Francisco Macías Nguema

This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Macías and the second or maternal family name is Nguema.
Francisco Macías Nguema
1st President of Equatorial Guinea
In office
12 October 1968  3 August 1979
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Personal details
Born 1 January 1924
Nsegayong, Rio Muni, Spanish Guinea
Died 29 September 1979(1979-09-29) (aged 55)
Bioko, Equatorial Guinea
Political party United National Workers' Party (Partido Único Nacional de Trabajadores)

Francisco Macías Nguema (born Mez-m Ngueme; Africanized to Masie Nguema Biyogo Ñegue Ndong) (1 January 1924 – 29 September 1979) was the first President of Equatorial Guinea, from 1968 until his overthrow in 1979.

Early life

Born as Mez-m Ngueme, Macías Nguema was the son of a witch doctor who allegedly killed his younger brother. He belonged to the country's majority Fang ethnic group. As a boy of 9, Nguema saw his father punched to death by a local administrator when he tried to use his title of chief to negotiate for better wages for his people. Nguema was orphaned a week later when his mother committed suicide, leaving the boy and 10 siblings to fend for themselves.

Rise to power

Nguema failed the civil service exam three times.[1] However, he eventually rose to the position of mayor of Mongomo under the Spanish colonial government, and later served as a member of the territorial parliament. In 1964, he was named deputy prime minister of the autonomous transition government. He ran for president of the soon-to-be independent country against Prime Minister Bonifacio Ondó Edu on a strongly nationalist platform in 1968. In what has been the only free election held in the country to date, he defeated Ondó Edu in the runoff and was sworn in as president on 12 October. Ondó Edu briefly went into exile in Gabon, and was officially reported to have committed suicide March 5, 1969; alternatively it is reported that Edu was executed soon after his return on trumped-up charges of planning a coup.[2]

Expansion of power

On 7 May 1971, Macías Nguema issued Decree 415, which repealed parts of the 1968 Constitution and granted him "all direct powers of Government and Institutions", including powers formerly held by the legislative and judiciary branches, as well as the cabinet of ministers. On 18 October 1971, Law 1 imposed the death penalty as punishment for threatening the President or the government. Insulting or offending the President or his cabinet was punishable by 30 years in prison. On 14 July 1972, a presidential decree merged all existing political parties into the United National Party (later the United National Workers' Party), with Macías Nguema as President for Life of both nation and party. In a plebiscite held on 29 July 1973, the 1968 Constitution was replaced with a new document that gave Macías Nguema absolute power and formally made his party the only one legally permitted. By all accounts, this referendum was heavily rigged, with an implausible 99.9 percent approving.

Macías Nguema declared private education subversive, and banned it entirely with Decree 6 on 18 March 1975.[3]


During his presidency, his country was nicknamed "the Dachau of Africa".[4] More than a third of Equatorial Guinea's population fled to other countries to escape his brutal reign.[5] He was known to order entire families and villages executed.

Three important pillars of his rule were the United National Workers' Party, the Juventud en Marcha con Macías militia/youth group, and the Esangui clan of Río Muni. The country's instruments of repression (military, presidential bodyguard) were entirely controlled by Macías Nguema's relatives and clan members. The president's paranoid actions included killing all who wore spectacles,[6] banning use of the word "intellectual" and destroying boats to stop his people fleeing from his rule[1] (fishing was banned).[7] The only road out of the country on the mainland was also mined.[8] He Africanized his name to Masie Nguema Biyogo Ñegue Ndong in 1976 after demanding that the rest of the Equatoguinean population replace their Hispanic names with African names. He also banned Western medicines, stating that they were un-African.[8]

Macías Nguema was the centre of an extreme cult of personality, perhaps fueled by his consumption of copious amounts of bhang[2] and iboga,[1] and assigned himself titles such as the "Unique Miracle" and "Grand Master of Education, Science, and Culture". The island of Fernando Pó had its name Africanized after him to Masie Ngueme Biyogo Island; upon his overthrow in 1979, its name was again changed to Bioko. The capital, Santa Isabel, had its name changed to Malabo. In 1978, he changed the national motto to "There is no other God than Macías Nguema".[9]

During Macías Nguema's regime, the country had neither a development plan nor an accounting system for government funds. After killing the governor of the Central Bank, he carried everything that remained in the national treasury to his house in a rural village.[2] On Christmas Eve of 1975 he ordered about 150 of his opponents killed. Soldiers executed them by shooting at the football stadium in Malabo, while amplifiers were playing Mary Hopkin's "Those Were the Days".[10]

By the end of his rule, nearly all of the country's educated class was either executed or forced into exile—a brain drain from which the country has never recovered. He also killed two-thirds of the legislature and 10 of his original ministers.[11]


