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Francisco Macias Nguema

Between 1968 and 1979, autocratic President Masie Nguema Biyogo Ñegue Ndong (formerly President Francisco MACIAS NGUEMA Biyogo) virtually destroyed all of the country's political, economic, and social institutions. Transposing Equatorial Guinea for Panama provides a fair picture of the country which the tyrant Macias virtually destroyed in three short years after independence from Spain in October 1958. The contry was the scene of one of the greatest disasters to befall any country in the 20th century, proportionately as great as that which befell Cambodia, caused by the first president after its independence. . Macias Nguema had killed or driven into exile a third of the population.

Macías Nguema Biyogo Masie was born in Nsegayong, Rio Muni, in 1924. Little else about his early life is known. Nguema began his rise through the political ranks as a civil employee for the Spanish colonial government through the 1950's and early 1960's. Most important of his positions during this period were a stint as Mayor of the City of Mongamo and as a member of the Provincial Parliament. In 1964 he was elected Vice-President of the local government of Equatorial Guinea. In March 1968 the Spanish government announced that Equatorial Guinea would be granted full independence upon ratification of a constitution, which occured on August 11, 1968. Nguema, representing the left-wing, ran for President against Bonifacio Ondo Edu, who had been President under Spanish administration from 1964 to 1968; he won the election and, in October 1968, became the first President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea.

Up until independence in 1958, the Spanish ran a fairly typical colonial operation. Equatorial Guinea had a bright potential with a healthy economy based largely on cacao and with a reasonably well-developed infrastructure in school and health services. It was expected that most of the 7,000 Europeans would remain after independence, but that was not to be. President Macias, who for years had shown irrational behavior and worse, began early to find pretexts to frighten Spaniards away and to take over their assets. Nigerian workers, the mainstay on the cacao plantations, were harassed beyond endurance and fled the country, as did eventually one quarter to one third of the population terrorized by the Macias regime. Special targets on the island of Fernando Po, where the capital of Santa Isabel is located, were the Bubis, who were accused of secessionist motivation and were physically abused; many were killed.

As early as March 1969, Newsweek reported that in only a few months after independence the Macias government had brought the country to "the verge of ruin... The treasury was empty. The Cabinet was rent by violent quarrels... His Foreign Minister and UN Representative were beaten to death." Santa Isabel remained an architecturally attractive place nestled at the foot of a volcano on a deep harbor which had attracted seafarers over the centuries. But the population was cowed by Macias' thugs, who took away suspects, without charges in most instances, and who often were not heard from thereafter. The opposition was thus effectively throttled. Macias' ministers routinely disappeared when they displeased or seemed to threaten him. The terror struck at the lower classes as well, including local employees of the American embassy and the residence of the Chargé d'Affaires. Spanish, Nigerian, and other foreigners suffered similar brutal treatment.

Here are comments by African expert Randall Fegley: "Macias was a maniac with a record of corruption, sadism, and psychiatric disorders which extended back many years before independence....No one, either citizen or foreigner, was free from the fear which surrounded his regime (of 11 years, 1968-1979). Proportionally his rule equaled that in Nazi-occupied Europe in terms of brutality. In a tiny country (at the time with an estimated population of 250,000) at least 20,000 people were killed. Another one sixth of the population was forcibly recruited as slave laborers on cacao and coffee plantations and timberlands. One out of three Equatorial Guineans became a refugee." Economic and cultural activity simply ceased. Macias broke the power of his political opponents and countered the influence of the Roman Catholic church, one of the few powerful institutions. Madness had gripped his mind at a conference in November 3, 1967, when he said, "I consider Hitler to be the savior of Africa. He claimed to be an atheist, a Catholic, a Fang traditionalist, a Marxist and an African nationalist, but didn't know enough about any of these beliefs to avoid contradicting himself every time he spoke on them. He could never live up to the standards set by his heroes. He could never be as efficient as Adolf Hitler, as regal as Haile Selassie or as patient as Franco. Macias was a failure. No failure was more important to Francisco Macias Nguema than his inability to procreate.

His nephew, Colonel Teadore Obiang Nguema Mbosogo became the commander of National Guard, military commander of Fernando Po, a province, and the secretary-general of ministry of defense and head of prisons.

He liked to be known as the father of his people, but the hard truth was that he was impotent. Macias kept two mulatto mistresses: Frieda Krohnert, the granddaughter of the German emigre Otto Krohnert, and Monica Bindang, the daughter of a Spanish Civil Guardsman. Eventually, Macias married the latter. Promiscuous and illiterate, Monica had been his mistress since 1964. As president, Macias murdered most of her lovers. Along with his blindness, his drug habit, his obsession with the mystical, his lack of education and his other inferiority complexes, Macias' impotence drove him to madness.

