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The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is a Central African country named for its location near the equator and on the Gulf of Guinea. Mainland Guinea is bordered by Cameroon on the north, and by Gabon to the south and east.

Also part of Equatorial Guinea are the islands of Bioko and Annobón, and the islets of Corisco, Elobey Grande, and Elobey Chico. The larger of these is Bioko.

Previously known as Fernando Poo, Bioko is the northernmost part of Equatorial Guinea, situated about twenty-five miles off the coast of Cameroon and south of Nigeria. Bioko is a volcanic island with three extinct volcanic cones. It is believed that Bioko was once part of the mainland at Cameroon, but was cut off when the sea levels rose at the end of the last ice age.

The island of Bioko has a population of indigenous people known as the Bubi people, who are descended from Bantu tribes who came to the island from the mainland, and have inhabited the island since the 7th century BC. Today, the Bubi make up about 60% of the island's population, the remainder being the Fang, the Fernandinos, and the Igbo.

The island was inhabited when it was discovered by the Portuguese in 1472. The Portuguese developed a sugarcane industry there and, in 1642, the Dutch East India Company established trade bases on the island, from which it centralized its slave trade in the Gulf of Guinea.

During the time that the island was occupied by the Portuguese and Dutch, the Bubi people began the process of establishing a kingdom on the island, abandoning coastal settlements and moving inland.

In 1778, Portugal ceded the islands and the Guinea coast to Spain. It was Spain that combined Bioko and the other islands with mainland Equatorial Guinea, although they did not remain long; after heavy losses from yellow fever, the Spanish troops withdrew in 1781.

When Britain abolished slavery, the British leased bases on the island for anti-slavery patrols. In the absence of the Spanish, the British also took over administration of the island. They resettled many freed slaves on the island, many of whom spoke English. In 1843, the British concentrated its anti-slavery campaign in Sierra Leone, selling its buildings on Bioko to a Baptist mission.

In 1844, the Spanish made an attempt to reoccupy the island, expelling the Baptists and using the island as a penal colony for Cubans. For a time, Bioko, the other islands, and the mainland were known as Spanish Guinea.

The move toward independence for Equatorial Guinea began in 1967, becoming official the following year. The nation's capital city is Malabo, in the northern part of the island of Bioko. The mainland area is known as Rio Muni, and the location of Bata, the country's largest city, as well as Oyala, intended to be its future capital. The island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe is situated between the islands of Bioko and Annobón,

The island of Annobón was uninhabited when it was discovered by the Portuguese in 1473, and was later populated by Africans from Angola while the the island was a Portuguese colony. When the island was ceded to Spain in 1778, the people of Annobón were unhappy with the arrangement. They revolted, expelling the Spanish from the island, governing themselves until Spanish control was established in the late 1800s.

After Equatorial Guinea became independent, a 1993 separatist movement on Annobón resulted in the central government isolating the island, and to the execution of two of the opposition leaders. Due to international pressures, hostilities were eventually reduced, and Annobón is currently a province of Equatorial New Guinea.

The island's people are of mixed Angolan and Portuguese descent. Its culture is closely related to that of nearby São Tomé and Príncipe. Spanish and French are the official languages, but island residents speak the Annobonese language, a form of Portuguese creole.

The continental region of Equatorial Guinea is known as Rio Muni. As with the islands, Rio Muni was ceded to Spain by Portugal in 1778. Rio Muni became a province of Spanish Guinea, along with its coastal islands, in 1959. Although the official languages of Equatorial Guinea are Spanish and French, most of the people of Rio Muni speak Fang-Okah, although Spanish is frequently used as a second language.

After achieving independence in 1968, the country's first president declared himself president for life in 1972, breaking ties with Europe while becoming close to the USSR, China, and Cuba. In 1974, it was learned that a quarter of the population, mostly the ethnic minority Bubi people, had been murdered, along with thousands of political opponents.

Oil was discovered in 1995, after which the country has become one of the wealthiest in Africa, but this has not reached the Guinean people, who have a very poor standard of living.



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