By 1979, Macías Nguema's brutality had led to condemnations from the United Nations and European Commission. That summer, Macías Nguema executed several members of his own family, leading several members of his inner circle to fear that he was no longer acting rationally. On 3 August 1979 he was overthrown by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who was previously the military governor of Bioko and Vice-Minister of the Armed Forces, as well as Macías Nguema's nephew (and the brother of one of the victims).[1]

The deposed ruler and a contingent of loyal forces initially resisted the coup, but his forces eventually abandoned him, and he was captured in a forest on 18 August.[12]

Trial and execution

The Supreme Military Council opened Case 1/979 on 18 August 1979, and began interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence against the Macías Nguema regime. The Council subsequently convened a military tribunal on 24 September to try Macías Nguema and several members of his regime. The charges for the ten defendants included genocide, mass murder, embezzlement of public funds, violations of human rights, and treason.[13]

The state prosecutor requested that Macías Nguema receive the death penalty, five others receive thirty years in prison, and four others receive a year in prison. Macías Nguema's defense counsel countered that the other co-defendants were responsible for specific crimes, and asked for acquittal. Macías Nguema himself delivered a statement to the court outlining what he viewed as the extensive good deeds he had performed for the country. At noon on 29 September 1979, the Tribunal delivered its sentences, which were more severe than what the prosecution had requested. Macías Nguema and six of his co-defendants were sentenced to death and the confiscation of their property; Nguema being sentenced to death '101 times'.[14] Two defendants were sentenced to fourteen years in prison each, and two others to four years each.[15]

With no higher court available to hear appeals, the decision of the Special Military Tribunal was final. Macías Nguema and the six other defendants sentenced to death were executed by a hired Moroccan Army firing squad at Black Beach Prison at 6 pm on the same day.[16][17][18] During his execution, he was reportedly "calm and dignified".[19]

Today, Macías Nguema is regarded as one of the most kleptocratic, corrupt, and dictatorial leaders in post-colonial African history. Depending on the source, he was responsible for the deaths of anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 of the 300,000 to 400,000 people living in the country at the time. According to Penn State professor Randall Fegley, one of the few non-African authorities on Equatorial Guinea, this was proportionally worse than the Nazis' rampage through Europe.[1] He has been compared to Pol Pot because of the violent, unpredictable, and anti-intellectual nature of his regime.[2]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Gardner, Dan (6 November 2005). "The Pariah President: Teodoro Obiang is a brutal dictator responsible for thousands of deaths. So why is he treated like an elder statesman on the world stage?". The Ottawa Citizen (reprint: Archived from the original on 12 June 2008.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Macias Nguema: Ruthless and bloody dictator". Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  3. Alejandro Artucio. The Trial of Macias in Equatorial Guinea. International Commission of Jurists. pp. 6–8.
  4. Roberts, Adam. The Wonga Coup, p. 21
  5. "Despot's Fall". TIME Magazine. 20 August 1979.
  6. If you think this one's bad you should have seen his uncle
  7. "Equatorial Guinea Background Info". Lonely Planet. 2007.
  8. 1 2 Roberts, Adam. The Wonga Coup, p. 20
  9. "Macias Nguema: Ruthless and bloody dictator". Retrieved 2014-04-20.
  10. Suzanne Cronjé (1976). Equatorial Guinea, the forgotten dictatorship: forced labour and political murder in central Africa. Anti-Slavery Society. ISBN 978-0-900918-05-6.
  11. Dickovick, J. Tyler (2008). The World Today Series: Africa 2012. Lanham, Maryland: Stryker-Post Publications. ISBN 978-1-61048-881-5.
  12. Alejandro Artucio. The Trial of Macias in Equatorial Guinea. International Commission of Jurists. p. 20.
  13. Alejandro Artucio. The Trial of Macias in Equatorial Guinea. International Commission of Jurists. pp. 20–27.
  14. Bloomfield, Steve (13 May 2007). "Teodoro Obiang Nguema: A brutal, bizarre jailer". The Independent. London.
  15. Alejandro Artucio. The Trial of Macias in Equatorial Guinea. International Commission of Jurists. pp. 52–55.
  16. Alejandro Artucio. The Trial of Macias in Equatorial Guinea. International Commission of Jurists. pp. 54–55.
  17. John B. Quigley (2006) The Genocide Convention: An International Law Analysis, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, ISBN 0-7546-4730-7. p.31, 32
  18. Max Liniger-Goumaz (1988) Small is Not Always Beautiful: The Story of Equatorial Guinea, C. Hurst and Company, ISBN 1-85065-023-3. p.64
  19. Adam Roberts, The Wonga Coup (2006), p. 40.
Political offices
Preceded by
(Spanish Colonial Rule/Indigenous Tribal Rule)
President of Equatorial Guinea
Succeeded by
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
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