Another expert, Robert af Klinteberg, offers his analysis of the inner workings of the mind of "the Unique Miracle," one of Macias' titles: “The picture...begins to emerge of a person who is victim as well as perpetrator of his deeds, unlearned but shrewd, dynamic but without direction, ruthless...sensitive, lonely and haunted. He is a man who is not regarded as a man by his own people and whose desire for recognition and love takes on the preposterous expression of his mania for titles and the personality cult he has created. His personality combines intelligence and humor, albeit often bitter and sarcastic, with a need for the grossest flattery imaginable and coupled with amazing megalomania.” (Randall Fegley, Equatorial Guinea: An African Tragedy (New York: Peter Long Publishing Inc., 1989).

A French writer, Rene Pelissier, said, "No where else in modern times had a tyrant of Macias' magnitude managed to destroy his country and annihilate his own people so extensively and persistently." William Borders in The New York Times of May 6, 1971, called the Macias regime “...one of the most repressive governments...Arbitrary arrests and beatings are common. Legions of secret policemen, undisciplined soldiers and a militant youth squad maintain a climate of fear...Diplomats in the large new Chinese Communist Embassy here are presumably warning President Macias against Westerners and advisers sent by [Guinean] President Toure are presumably warning him against all white men. But the violence and terror are by no means directed only at Europeans. Last year, the wife of a Government security chief denounced her husband as a conspirator and he promptly disappeared. According to one report he was tied to a spiked stake and beaten to death.”

Macias, a ruthless and unbalanced, if not psychotic, tyrant headed an administration virtually moribund, with Macias insisting on making all decisions or leaving them unmade. The result was ministers and administrators fearful of taking any action, government by decree, no apparent budget, a growing financial crisis, extravagances like two new central banks, an unnecessary presidential plane (Soviet), an elaborate presidential palace in Bata, and economic distress if not hardship at virtually all levels of a disgruntled society. In the economic sector, the agreement with Nigeria for indispensable workers for the cacao plantations remains unratified on the Equatorial Guinean side and thousands of Nigerian workers departed periodically, leaving gradually deteriorating plantations in their wake.

Much hope was focused on the talks with the Spanish authorities on a sequel to the Spanish subsidy agreement, but observers were generally skeptical over optimism expressed by local Spanish representatives in this connection. The steady drift toward the left was manifest in the revolutionary rhetoric of Macias, the steady growth of three already large Communist diplomatic missions (Soviets, North Koreans, and Chicoms), the continuing arms supply from Soviet sources, the arrival of Chinese road-builders, continued influence of radical African leaders on Macias, and an expected East German diplomatic mission.

The major negative weight on the scale is the continued political instability centering on the unstable leader of the country. Macias was almost fully preoccupied with protecting his person from real or imagined threats, asserting his authority throughout a restless country, and functioning more like a tribal chief than a responsible African leader. More and more observers spoke of his deteriorating mental health, to which must be added apparent physical indispositions of possibly serious dimensions. He had allowed himself to be surrounded by a motley group of advisers and flunkies, many of whom maintained their positions by intrigue and sycophancy. He treated his ministers like servants, having them frisked as they enter the palace and recently fining several of them for not appearing for work at eight o'clock in the morning, a most un-African and un-Spanish requirement. Add to this potent brew a national malaise, a reportedly uneasy Army and an increasingly apparent opposition and one can easily envisage the boiling over of the Equatorial Guinean pot.

Guineans believed their first president had supernatural powers. Using the knowledge of witchcraft he inherited from his sorcerer father, President Francisco Macias Nguema built a huge collection of human skulls at his homestead to beat his subjects to submission. Surrounded by village elders at his state house, Nguema used a bamboo hut as the state pharmaceutical and treasury after closing the central bank. Most of the money rotted on the ground. Nguema smoked bhang and a local stimulant, Iboga. He started hallucinating and having monologues with his dead victims. Due to old age he turned deaf.

Macias was deposed by his nephew Teodoro OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO in a coup, ending of Africa’s bloodiest dictatorial regimes. On August 3, 1979, Nguema's nephew, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, led a military coup d'etat against him. Macias Nguema was ousted in an initially bloodless coup and replaced by a military junta calling itself the Revolutionary Militant Council. The identities of the tiny country’s new leaders were not known. An earlier radio broadcast - and reports circulating among the thousands of exiles from brutalized Equatorial Guinea - said Macias Nguema was arrested in his home village. Momgomo, by the vice minister of defense, Col. Theodore Nguema Menzogo. Nguema was located in a jungle hideout a couple of weeks later and was subsequently arrested and charged with genocide. He was executed on September 29, 1979. For fear of supernatural powers, the Guineans hired Moroccan soldiers to shoot him.

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Page last modified: 22-10-2016 19:46:20 ZULU