. of Mines, Industry, & Energy: Ntugu Nsa , Antanasio Ela
Min. of Planning, Economic Development, & Public Investment: Bindang , Caarmelo Modu Acusi
Min. of Transportation, Technology, & Posts & Telecommunications: Nsefumu , Demetrio Elo Ndong
Min. of Travel & Social Security: Costa , Enrique Mercader
Min. of Urban Planning: Muete , Aniceto Ebiaka
Min. of Women's Affairs: Engono , Jesusa Obono
Ambassador to the US: Ondo Bile , Pastor Micha
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Avomo , Lino Sima Ekua

Equatorial Guinea maintains an embassy in Washington, D.C. at 1712 I Street NW, Suite 410, Washington, DC 20005 (Tel. (202) 393-0525, Fax. (202) 393-0348). Its mission to the United Nations is at 801 Second Avenue, Suite 1403, New York, N.W. 10017 (Tel. 212-599-1523).


POLITICAL CONDITIONS

In the period following Spain's grant of local autonomy to Equatorial Guinea in 1963, there was a great deal of political party activity. Bubi and Fernandino parties on the island preferred separation from Rio Muni or a loose federation. Ethnically based parties in Rio Muni favored independence for a united country comprising Bioko and Rio Muni, an approach that ultimately won out. (The Movimiento para la Auto-determinacion de la Isla de Bioko (MAIB) which advocates independence for the island under Bubi control, is one of the offshoots of the era immediately preceding independence). After the accession of Macias to power, political activity largely ceased in Equatorial Guinea. Opposition figures who lived among the exile communities in Spain and elsewhere agitated for reforms; some of them had been employed in the Macias and Obiang governments. After political activities in Equatorial Guinea were legalized in the early 1990s, some opposition leaders returned, but repressive actions have continued sporadically.

The country's first freely contested municipal elections were held in September 1995. Most observers agree that the elections themselves were relatively free and transparent and that the opposition parties garnered between two-thirds and three-quarters of the total vote. The government, however, delayed announcement of the results and then claimed a highly dubious 52% victory overall and the capture of 19 of 27 municipal councils. In early January 1996 Obiang called for presidential elections. International observers agreed that the campaign was marred by fraud, and most of the opposition candidates withdrew in the final week. Obiang claimed reelection with 98% of the vote. In an attempt to mollify his critics, Obiang gave minor portfolios in his cabinet to people identified as opposition figures. In the legislative election in March 1999, the party increased its majority in the 80-seat parliament from 68 to 75. The main opposition parties refused the seats they had allegedly won. In May 2000, the ruling PDGE overwhelmed its rivals in local elections. Opposition parties rejected the next election, the December 2002 Presidential election, as invalid. During this election, President Obiang was re-elected with 97% of the vote. Following his re-election Obiang formed a government based on national unity encompassing all opposition parties, except for the CPDS, which declined to join after Obiang refused to release one of their jailed leaders.

In April 2004, parliamentary and municipal elections took place. President Obiang's Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) and allied parties won 98 of 100 seats in parliament and all but seven of 244 municipal posts. International observers criticized both the election and its results.

While President Obiang's rule, in which schools reopened, primary education expanded, and public utilities and roads restored, compares favorably with Macias' tyranny and terror, it has been criticized for not implementing genuine democratic reforms. Corruption and a dysfunctional judicial system disrupt the development of Equatorial Guinea's economy and society. In 2004, the President appointed a new Prime Minister, Miguel Abia Biteo, and replaced several ministers, however, the government budget still does not include all revenues and expenditures. The United Nations Development Program has proposed a broad governance reform program, but the Equatoguinean Government is not moving rapidly to implement it.

Equatorial Guinea suffered a severe human rights setback in May 2002 when a special tribunal convicted 68 prisoners and their relatives and sentenced them 6 to 20 years in prison for an alleged attempted coup d'etat. Among the prisoners were leaders of the three main opposition parties that had remained independent from President Obiang's ruling party. There were numerous irregularities associated with the trial, including evidence of torture and a lack of substantive proof. In August 2003, 31 of these convicted prisoners were granted a presidential amnesty.

In March 2004, Zimbabwean police in Harare impounded a plane from South Africa with 64 alleged mercenaries on board. The group said they were providing security for a mine in Democratic Republic of Congo, but a couple of days later an Equatorial Guinean minister said they had detained 15 more men who he claimed were the advance party for the group captured in Zimbabwe. Nick du Toit, the leader of the group of South Africans, Armenians and one German, in Equatorial Guinea, said at his trial in Equatorial Guinea that he was playing a limited role in a coup bid organized by Simon Mann, the alleged leader of the group held in Zimbabwe, to remove Obiang from power and install an exiled opposition politician, Severo Moto.

