officially Republic of Equatorial Guinea formerly Spanish Guinea
Republic on the western coast of equatorial Africa and including Bioko Island.
Area: 10,831 sq mi (28,051 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 498,000. Capital: Malabo. The majority of the mainland population are Bantu-speaking Fang people, with a minority of other Bantu-speaking ethnic groups (see Bantu languages). The majority on Bioko are Bubi, descendants of Bantu migrants from the mainland. Languages: Spanish, French (both official); pidgin English is commonly spoken. Religion: Roman Catholicism (four-fifths of the population); the Bubi retain their traditional religion. Currency: CFA franc. Bordered by Cameroon and Gabon, Equatorial Guinea's mainland region, Río Muni (Mbini), is separated by the Bight of Biafra from the island area of Bioko to the northwest. The mainland has a coastal plain some 12 mi (20 km) wide, with a long stretch of beach, low cliffs to the south, and hills and plateaus to the east. The Benito River divides the region. The island of Bioko consists of three extinct volcanic cones and has several crater lakes and rich lava soils. Dense tropical rainforest prevails throughout the mainland and includes valuable hardwoods. Animal life has been decimated by overhunting. Cacao, timber, and coffee are exported from the country, but since the 1990s petroleum is its major export. Equatorial Guinea is a republic with one legislative house; its chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. The first inhabitants of the mainland region appear to have been Pygmies. The now-prominent Fang and Bubi reached the mainland region in the 17th-century Bantu migrations. Equatorial Guinea was ceded by the Portuguese to the Spanish in the late 18th century; it was frequented by slave traders, as well as by British, German, Dutch, and French merchants. Bioko was administered by British authorities (1827–58) before the official takeover by the Spanish. The mainland (Río Muni) was not effectively occupied by the Spanish until 1926. Independence was declared in 1968, followed by a reign of terror and economic chaos under the dictatorial president Macías Nguema, who was overthrown by a military coup in 1979 and later executed. Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo became leader of the country in 1979. A new constitution was adopted in 1982, but political unrest persisted into the 21st century despite the country's oil wealth.