Currently viewing country profile for Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea is a small country off West Africa which has recently struck oil and which is now being cited as a textbook case of the resource curse - or the paradox of plenty.
Since the mid 1990s the former Spanish colony has become one of sub-Sahara's biggest oil producers and in 2004 was said to have the world's fastest-growing economy.
However, few people have benefited from the oil riches and the country ranks near the bottom of the UN human development index. The UN says that less than half the population has access to clean drinking water and that 20 percent of children die before reaching five.
The country has exasperated a variety of rights organisations who have described the two post-independence leaders as among the worst abusers of human rights in Africa.
Francisco Macias Nguema's reign of terror - from independence in 1968 until his overthrow in 1979 - prompted a third of the population to flee. Apart from allegedly committing genocide against the Bubi ethnic minority, he ordered the death of thousands of suspected opponents, closed down churches and presided over the economy's collapse.
His successor - Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo - took over in a coup and has shown little tolerance for opposition during the three decades of his rule. While the country is nominally a multiparty democracy, elections have generally been considered a sham.
According to Human Rights Watch, the ''dictatorship under President Obiang has used an oil boom to entrench and enrich itself further at the expense of the country's people''.
The corruption watchdog Transparency International has put Equatorial Guinea in the top 12 of its list of most corrupt states. Resisting calls for more transparency, President Obiang has for long held that oil revenues are a state secret. In 2008 the country became a candidate of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative - an international project meant to promote openness about government oil revenues - but failed to qualify by an April 2010 deadline.
A 2004 US Senate investigation into the Washington-based Riggs Bank found that President Obiang's family had received huge payments from US oil companies such as Exxon Mobil and Amerada Hess.
Observers say the US finds it hard to criticise a country which is seen as an ally in a volatile, oil-rich region. In 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hailed President Obiang as a "good friend" despite repeated criticism of his human rights and civil liberties record by her own department. More recently President Barack Obama posed for an official photograph with President Obiang at a New York reception.
The advocacy group Global Witness has been lobbying the United States to act against the President Obiang's son Teodor, a government minister. It says there is credible evidence that he spent millions buying a Malibu mansion and private jet using corruptly acquired funds - grounds for denying him a visa.
Equatorial Guinea hit the headlines in 2004 when a plane load of suspected mercenaries was intercepted in Zimbabwe while allegedly on the way to overthrow President Obiang.
- Full name: The Republic of Equatorial Guinea
- Population: 693,40 (UN, 2010)
- Capital: Malabo
- Area: 28,051 sq km (10,830 sq miles)
- Major languages: Spanish, French
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 51 years (men), 53 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
- Main exports: Petroleum, timber, cocoa
- GNI per capita: US $12,420 (World Bank, 2008)
- Internet domain: .gq
- International dialling code: +240
President: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Mr Obiang Nguema is currently Africa's second-longest serving leader - after Libya's Muammar Gaddafi - and has been in power for three decades.
In 1979 he seized power from President Francisco Macias Nguema, who was the leader at independence and whose rule prompted a mass exodus and thousands of deaths. The former leader was tried and executed.
The new president relaxed some of the restrictions of his predecessor - such as a ban on the Catholic Church - but kept the absolute control he inherited.
Officials said Mr Obiang won more than 97% of the vote in presidential elections in December 2002. Opposition candidates had withdrawn from the poll, citing fraud and irregularities. Officials reported similar results following the November 2009 presidential elections.
A French judge announced in May 2009 that he would launch a landmark investigation into whether President Obiang and two other African leaders plundered state coffers to buy luxury homes and cars in France. It became known as the case of "ill-gotten gains".
A complaint filed by Transparency International France, accused the leaders, who denied any wrongdoing, of acquiring millions of dollars of real estate in Paris and on the French Riviera and buying luxury cars with embezzled public money.
However, a French appeal court threw out the case saying the activists couldn't act against foreign heads of state. A subsequent ruling, in November 2010, authorised an investigation into the charges.
Equatorial Guinea's media outlets are closely controlled by the government. There are few private publications.
The nation ranked 158th out of 175 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. The organisation has included President Obiang in its list of "Predators of Press Freedom". It says the information ministry, which serves as the media regulator, is staffed by ruling party members.
Radio France Internationale and Gabon-based Africa No. 1 are available on FM in Malabo.
There were 12,000 internet users by June 2009 (Internetworldstats).
- Ebano - state-owned
- La Opinion - private, weekly
- La Nacion - private
- La Gaceta - monthly
- Television Nacional - state-run
- Radio Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial - state-run
- Radio Asonga - private, owned by president's son
A chronology of key events:
1471 - Portuguese navigator Fernao do Po sights the island of Fernando Poo, which is now called Bioko.
1777 - Portuguese cedes islands of Annobon and Fernando Poo as well as rights on the mainland coast to Spain, giving it access to a source of slaves.
1844 - Spanish settle in what became the province of Rio Muni - mainland Equatorial Guinea.