In September 2004, Mann was sentenced to seven years in jail in Zimbabwe after being convicted of illegally trying to buy weapons. Others arrested with him were acquitted of any links to a suspected coup attempt after magistrates said prosecutors had failed to prove their case but were convicted on immigration charges to one year in jail. Both Mann's trial in Zimbabwe and the Equatorial Guinea trial began amid complaints of abuse and unfair treatment from relatives of those being held. One suspect, a German, died in prison in Equatorial Guinea of malaria (Amnesty International claimed initially he had died of the effects of torture). Meanwhile, another 14 men are awaiting the resumption of their trial in the Equatorial Guinean capital, Malabo, in connection with the suspected plot.

Although Equatorial Guinea lacks a well-established democratic tradition comparable to the developed democracies of the West, it should be noted that, out of the anarchic, chaotic, and repressive conditions of the Macias years the country has made small, haphazard steps toward the development of participatory political system.


ECONOMY

Oil and gas exports have increased substantially and will drive the economy for years to come. Real GDP growth reached 18% in 2000, 66% in 2001, 20% in 2002, 10% in 2003 and 24.1% in 2004 (est.). Per capita income rose from about $590 in 1998 to $2,000 in 2000 and $5,300 today. The energy export sector is responsible for this rapid growth. Oil production has increased from 81,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 1998 to more that 400,000 bpd by 2004. Production of 500,000 bpd is projected by 2005. This is based on existing commercially viable oil and gas deposits. Exploration efforts continue in search of further potential offshore concessions.

Equatorial Guinea has other unexploited human and natural resources, including a tropical climate, fertile soils, rich expanses of water, deepwater ports, and an untapped, if unskilled, source of labor. Following independence in 1968, the country suffered under a repressive dictatorship for 11 years, which devastated the economy. The agricultural sector, historically known for cocoa of the highest quality, never fully recovered. In 1969, Equatorial Guinea produced 36,161 tons of highly bid cocoa, but production dropped to 4,800 tons in 2000 and 3,430 tons in 2002. It increased slightly from 2003 levels to 2,906 tons by 2004. Coffee production was 126,000 metric tons in 2002, up from 67000 tons 5 years earlier. Timber is the main source of foreign exchange after oil, though it now only accounts for 2% of total export earnings. Timber production increased steadily during the 1990s; wood exports reached a record 789,000 cubic meters in 1999 as demand in Asia (mainly China) gathered pace after the 1998 economic crisis. Since 1998, production of timber has fallen closer to a sustainable level. 530,500 cubic meters were sold in 2002. Most of the production (mainly Okoume) goes to exports, and only 3% is processed locally. Bioko Island has already suffered permanent damage due to earlier exploitation. Consumer price inflation has declined from the 38.8% experienced in 1994 following the CFA franc devaluation, to 7.8% in 1998, and 4.0% in 2000, according to BEAC data. Consumer prices inflation has remained steady at around 6% since 2002.

Equatorial Guinea's economic policies, as defined by law, comprise an open investment regime. Qualitative restrictions on imports, non-tariff protection, and many import licensing requirements were lifted in 1992 when the government adopted a public investment program endorsed by the World Bank. The Government of Equatorial Guinea has sold some state enterprises. It is attempting to create a more favorable investment climate, and its investment code contains numerous incentives for job creation, training, promotion of nontraditional exports, support of development projects and indigenous capital participation, freedom for repatriation of profits, exemption from certain taxes and capital, and other benefits. Trade regulations have been further liberalized since Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC) reform codes in 1994. This included elimination of quota restrictions and reductions in the range and amounts of tariffs. The CEMAC countries agreed to the introduction of a value added tax (VAT) in 1999.

While business laws promote a liberalized economy, the business climate remains difficult. Application of the laws remains selective. Corruption among officials is widespread, and many business deals are concluded under nontransparent circumstances. A newly introduced wage law now regulates separate wage levels for the petroleum, private and government sector.

There is little industry in the country, and the local market for industrial products is small. The government seeks to expand the role of free enterprise and to promote foreign investment but has had little success in creating an atmosphere conducive to investor interest.

