People

Francisco Macías Nguema’s biography, net worth, fact, career, awards and life story

IntroPresident of Equatorial Guinea
Was Politician 
From Equatorial Guinea 
Type Politics 
Gendermale
Birth 1 January 1924, Spanish Guinea
Death 29 September 1979, Malabo, Bioko Norte Province, Insular Region
(aged 55 years)

Francisco Macías Nguema (born Mez-m Ngueme; Africanised 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 Spanish colonial 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.

Early political career

Nguema failed the civil service exam three times. 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 although there have been reports that Edu was actually executed soon after his return on trumped-up charges of planning a coup.

Government

On 7 May 1971, Macías Nguema issued Decree 415, which repealed parts of the 1968 Constitution and granted him “all direct powers of Government and Institutions”, including powers formerly held by the legislative and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.

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

During his presidency, his country was nicknamed “the Dachau of Africa”. 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 mandating the death of those who wore spectacles, banning use of the word “intellectual” and destroying boats to stop his people fleeing from his rule (fishing was banned). The only road out of the country on the mainland was also mined. He Africanised 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.

Macías Nguema was the centre of an extreme cult of personality, perhaps fueled by his consumption of copious amounts of bhang and iboga, 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 Africanised 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”.

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

Macías Nguema’s government forced tens of thousands of citizens to flee in fear of persecution and to protect their personal safety. Intellectuals and skilled professionals were a particular target, due to which human rights researcher Robert af Klinteberg, in a 1978 study that examined the government’s repression in detail, called it a policy of “deliberate cultural regression.” Af Klinteberg reported that as of 1978, at least 101,000 persons, out of a contemporary population that the World Bank estimates totalled 215,284 persons—nearly 47% of the population—had fled the country. Other reporting, such as a 1979 Time magazine account stating that “perhaps 150,000” persons fled, suggests that the proportion of the population that sought safety in exile may have approached 70%, based on the World Bank’s estimate of the population in 1979.

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. Two-thirds of the legislature and 10 of his original ministers were also killed.

Some observers have posited that Macías Nguema may have been a psychopath, a disorder potentially enabled, in part, by reported childhood psychological trauma, and that his behaviour may have been affected by other possible mental illnesses and his reported periodic use of the psychoactive plant Iboga and large quantities of cannabis.

Overthrow

By 1979, Macías Nguema’s government had garnered condemnations from the United Nations and European Commission. That summer, Macías Nguema organised the execution of 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).

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.

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 government. The Council subsequently convened a military tribunal on 24 September to try Macías Nguema and several members of his government. The charges for the ten defendants included genocide, mass murder, embezzlement of public funds, violations of human rights, and treason.

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 defence 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’. Two defendants were sentenced to fourteen years in prison each, and two others to four years each.

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. During his execution, he was reportedly “calm and dignified”.

Depending on the source, during his government anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 of the 300,000 to 400,000 people living in the country at the time were killed. According to Pennsylvania State University professor Randall Fegley, this was proportionally worse than the Nazis’ rampage through Europe. He has been compared to Pol Pot because of the violent, unpredictable, and anti-intellectual nature of his government.