Annobón Province is a small province of Equatorial Guinea consisting of the island of Annobón and its associated islets in the Gulf of Guinea and South Atlantic Ocean's Cameroon Line. The provincial capital is San Antonio de Palé on the north side of the island; the other town is Mabana, formerly known as San Pedro. The roadstead is relatively safe, and some passing vessels take advantage of it in order to obtain water and fresh provisions, of which Annobon offers an abundant supply. However, there is no regular shipping service to the rest of Equatorial Guinea, and ships call as infrequently as every few months. During the 2013 census, it had 20,741 inhabitants, a significant population increase from the 5,008 registered by the 2001 census. The official language is Spanish but most of the inhabitants speak a creole form of Portuguese. The island's main industries are fishing and timbering.
"Annobón", also spelled Annabon and Anabon and formerly as Anno Bom and Annabona, derives its name from Ano Bom (lit. "Good Year"). It was named for the date of its discovery by the Portuguese on New Year's Day (Portuguese: Dia do Anno Bom) in 1473.
Annobón is an extinct volcano about 220 miles (350 km) west of Cape Lopez in Gabon and 110 miles (180 km) southwest of São Tomé Island. The main island measures about 4 miles (6.4 km) long by 2 miles (3.2 km) wide, with an area of about 6¾ square miles (17½ km²), but a number of small rocky islets surround it, including Santarém to the south. Its central crater lake is named Lago A Pot and its highest peak is Quioveo, which rises 598 meters (1,962 ft). The island is characterized by a succession of lush valleys and steep mountains, covered with rich woods and luxuriant vegetation.
Annobón is often described as being "in the Gulf of Guinea",[n 1] like the neighboring islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, but the formal boundary line for the Gulf of Guinea established by the International Hydrographic Organization actually runs north of it.[n 2]
The island was passed to Spain by the 1778 Treaty of El Pardo. The treaty granted Spain control of the Portuguese islands of Annobón and Fernando Po (now Bioko) and the Guinea coast between the Niger and the Ogooué in exchange for Spanish acceptance of the Portuguese occupation of territories in Brazil west of the line established by the Treaty of Tordesillas. The Spanish colony thus formed would eventually be known as Spanish Guinea.
The island's populace was opposed to the arrangement and hostile toward the Spaniards. After the handover and when the Spanish flag was hoisted to affirm Spanish sovereignty, the islanders revolted against the newcomers, in part because they were considered heretical for placing dogs on their flag. (The actual design represents lions.) They expelled them according to a tradition of throwing witches to the sea. A state of anarchy ensued, leading to an arrangement by which the island was administered by a body of five natives, each of whom held the office of governor during the period that elapsed until ten ships landed at the island. This autonomous government continued, with the island claimed by both Spain and Portugal, until the authority of Spain was reëstablished in the latter part of the 19th century. The island briefly became part of the Elobey, Annobón, and Corisco colony until 1909.
The British erected a fort at "St Antony" in 1801, eventually legalized through a lease from the Spanish government in 1827. The base was used by the British to repress the Atlantic slave trade.
During the final years of the administration of Francisco Macías Nguema, the first president of Equatorial Guinea, the island was called Pigalu or Pagalu. The population felt prejudice against them in Equatorial Guinea and some began advocating separatist movements. In 1993, the central government isolated the island, expelling foreigners including humanitarian organizations. The population rebelled and attacked the governor's residence. The government replied with two extrajudicial executions. International pressure eased hostilities, and political prisoners were released.
It was mostly due to this small island that Equatorial Guinea asked for observer status just after the CPLP (the Portuguese-speaking commonwealth) was formed in 1996, which led to a visit to Equatorial Guinea, in 1998, by the Portuguese foreign minister, Jaime Gama. Its historic, ethnographic, and religious identity is reflected in its provincial flag. In 2006, Equatorial Guinea achieved observer status with the hand of São Tomé and Príncipe, it kept lobbying to become a full member, contrary to international pressure that wanted to isolate the country due to human rights violations, becoming a full member in 2014 with very active support of Portuguese-speaking Africa, with the Portuguese language being restored as an official language.