The Equatoguinean budget has grown enormously in the past 5 years as royalties and taxes on foreign company oil and gas production have provided new resources to a once poor government. The 2002 government revenue was about 414.5 billion CFA francs (about USD805 million), up about 135% from 2000 levels. Oil revenues account for more than 81% of government revenue. Value Added Tax and trade taxes are other large revenue sources for the government.

The Equatoguinean Government has undertaken a number of reforms since 1991 to reduce its predominant role in the economy and promote private sector development. Its role is a diminishing one, although many government interactions with the private sector are at times capricious. The government is anxious for greater U.S. investment. Beginning in early 1997, the government initiated efforts to attract significant private sector involvement through cooperative efforts with the Corporate Council on Africa visit and numerous ministerial efforts. In 1998, the government privatized distribution of petroleum products. There are now Total and Mobil stations in the country. The maritime border with Nigeria was settled in 2000, allowing Equatorial Guinea to continue exploitation of its oil fields. In October 2002, the government launched a national oil company, GEPetrol, under the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons.

The government has expressed interest in privatizing the outmoded electricity utility. Several ports and a new terminal were built to accommodate the needs of the oil industry. A French company operates cellular telephone service in cooperation with a state enterprise. Most of the new infrastructure has not reached the average Equatoguinean living on the mainland. Agriculture, fishing, livestock, and tourism are among sectors the government would like targeted.

Equatorial Guinea's balance-of-payments situation has improved substantially since the mid-1990s because of new oil and gas production and favorable world energy prices. Exports totaled $2.23 billion in 2002. Crude oil exports now annually accounts for more than 97% of export earnings. Timber exports, by contrast, now represent only about 2% of export revenues. Imports into Equatorial Guinea also are growing very quickly. Imports totaled USD635 million in 2002.

Equatorial Guinea in the 1980s and 1990s received foreign assistance from numerous bilateral and multilateral donors, including European countries, the United States, and the World Bank. Many of these aid programs have ceased altogether or have diminished. Spain, France, and the European Union continue to provide some project assistance, as do China and Cuba. The government also has discussed working with World Bank assistance to develop government administrative capacity.

Equatorial Guinea operated under an International Monetary Fund-negotiated Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) until 1996. Since then, there have been no formal agreements or arrangements. However, since 1996, the IMF has held regular held Article IV consultations (periodic country evaluations). After the 2003 consultations, IMF directors stressed the need for further improvements in governance and transparency, the attainment of a sustainable fiscal position, the implementation of structural reforms to bolster the non-oil sector, the development of a transparent framework for saving and managing part of the country's oil wealth and a comprehensive effort to reduce poverty.

Trade and Investment

With investments estimated at over $5 billion, the United States is the largest cumulative bilateral foreign investor in Equatorial Guinea. 74% of U.S. exports to Equatorial Guinea in 2003 consisted of energy sector-related transportation and machinery equipment. The United States' main import from Equatorial Guinea is petroleum (99% of imports in 2003). In 1999, the European Union (EU) imported $281.7 million in goods from Equatorial Guinea, 89% of which was petroleum and 7% timber. The European Union exported $104 million to Equatorial Guinea. Approximately 20% of these exports were oil and gas-related, and the remaining 80% ranged from agricultural products to clothing to used cars.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure is generally old and in poor condition. Surface transport options are increasing as the government has invested heavily in road pavement projects. In 2002, the African Development Bank and the European Union co-financed two projects to improve the paved roads from Malabo to Luba and Riaba; and to build an interstate road network to link Equatorial Guinea to Cameroon and Gabon. The Chinese are undertaking a project to link Mongomo to Bata, both cities on the mainland. In November 2003, the government announced an ambitious ten-project program to upgrade the country's road network and improve the airport facilities at Bata, the country's second city (on the mainland). A new road links Malabo with the airport and there have been improvements in the city. The program is estimated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there are doubts over the capacity of the government to manage such a huge scheme, and over the integrity of the ministry handling it, which is headed by the president's eldest son, Teodorin Nguema Obiang.

Estimates of Equatorial Guinea's electricity generating capacity vary, with 15.4 megawatts (MW) of certain installed capacity, and 5-30 MW of estimated additional capacity. About 5.0 MW are located on the mainland, including 4 MW of oil-fired thermal capacity and 1 MW of hydroelectric capacity. Bioko Island receives electricity from two thermal plants and one hydroelectric plant. The expansion of natural gas production at the Alba field in recent years has provided a convenient fuel source for new power generation in the country. The 10.4-MW, natural gas-fired Punta Europa plant began operation in 1999, supplying gas-fired electricity to Bioko Island. Another 4-6 MW of generation capacity is currently under construction at the AMPCO complex on the island. Equatorial Guinea is estimated to have 2,600 MW of hydropower potential.

