Republic of Equatorial Guinea
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Equatorial Guinea (EQ) is a small West African nation that, as its name suggests, lies near the Equator on the Gulf of Guinea. It is made up of five islands and a small mainland area, Rio Muni which lies between Cameron (see profile) and Gabon. The total area of EQ is 28,000 sq km (11,000 sq miles). Control of the area now comprising EQ has been a checkered story; such is particularly the case for the islands of EQ. More than a thousand years ago the area was thought to be first inhabited by Pygmies and Ndowe tribes. Bantu tribes entered in the twelfth century. The Fang eventually subdued the other tribes and were successful in keeping European encroachment at bay. However, the draw of slaves was strong and the French, British and Dutch eventually established slave trade. The Portuguese took control of the largest island, Bioko, but later traded it to Spain for a slave outpost in 1778. When slavery was abolished Europe lost interest. It was not until the 1920s that Europeans explored the interior; Spain began developing the land in the 1940s.
Equatorial Guinea gained independence in 1968, after 190 years of Spanish rule. The country’s first President Francisco Macias Nguema turned despotic, initiated absolute rule and commenced a reign of terror on his people. He closed EQ to the outside world. Macias’s rule ended by coup in 1979 when his nephew seized power and Macias was executed. By the time of the coup, the population was reduced by two-thirds through death or exile. President Teodoro OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO has ruled the country since 1979 when he seized his uncle’s office. Although nominally a constitutional democracy since 1991, the 1996 and 2002 presidential elections – as well as the 1999 and 2004 legislative elections – were widely seen as flawed. The president exerts almost total control over the political system and has discouraged political opposition. Equatorial Guinea has experienced rapid economic growth due to the discovery of large offshore oil reserves, and in the last decade has become Sub-Saharan Africa’s third largest oil exporter. Despite the country’s economic windfall from oil production resulting in a massive increase in government revenue in recent years, there have been few improvements in the population’s living standards.
Agricultural exports from EQ are largely confined to coffee, cocoa and timber. Much of the population is subsistence farmers growing yams, cassava and bananas. As of yet, largely untapped, are EQ’s mineral deposits.
Due to a long history of Spanish control, EQ is the only African nation that speaks Spanish. Roman Catholicism dominates the religious arena with about 85% of the population belonging to the Catholic Church. The remaining 15% follow indigenous beliefs.
Mac Lynn’s Churches of Christ Around the World (2003) reports Windel Howard, an American missionary to Nigeria, traveled to EQ in early 1995 on an exploratory trip. A Nigerian brother by the name of Lazarus did some work in EQ and a small Nigerian congregation was then meeting in Malabo, the capital. By 2004 the church had grown to two congregations, according to missionary Paul Kee. With the support of Churches of Christ in Nigeria and Cameron, Evangelist Joseph Etok was working with these Christians. At that time Etok had more than 300 active students taking World Bible School courses and many more were taking Bible courses locally, in both English and Spanish.
In September of 2008 the Africans Claiming Africa for Christ Conference was held in Badagry, Nigeria. In reports of the meeting to The Christian Chronicle, Erik Tryggestad, was able to share that some Africans were becoming aware of the needs in EQ and were preparing for ministry in the tiny coastal nation. As of 2010, Leonardo Bueto serves a Church of Christ in the capital, Malabo.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
Revised by Gary Holloway, December 3, 2013