Flora and fauna
Originally, this small equatorial island 335 kilometres (208 mi) from the Gabonese coast was uninhabited and had great biological diversity. With colonization, islanders used rafts or "cayucos" (canoe-like boats), and hunted humpback whales, whale calves, and other Cetaceans with harpoons near to the island.
Today the Ojo Blanco (Annobón White-eye, Zosterops griseovirescens) and the Monarca del Paraíso de Annobón (Annobón Paradise-flycatcher, Terpsiphone smithii) are endemic passeri (songbirds), as is the São Tomé Island or Malherbi pigeon (Columba malherbii). There are 29 species of bird on the island as well as 2 bat species (1 endemic); reptiles (5 species endemics): 1 snake, 3 geckos, 2 scincid lizards, 3 marine turtles; river fish: 18 species (1 endemic); mosquitoes, scorpions, and huge centipedes. Introduced domestic animals include: fish, guinea fowl, rats, dogs, and cats. The island has no indigenous mammalian predators. Sharks are found in the surrounding sea.
The island's inhabitants are of mixed Portuguese and Angolan descent, with some Spanish admixture. The early anti-Spanish sentiment, combined with the isolation from mainland Equatorial Guinea and the proximity of São Tomé and Príncipe—which is just 175 kilometers (109 mi) from the island—has helped preserve the island's cultural ties with Portugal. Its culture is very similar to that of São Tomé and the Afro-Portuguese peoples throughout Africa. Spanish is the official language, used mostly in administration and education, with the Portuguese creole as the main language, with noncreolized Portuguese used at church. The population is Catholic and the practiced Catholicism is that of the 16th century, distinct from contemporary Catholicism.
The island's main language is a Portuguese creole known as the Annobonese language (Fá d'Ambô) or Falar de Ano Bom (Portuguese for Annobon Speech). The Portuguese creole has vigorous use in Annobón. Spanish is not much spoken in Annobón. It is common in all domains except government and education where Spanish is used. Noncreolized Portuguese used as liturgical language by local Catholics. In February 2012, Equatorial Guinea's foreign minister signed an agreement with the IILP (Instituto Internacional da Língua Portuguesa) on the promotion of Portuguese in Equatorial Guinea. The adoption of Portuguese followed the announcement on 13 July 2007 by the President of Equatorial Guinea and a 2010 Constitutional Law which established Portuguese has an official language of the Republic.
Annobon is of strategic importance to Equatorial Guinea as through its ownership the Equatorial Guinean government claims to extensive maritime territory to the south of its neighbour, São Tomé and Príncipe (which itself lies to the south of Equatorial Guinea's main land mass). Oil in the Gulf of Guinea represents more than 80% of Equatorial Guinea's economy, though supplies from current reserves are predicted by some sources to run out before 2020. Although no drilling is currently taking place in São Tomé, there are estimated to be 34 billion barrels (5.4×109 m3) of oil within its marine borders. Equatorial Guinea claims the right to explore for and produce hydrocarbons in a huge area of sea surrounding Annobón that stretches from 1°N to almost 5°S, and from 2°E to 7°E; an area larger than the entire land and sea borders of the rest of Equatorial Guinea.
According to many different sources, there is evidence of large-scale dumping of toxic waste on the remote island of Annobon, at least during the 1980s and 1990s. The German edition of Der Spiegel on 28 August 2006 reported that the government of Equatorial Guinea sold permits to UK and US companies to bury 10 million metric tons of toxic waste and 7 million metric tons radioactive waste on the island of Annobón. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of Equatorial Guinea, supposedly receives 200 million US dollars per year for renewed permits, while the population of Annobón lives in extreme poverty. The report also showed evidence that the whole island's ecosystem is about to collapse due to the massive waste dumping.
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- Gulf of Guinea Conservation Group
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