Equatorial Guinea's electricity sector is owned and operated by the state-run monopoly, SEGESA. The power supply is unreliable, due to aging equipment and poor management, as demonstrated by prolonged blackouts in Malabo in May 2002, and again in April 2003. As a result, small diesel generators are widely used as a backup source of power supply. In Malabo, the American company, Marathon Oil, built a 30 mega-watt electric power plant financed by the government, which came in line in mid-2000.

Potable water is available in the major towns but is not always reliable because of poor maintenance and mismanagement; consequently, supply interruptions are often frequent and prolonged in some neighborhoods. Some villages and rural areas are equipped with generators and water pumps, usually owned by private individuals.

Telecommunications have improved dramatically in recent years. Parastatal Getesa, a joint venture with a 40% ownership stake held by France Telecom, provides telephone service in the major cities through an efficient, digital fixed network and good mobile coverage. Getesa's fixed-line service has 9,000 subscribers and the mobile service has 28,000. Internet access is limited and has yet to make an impact on the dissemination of information.

Equatorial Guinea has two of the deepest Atlantic seaports of the region, including the main business and commercial port city of Bata. The ports of both Malabo and Bata are severely overextended and require extensive rehabilitation and reconditioning. In partnership with a U.S. petroleum company, Amerada Hess, a British company, Incat, has made significant progress in a project to renovate and expand Luba, the country's third-largest port, located on Bioko Island. The government hopes Luba will become a major transportation hub for offshore oil and gas companies operating in the Gulf of Guinea. Luba is located some 50 kilometers from Malabo and was previously virtually inactive except for minor fishing activities and occasional use to ease congestion in Malabo. Riaba, the only other port of any scale on Bioko, is less active. The continental ports of Mbini and Cogo have deteriorated as well and are now used primarily for timber.

Five small airlines now offer regular daily services between the two cities of Malabo and Bata and nearby neighboring countries. A few aging Soviet-built aircraft operated by several small carriers (one state-owned, the others private,) constitute this national aircraft fleet. The influx of oil workers has increased international air activity. Major international carriers now connect Malabo to the European cities of Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid and Zurich. A weekly business-class charter flight provides service to Houston, Texas. The runway at Malabo's international airport (3,200 meters) is equipped with lights and can service equipment similar to DC-10s and C13Os. The runway at Bata (2,400 meters) does not operate at night but can accommodate aircraft as large as B737s. Two minor airstrips (800 meters) are located at Mongomo and on the island of Annobon.

Energy Developments

Oil is Equatorial Guinea's most valuable asset. Since the discovery of the Zafiro field in 1995, production has increased more than tenfold, and oil has quickly become the country's most important export commodity, accounting for nearly 90% of the value of total exports in 2003. Equatorial Guinea is now the third largest producer of crude oil in sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Angola. Equatorial Guinea's oil reserves are located mainly in the hydrocarbon-rich Gulf of Guinea, containing estimated probable reserves as high as 10% of the world total. As a result, large amounts of foreign investment primarily by U.S. companies have poured into the country's oil sector in recent years.

Oil production from Equatorial Guinea is expanding rapidly, averaging in 2003, 237,500 bbl/d, of which 206,000 was crude. This represents a tremendous increase from the 1996 oil output of 17,000 bbl/d. Production improvements and expansion projects undertaken in 2003 pushed petroleum output even higher, resulting in average production of 350,000 bbl/d for the first half of 2004. Meanwhile, the government has been vague about plans to cap production levels to extend the life of the country's petroleum reserves. Three fields—Zafiro, Ceiba, and Alba—currently account for the majority of the country's oil output.

Equatorial Guinea's oil profits have expanded since 1998, when the country introduced more liberal regulatory and profit sharing arrangements for hydrocarbon exploration and production activities, including revised and updated Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs). As a result, government oil revenues increased from 13% to 20% of total oil export earnings. Although significant, the government's share is still relatively small by international standards.

In 2001, GEPetrol became Equatorial Guinea's national oil company. It was established as the primary state-run institution responsible for the country's downstream oil sector activities. However, since 2001 its primary focus has become managing the government's interest stakes in various PSCs with foreign oil companies. GEPetrol also partners with foreign firms to undertake exploration projects and has a say in the country's environmental policy implementation. Plans to increase the government's stake in new and existing PSCs have been discussed, but not formally pursued.

