Equatorial Guinea is a country of luscious vegetation and beautiful scenery, including tropical forests and snow-capped volcanoes. The capital, Malabo, is a rather rundown but attractive town, with pleasant Spanish colonial architecture, a striking volcanic setting and a lively market. The white-sand beaches around the islands are stunning. No wonder the country was first of all named ‘Formosa’, meaning ‘beautiful’, by the Portuguese.
The area was first colonised by the Portuguese in the late 15th century and handed over to the Spanish in 1788. Self-government was granted in 1959, followed by full independence in 1968.Its economy has expanded rapidly following the discovery of oil and gas deposits in the Gulf of Guinea, though little of this wealth has trickled down to the general population. The government has been described by a variety of human rights organisations as among the worst abusers of human rights in Africa.
The mainland was originally inhabited by Pygmies. The Fang and Bubi migrated there in the 17th century and to the main island of Fernando Po (now called Bioko) in the 19th century. In the 18th century, the Portuguese ceded land to the Spanish that included Equatorial Guinea. From 1827 to 1844, Britain administered Fernando Po, but it was then reclaimed by Spain. Río Muni, the mainland, was not occupied by the Spanish until 1926. Spanish Guinea, as it was then called, gained independence from Spain on Oct. 12, 1968. It is Africa’s only Spanish-speaking country.