Equatorial Guinea: An African Tragedy

Equatorial Guinea: An African Tragedy

Equatorial Guinea: An African Tragedy

Equatorial Guinea: An African Tragedy

Excerpt

A nervous man accompanied by soldiers was led into the Marfil Cinema in Malabo, the capital of the tiny tropical African nation of Equatorial Guinea. Usually, he wore dark sombre suits, but on that day a white shirt and plain trousers were his only attire. He was deaf, impotent, nearly blind and looked much older than he actually was. His movements and speech could only be described as jerky. Yet he was so feared by his own people that his subsequent execution had to be carried out by elite Moroccan troops after Equatorial Guinean soldiers refused to involve themselves. He swore that his ghost would return to haunt those who had condemned him to death. The date was September 29, 1979 and his name was Francisco Macías Nguema. Having become president at independence in 1968, he had been overthrown by a group of army officers led by some disgruntled relatives. Nevertheless, the legacy of his policies of torture, mass murder, corruption and oppression lives on.

For eleven years, Macías dominated Equatorial Guinea. He called himself "The Unique Miracle" and his ability to stay in power at any cost made that title very credible. He was a maniac with a record of corruption, sadism and psychiatric disorders which extended back many years before independence. Nevertheless, he was able to break the power of his political opponents and counter the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, one of the few powerful institutions in the country. No one, either citizen or foreigner, was free from the fear which surrounded his regime. All political, religious and cultural activity emanated from him. Proportionally, his rule equalled that in Nazi-occupied Europe in terms of brutality. In a tiny country, at least 20,000 people were killed. Another sixth of the population was forcibly recruited as slave laborers on cacao and coffee plantations and in timberyards. One out of three Equatorial Guineans became a refugee. Economic and cultural activity simply ceased.

We are led to ask how one man could generate enough fear to stay in power so long under these conditions. Were his charms so great that hardly a word of protest came from abroad? A number of explanations have been put forward. Firstly, Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa's smallest nations and therefore its affairs are unlikely to arouse much interest. Secondly, as Spain's only colony in black Africa, its borrowed Hispanic culture has made it an odd man out from the very beginning. Hence, few people have ever heard of Equatorial Guinea and the country is often confused with Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau or even Papua- New Guinea. But twenty thousand deaths should have made news no matter how small or isolated a place may be. In fact, a substantial portion of the ignorance surrounding this case is clearly the result of the unwillingness of governments, corporations and international organizations to release information concerning the domestic affairs of Equatorial Guinea. As more and more facts come to light, a . . .

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