The majority of the reserves are found in the Zafiro field, located northwest of Bioko Island and south of Nigeria's offshore oil fields. In recent years, Exxon Mobil has focused on increasing production from Zafiro, expanding drilling capacity to accommodate this plan. Zafiro is Equatorial Guinea's largest oil producer, with output rising from an initial level of 7,000 bbl/d in August 1996 to approximately 280,000 bbl/d by 2004. Ceiba, Equatorial Guinea's second major producing oil field, is located just offshore of Rio Muni and is estimated to contain 300 million barrels of oil. Production at Ceiba has risen dramatically during the past 2-3 years, following improvements and upgrades to the facility. Alba, Equatorial Guinea's third significant field was discovered in 1991. Original estimates of reserves at Alba were around 68 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE), but recent exploration has increased new estimates significantly, to almost 1 billion BOE. Unlike the Zafiro or Ceiba fields, exploration and production at Alba has focused on natural gas, including condensates.

Ceiba's discovery has significantly increased interest in petroleum exploration of surrounding areas, with many new companies acquiring licenses in exploration blocks further offshore in the Rio Muni basin. International companies with interests in one or more exploration blocks include Chevron (U.S.), Vanco Energy (U.S.), Atlas Petroleum International (US), Devon Energy (US), Roc Oil (Australia), Petronas (Malaysia), Sasol Petroleum (South Africa), and Glencore (Switzerland). In October 2004, Noble Energy Equatorial Guinea, an Equatoguinean subsidiary of American Noble Energy, Inc. signed a contract to exploit a new oil field off the island of Bioko. Equatorial Guinea's total proven oil reserves are estimated at 1.1 billion barrels.

Equatorial Guinea's natural gas reserves are located offshore Bioko Island, primarily in the Alba and Zafiro oil and gas fields. Natural gas and condensate production in Equatorial Guinea has expanded rapidly in the last five years in response to new investments by major stakeholders in the Alba natural gas field. Alba, the country's largest natural gas field, contains 1.3 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven reserves, with probable reserves estimated at 4.4 Tcf or more.

Marathon Oil and GE Petrol have joined together in a $1.4 billion deal to construct a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility on Bioko Island. In May 2003, the government gave final approval for the plan to construct an LNG plant, once Marathon and GE Petrol had secured a 17-year purchase agreement with British Gas (BG) of the United Kingdom. Under the contract, the LNG facility will supply 3.4 million tons of LNG to BG, beginning in 2007. Natural gas consumption in Equatorial Guinea has increased in recent years, along with higher production. Natural gas consumption jumped to 45 Bcf in 2002, from approximately 1 Bcf during each of the four previous years.


DEFENSE

The Equatoguinean military consists of approximately 2500 service members. The largest contingent is the Army with 1400 soldiers; the police have 400 para-military policemen, the Navy has 200 members and the Air Force has approximately 120. There is a Gendarmerie but the exact number of members is unknown. All are very poorly trained, but the government is steadily purchasing new equipment from Ukraine and China among others. In 2003, the government spent USD 75 million on military expenditures, about 9% of the 2002 budget. Neither the Navy nor the Air Force has trained crews to operate or maintain their equipment. Family and ethnic ties to the president determine promotions and influence within the military. Military decision-making is completely centralized with the President also serving as the Minister of Defense.

Between 1984 and 1992, service members went regularly to the United States on the International Military Education Training program, after which funding for this program for Equatorial Guinea ceased. U.S. military-to-military engagement has been dormant since 1997 (the year of the last Joint Combined Exchange Training Exercise), although their representatives did attend a recent military hosted conference on Gulf of Guinea Security Cooperation.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

A transitional agreement, signed in October 1968, implemented a Spanish pre-independence decision to assist Equatorial Guinea and provided for the temporary maintenance of Spanish forces there. A dispute with President Macias in 1969 led to a request that all Spanish troops immediately depart, and a large number of civilians left at the same time. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were never broken but were suspended by Spain in March 1977 in the wake of renewed disputes. After Macias' fall in 1979, President Obiang asked for Spanish assistance, and since then, Spain has regained its place of influence in Equatorial Guinea. The two countries signed permanent agreements for economic and technical cooperation, private concessions, and trade relations. Spain maintained a bilateral assistance program in Equatorial Guinea. Most Equatoguinean opposition elements (including a purported government-in-exile) are based in Spain to the annoyance of the Equatoguinean Government. Relations between the two countries grew difficult after the March 2004 coup attempt due to their hosting opposition figure Severo Moto and their belief that Spain had foreknowledge of the coup.