1904 - Fernando Poo and Rio Muni become the Western African Territories, later renamed Spanish Guinea.
1968 - Spanish Guinea granted independence and becomes the Republic of Equatorial Guinea with Francisco Macias Nguema as president.
1972 - Nguema becomes president for life.
1979 - Nguema ousted in military coup led by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
1993 - First multi-party elections are generally condemned as fraudulent and are boycotted by the opposition.
1996 February - President Obiang Nguema wins 99% of votes in election amid reports of widespread irregularities.
1996 March - Mobil oil corporation announces it has discovered sizeable new oil and gas reserves.
Poor human rights record
1998 January - Amnesty International reports the arrest of scores of people - mostly from the Bubi minority - in the wake of attacks on military posts on Bioko island.
1998 June - Military tribunal sentences 15 people to death for separatist attacks on Bioko island.
1999 March - Ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea wins majority of seats in parliamentary elections condemned as fraudulent. Dozens of members of main opposition Popular Union are arrested.
2001 - Economy emerges as one of world's fastest-growing because of oil exploitation. Opposition says trickle-down effect of growth is too slow, too small.
2001 March - Eight exiled opposition parties form a coalition in Spain to overhaul politics at home, saying democracy under Obiang is a sham.
2001 July - Exiled politician Florentino Ecomo Nsogo, head of the Party of Reconstruction and Social Well-Being (PRBS), returns home as the first opposition figure to respond to an appeal by President Obiang Nguema, who wants opposition parties to register.
2002 June - Court jails 68 people for up to 20 years for alleged coup plot against President Obiang Nguema. They include main opposition leader Placido Mico Abogo. EU is concerned that confessions were obtained under duress. Amnesty International says many defendants showed signs of torture.
2002 December - President Obiang Nguema re-elected. Authorities say he won 100% of the vote. Opposition leaders had pulled out of the poll, citing fraud and irregularities.
2003 August - Exiled opposition leaders form self-proclaimed government-in-exile in Madrid, Spain.
Opposition leader Placido Mico Abogo and 17 other political prisoners released.
2004 March - Suspected mercenaries arrested over alleged coup attempt; group is linked to suspected mercenaries detained in Zimbabwe. Crackdown on immigrants ensues; hundreds of foreigners deported.
2004 April - Parliamentary elections: President Obiang's party and its allies take 98 of 100 seats. Foreign observers criticise poll and result.
2004 August-November - Foreigners accused of plotting coup to overthrow President Obiang are tried in Malabo. Their South African leader is sentenced to 34 years in jail.
Simon Mann, the British leader of a group of mercenaries accused of involvement in the alleged coup plot and arrested in Zimbabwe, is tried in Harare and sentenced to seven years in jail there. His sentence is later reduced to four years on appeal.
2005 January - Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former British PM Margaret Thatcher, tells a South African court that he helped to finance the alleged 2004 coup plot, but did so unwittingly.
2005 June - President amnesties six Armenians convicted of taking part in the alleged 2004 coup plot.
2005 July - 55 people killed when passenger aircraft crashes shortly after take-off from Malabo.
2005 September - Military court jails 23 defendants, most of them military officers, who are accused of plotting a coup in 2004.
2005 December - Spain withdraws the asylum status of exiled opposition leader Severo Moto saying he was involved in several coup attempts.
2006 August - The government resigns en masse. The president had accused it of corruption and poor leadership. Key ministers are reappointed.
2006 October - President Obiang says Equatorial Guinea plans to double its revenue share from oil production contracts.
2007 May - New airline launched to replace the national carrier EGA which was forced to shut over safety concerns.
2007 November - Four Equatorial Guineans sentenced for alleged role in 2004 coup plot.
2008 February - British mercenary Simon Mann is extradited from Zimbabwe to Equatorial Guinea to stand trial for his alleged role in 2004 coup plot.
2008 March - Spain restores exiled opposition leader Severo Moto's asylum status.
2008 April - Spanish police arrest Mr Moto on suspicion of trying to ship weapons to Equatorial Guinea.
2008 July - President Obiang accepts resignation of the entire government, accusing it of corruption and mismanagement; appoints Ignacio Milam Tang as new prime minister.
British mercenary Simon Mann and four South Africans sentenced to 34 years in prison for taking part in 2004 coup plot. They are pardoned and released in November 2009.
2008 October - Cameroon charges two policemen with kidnapping rebel colonel Cipriano Nguema Mba and returning him to Equatorial Guinea, which denies all knowledge.
2009 February - Presidential palace allegedly comes under attack. Seven Nigerians are later jailed over the incident.
2009 November - Presidential elections. President Obiang wins again.
2010 August - Four alleged coup plotters are executed within hours of being found guilty.
2010 October - United Nations agency Unesco drops plans to grant a prize sponsored by President Obiang.
2010 November - French appeal court authorises probe of corruption charges against three African heads of state, including President Obiang.
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Congo Dem Republic
- Cote d'Ivoire
- Equatorial Guinea
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
- The Gambia
- Western Sahara