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Equatorial Guinea, History

The island of Fernando Poo was sighted in 1471 by Fernao do Po, a Portuguese navigator. Portugal ceded the island to Spain in 1778. From 1827 to 1844, with the permission of the Spanish government, Britain maintained a naval station at Fernando Poo and also administered the island. In 1844 the Spanish settled in the area that became the province of Rio Muni. In 1904 Fernando Poo and Rio Muni were organized into the Western African Territories, later known as Spanish Guinea. On October 12, 1968, the territory became the independent Republic of Equatorial Guinea, with Francisco Macias Nguema as president. In 1972 Macias Nguema appointed himself president for life. Extreme dictatorial and repressive policies led to the flight of an estimated 100,000 refugees to neighboring countries; at least 50,000 of those who remained were killed, and another 40,000 were sent into forced labor. In 1979 Macias Nguema was overthrown in a military coup, tried for treason, and executed. Lieutenant Colonel Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who led the coup, then became president. Parliamentary elections, based on a single slate of candidates, were held in 1983 and 1988. Although the first multiparty elections took place in November 1993, they were internationally condemned and boycotted by at least half of the eligible voters. Opposition forces called for the boycott after the Obiang Nguema government refused to prepare an accurate electoral roll and guarantee the right to campaign without harassment. In February 1996 presidential elections Obiang Nguema, opposed by only one candidate, reportedly received over 99 percent of the vote. The elections were condemned by international organizations for the government’s harassment, jailing, and alleged torture of political opponents. March 1999 legislative elections, dominated by the ruling party, were also condemned as fraudulent.

 
 

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