Equatorial Guinea has had generally cordial relations with its neighbors. It is a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), which includes Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo/Brazzaville, and Gabon. Equatorial Guinea is also part of the central Africa CFA franc zone and the Cameroon-based Bank of Central African States coordinates monetary policy. The Bank of France guarantees the CFA franc, and French technical advisers work in the finance and planning ministries. France, Spain, Cuba, and China have participated in infrastructure and technical development projects.

Equatorial Guinea has minor border disputes with Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea involving coastal areas that define offshore territorial and affect ownership of potential future oil concession in the Gulf of Guinea. The Corisco border dispute with Gabon was solved by an agreement signed under the with the help of UN mediation in January 2004. The majority Fang ethnic group of mainland Equatorial Guinea extends both north and south into the forests of Cameroon and Gabon. Cameroon exports some food products to Equatorial Guinea and imports oil from Equatorial Guinea for its refinery at nearby Limbe. The development of the oil industry by U.S.-based companies and the lack of a well-trained work force have provided motivation for an influx of English-speaking workers (legal and illegal) from Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana. (However, relations with the Nigerian government have lately been cordial as the two countries delineated their offshore borders to facilitate development of nearby gas fields.) Roundups and expulsion of foreigners following the March 2004 coup attempt revived tensions between these neighbors.

The government's official policy is one of nonalignment and it has been reluctant to fully integrate itself into CEMAC. In its search for assistance to meet the goal of national reconstruction, the Government of Equatorial Guinea has established diplomatic relations with numerous European and Third World Countries.


U.S.-EQUATORIAL GUINEA RELATIONS

The Equatoguinean government favorably views the U.S. Government and American companies. The United States is the largest single foreign investor in Equatorial Guinea. U.S. companies have the largest and most visible foreign presence in the country. In an effort to attract increased U.S. investment, American passport-holders are entitled to visa-free entry for short visits. The United States is the only country with this privilege.

With the increased U.S. investment presence, relations between the U.S. and the Government of Equatorial Guinea have been characterized by a positive, constructive relationship. In 2003, the Department of State reopened a limited embassy in Malabo after an 8-year absence. Under the current arrangement, the U.S. Ambassador in Yaounde remains concurrently accredited to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. Consular responsibilities will remain with the U.S. embassy in Yaounde for the foreseeable future, though the embassy maintains a Bata-based consular agent.

Equatorial Guinea maintains an embassy in Washington. President Obiang has strived to cultivate the Equatorial Guinea-U.S. relationship with regular visits to the U.S. for meetings with senior government and business leaders.

The 2003 U.S. State Department Human Rights report on Equatorial Guinea cited shortcomings in basic human rights, political freedom, and labor rights. Equatorial Guinea attributes deficiencies to excessive zeal on the part of local authorities and promises better control and sensitization. U.S. government policy involves constructive engagement with Equatorial Guinea to encourage an improvement in the human rights situation and positive use of petroleum funds directed toward the development of a working civil society. Equatoguineans visit the U.S. under programs sponsored by the U.S. Government, American oil companies and educational institutions. The Ambassador's Self-Help Fund annually finances a number of small grass-roots projects.

In view of growing ties between U.S. companies and Equatorial Guinea, the U.S. Government's overseas investment promotion agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), has concluded the largest agreement in Sub-Saharan Africa for a major U.S. project in Equatorial Guinea. The U.S. Agency for International Development has no Equatorial Guinea-related programs or initiatives nor is the Peace Corps present. American-based non-governmental organizations and other donor groups have very little involvement in the country.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

MALABO (E) Address: Carretera de Aeropuerto, Restaurante El Paraiso; Phone: (240) 093-457; Fax: (240) 09-84-43

AMB:R. Niels Marquardt
DCM/CHG:Sarah Morrison
Last Updated: 9/30/2004

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

November 15, 2004

Country Description: Equatorial Guinea is a developing country in central Africa. Its capital, Malabo, is located on the island of Bioko, off the coast of Cameroon. Its principal port, Luba, is also on Bioko. The mainland territory of Equatorial Guinea is located between Cameroon and Gabon. The principal city on the mainland is Bata. Facilities for tourism are limited. Official languages are Spanish, which is widely spoken, and French, which is sometimes used in business dealings and with government officials.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A passport and evidence of a yellow fever vaccination is required to enter Equatorial Guinea. U.S. citizens are not required to have visas to enter Equatorial Guinea for short visits. However, travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, 2020 16 th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009, telephone (202) 518-5700, fax (202) 518-5252. Overseas, inquiries may also be made at the nearest Equato-guinean embassy or consulate.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Dual Nationality: In addition to being subject to all Equatorial Guinea laws affecting U.S. citizens, individuals who also possess the nationality of Equatorial Guinea may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on citizens of that country. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.

