When World War II ended, things didn’t go back to “normal” in the world. The United States and the Soviet Union became the two primary superpowers, replacing the British Empire in the process. The British had incurred massive wartime debts and just weren’t able to keep their empire together.
The same was true with the French, Dutch, and Spanish. All of the major European colonial powers gave up most of their possessions in the years after World War II.
Among the countries that achieved independence after World War II was a tiny African nation named Equatorial Guinea.
The country only has about 1.3 million people, but it is one of Africa’s largest oil producers, so it’s been able to wield a bit of influence in its short history. It’s a history that began in 1968 when it became independent under the rule of Francisco Macias Nguema.
Nguema was actually elected democratically in Equatorial Guinea’s first and only free election.
After that election, it’s been pretty much downhill for the African nation, with corruption, fraud, and repressive dictatorships being the norm.
When the Spanish relinquished their colony in 1968, they wanted it to be run by a leader who’d keep the oil flowing and retain relatively good relations with Spain, so they supported Nguema, who was of the Fang majority.
Little did they know, Nguema was filled to the brim with crazy. After taking office, he would do one crazy thing after another, which kept his people poor and eventually got him executed.
By the time Nguema was driven from power, he had exiled or murdered up to two-thirds of the country and made those who stayed live under some pretty crazy and draconian rules.
He banned the word “intellectual” from public use and ordered the people of the country to change their first and surnames from Spanish to traditional African names. He also changed the country’s motto to “There is no other God than Macías Nguema.”
But Nguema did have a sense of humor…sort of. On Christmas Eve 1969, Nguema had assassins dressed in Santa Claus outfits murder 150 of his political opponents in a soccer stadium.
Now that’s crazy!
Violence Begets Violence
Nguema’s early life was as tough as any other dictator in our book, probably tougher. He was born into poverty in the Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea and about the only thing he had going for him was being from the majority Fang tribe.
The Fangs were generally utilized by the Portuguese and then the Spanish to run things for them, so they had certain privileges, but Nguema’s family was a bit more traditional and not so privileged.
Nguema’s dad was a witch doctor who sometimes ran afoul of the Spanish authorities, which eventually cost him his life when he was beaten to death by a Spanish official. Young Francisco watched the brutal attack, leaving him with a deep hatred of the Spanish and a lesson in violence and brutality.
To make matters worse, Francisco’s mother committed suicide a short time later.
Nguema was a persistent and resilient young man, although not necessarily the brightest. He had difficulties making it through school, but once he did, he rose quickly in the colonial government and became a mayor.
When it was announced that the Spanish were handing power over to the natives, Nguema threw his hat in the ring and ran on a platform that should have warned everyone how crazy he was.
One of the major planks of his platform was that he would take all of the Spaniards’ homes and women and give them to his fellow countrymen. He also stated that Hitler was great for Africa and that he would Africanize the country.
Nguema won the election in a landslide.
Rule by Machete
Once Nguema took his oath as the president, it didn’t take long for him to start his crazy programs. There really isn’t one particular crazy thing he did that hurt him and his country; pretty much every policy he enacted was totally crazy and totally destructive.
The machete was Nguema’s best friend and anyone who didn’t follow his crazy decrees and directives was often hacked to death or at least lost a limb.
By the mid-1970s, things had become so bad that citizens of Equatorial Guinea were leaving by the thousands across the borders to Cameroon or Gabon. The best and brightest were leaving Equatorial Guinea by the droves and the skilled Guineans who didn’t leave were often killed.
So, to stop his country’s brain drain, Nguema decided to ban all boats and fishing. The boat ban was to stop people from sailing away, while the fishing ban wasn’t as readily explained.
It probably had something to do with fishermen being close to the ocean and having access to boats, but it may have just been another one of Nguema’s capricious, crazy ideas.
The end result was that, without skilled workers, the oil-rich nation had problems selling its valuable product, creating immense poverty. The ban on fishing made things worse for the poorest, who couldn’t even fish for subsistence under Nguema’s decree.
Finally, in 1979, Nguema’s craziness was too much for the people of Equatorial Guinea (those still left anyway), so they overthrew him on August 3, 1979.
His trial began on August 18 and when he was convicted on September 29, 1979, he was also executed.
Did You Know?
- Nguema was responsible for the deaths of up to 400,000 of his own people, which when considered per capita makes him about the worst mass murderer in history.
- The crimes Nguema was charged with included genocide, murder, treason, and embezzlement. It turned out that Nguema was looting the profits from his country’s lucrative oil reserves and putting the cash in banks around the world.
- Knowing that something was about to happen, Nguema sent his three oldest children to North Korea, where they escaped his fate.
- Nguema was a heavy user of the drugs bhang and iboga, to which some people attribute his paranoia.
- Like Pol Pot, Nguema targeted those wearing glasses for persecution, imprisonment, torture, and even death.