Safety and Security: It is not uncommon for a uniformed member of the security forces to stop motorists on the pretext of minor or nonexistent violations of the local motor vehicle regulations in order to extort small bribes. Visitors are advised not to pay bribes, and to request that the officer provide a citation to be paid at the local court. Although large public demonstrations are uncommon, U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Violent crime is rare and the overall level of criminal activity is low in comparison to other countries in the region. However, there has been a rise in non-violent street crime and residential burglaries. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred.

Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help U.S. citizens understand the local criminal justice process and find an attorney if needed.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Embassy in Malabo (call (240) 273-193), the U.S. Consular Agent in Bata (call (240) 275-193), or the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon.

U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. Both are available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

Medical Facilities: Medical facilities are extremely limited. Pharmacies in Malabo and Bata stock basic medicines including antibiotics, but cannot be counted on to supply advanced medications. Outside of these cities, many medicines are unavailable. Travelers are advised to carry any special medication that they require. The sanitation levels in even the best hospitals are very low. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate payment for health services, and patients are expected to supply their own bandages, linen and toiletries.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of 50,000 dollars (U.S.). Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties.

When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page, http://travel.state.gov.

Other Health Information: Malaria is prevalent in Equatorial Guinea. P. falciparum malaria, the serious and sometimes fatal strain in Equatorial Guinea, is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to Equatorial Guinea are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariamtm), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malaronetm), as well as other protective measures to prevent insect bites, such as the use of insect repellent. The CDC has determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate antimalarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and antimalarial drugs, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/malinfo.htm.

There are periodic outbreaks of cholera in Equatorial Guinea. Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine, required for entry, is very effective in preventing the disease.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Equatorial Guinea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair To Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Nonexistent

Equatorial Guinea's road networks, both paved and unpaved, are under-developed and unsafe. During the rainy season, many roads are passable only with four-wheel-drive vehicles. New road construction and repair is taking place in Malabo, Bata, and a few outlying areas, but only a fraction of the roadways have been affected. There are few road and traffic signs. Livestock and pedestrians create constant road hazards.

Travelers outside the limits of Malabo and Bata may expect to encounter occasional military roadblocks. These are in place largely for the control of illegal immigration and smuggling. Travelers should be prepared to show proper identification (for example, a U.S. passport) and to explain their reason for being at that particular location.

The personnel staffing these checkpoints normally do not speak or understand English or French; travelers who do not speak Spanish would do well to have their reason for being in the country and their itinerary written down in Spanish before venturing into the countryside.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Equatorial Guinea by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Equato-guinean Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

There are no navigational aids at Bata Airport. At Malabo Airport, there are navigational aids, and the airport accommodates night landings. Special clearances are required to land in or to over fly Equatoguinean territory.

Commercial air travel to and from Equatorial Guinea can be difficult, but is improving. The island of Bioko and the mainland are connected by several small airlines offering daily service. Malabo is served by European airlines that fly in and out of the country a few times per week from Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris and Zurich. The airlines of nearby Cameroon and Gabon also fly there, although their schedules are subject to change or cancellation without notice, and their flights tend to be extremely crowded.

Currency Restrictions: The Government of Equatorial Guinea has established stringent currency restrictions. Visitors for business or tourism must declare any currency in excess of 50,000 Central African francs (CFA) (approximately $90) upon arrival. Although this requirement is not clearly posted, travelers who fail to disclose their excess currency risk the forfeiture of any amount over the CFA 50,000 limit upon departure. They may also be frisked and have their bags searched to ascertain whether they are attempting to take excess currency out of the country.

Equatorial Guinea has a strictly cash economy. Credit cards and checks are not accepted; credit card cash advances are not available and there are no ATMs. In addition, most local businesses do not accept travelers' checks, dollars or euros. However, dollars can be changed at local banks for C FA. Cash in CFA is usually the only form of payment accepted throughout the country.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those of the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law in Equatorial Guinea can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Equatorial Guinea's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strictly enforced. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Photography Restrictions: Special permits from the Ministry of Information and Tourism (or from the local delegation if outside Malabo) are required for virtually all types of photography. Police or security officials may charge a fine, attempt to take a violator into custody, or seize the camera and film of persons photographing the Presidential Palace and its environs, military installations, airports, harbors, government buildings, and other areas.

Customs Restrictions: Travelers are advised that the possession of camouflage-patterned clothing, large knives, binoculars, firearms, or a variety of other items may be deemed suspicious by the security forces and grounds for confiscation of the item and detention of the carrier.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/family/index.html or telephone Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

U.S. Representation: The United States reopened its Embassy in Malabo in October 2003. However, due to limited staffing, it can offer only emergency services to U.S. citizens in distress. The U.S. Embassy in Malabo can be contacted at (240) 273-193. U.S. citizens in distress may also contact the U.S. Consular Agent in Bata at (240) 275-507. Routine services are provided through the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon.

Americans living or traveling in Equatorial Guinea are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, http://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Equatorial Guinea. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé is located downtown, on Rue Nachtigal, tel.: (237) 223-40-14, fax: (237) 223-07-53. The Embassy Branch Office in Douala is located on Rue Flatters, in the Citibank building, tel.: (237) 342-53-31, fax: (237) 342-77-90.

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

As late as the early 1990s, Equatorial Guinea was often presented as a backward and unappealing country. The country was not only bankrupt but also suffering from moral decay. By the early 2000s, stories on Equatorial Guinea made international headlines and Malabo (its capital) had become more appealing, awash with cash from major oil companies. Although these developments offered some promise for the future of this country, there has been little change in the bleak living conditions of most of the population.

Equatorial Guinea is located on the western coast of Africa, between Cameroon and Gabon. The total land area is about 28,051 square kilometers (10,828 square miles), and its total population is about 510,000. The country consists of a mainland area (Rio Muni Province) and five islands, the largest of which is Bioko. Several languages are spoken, including Fang, but Spanish is the official language. Equatorial Guinea is surrounded mostly by French-speaking countries, however; consequently, it belongs to the International Organization of Francophonie (French-speaking countries).

In 1778 Spain claimed Equatorial Guinea as its only colony in Africa. The country gained local autonomy in 1963 and independence in 1968. Since then it has been governed by two leaders, Francisco Macias Nguema (1924–1979) and his nephew Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (b. 1942), who seized power in a 1979 palace coup . Spain has had troubled relations with Equatorial Guinea because of corruption and misrule. Most of the democratic opposition leaders live in exile in Spain. Under Macias Nguema, about one-third of the population was killed or fled into exile.

Despite the democratic wave of the 1990s, Equatorial Guinea is far from being democratic. A multiparty system is in place, but there is constant military intimidation of the political opposition, including arrest and torture. The presidential elections of 2002 led to the victory of President Obiang for another seven-year term. Most foreign observers described the election as neither free nor fair.

The political system is strictly presidential. In his last cabinet reshuffle, President Obiang described the team as a "transitional government," but not much transition has taken place. Instead, the president lives under tight security and constantly confronts rumors and threats of a coup. A plot in March 2004 had a peculiar international flavor; Zimbabwe arrested scores of foreigners, including Europeans and Africans, who were planning to fly to Malabo to overthrow the government. Arrests were also made within the country itself, and hundreds of foreigners were expelled.

The legislative branch of government is the unicameral House of People's Representatives. In 2004 membership was increased from eighty to one hundred lawmakers. The president's party, the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea, held a near monopoly.

The president appoints the prime minister and other government officials, and he can also dismiss them at will. The judiciary is partly based on Spanish civil law and is also influenced by tribal customs. There is a Supreme Tribunal, where the wishes of the president prevail, especially regarding summary executions.

Increasingly, President Obiang's son, who spends most of his time living abroad, has made key decisions. He also manages the family's huge assets deposited in foreign banks. Corruption is widespread in the country, and the oil wealth has only made things worse. The heavy reliance on oil means that the country still has to import food from neighboring countries to deal with rising malnutrition.

This country has great economic prospects. However, the political climate will ultimately determine just how much Equatorial Guinea's people benefit from its oil wealth.

See also: Presidential Systems.

bibliography

"Equatorial Guinea." In CIA World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2005. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ek.html>.

Klitgaard, Robert. Tropical Gangsters. New York: Basic Books, 1990.

Mars, Laura, director. Nations of the World: A Political, Economic and Business Handbook. Millerton, NY: Grey House Publishing, 2003.

Ramsay, F. Jeffress, ed. Global Studies: Africa. 10th ed. Guilford, CT: McGraw Hill/Dushkin, 2004.

H. Mbella Mokeba

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