Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

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Teodoro Obiang
Obiang in 2014
2nd President of Equatorial Guinea
Assumed office
3 August 1979
Prime Minister
See list
Vice President
See list
Preceded byFrancisco Macías Nguema
9th Chairperson of the African Union
In office
31 January 2011 – 29 January 2012 (2011-01-31 – 2012-01-29)
Preceded byBingu wa Mutharika
Succeeded byThomas Boni Yayi
Personal details
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

(1942-06-05) 5 June 1942 (age 81)
Acoacán, Spanish Guinea (now Equatorial Guinea)
Political partyDemocratic
Other political
United National Workers' Party (before 1979)
(m. 1968)
ChildrenTeodoro Nguema
Gabriel Mbaga
RelativesFrancisco Macías Nguema (uncle)
Armengol Ondo (brother)
Alma materColegio Nacional Enrique Nvó Okenve
Military service
Allegiance Francoist Spain (until 1968)
 Equatorial Guinea (after 1968)
Branch/serviceArmed Forces of Equatorial Guinea
Years of service1968–1982
RankMajor General
CommandsChief of General Staff

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Spanish pronunciation: [teoˈðoɾo oˈβjaŋɡ eŋˈɡema embaˈsoɣo]; born 5 June 1942) is an Equatoguinean politician and former military officer who has served as the second president of Equatorial Guinea since 3 August 1979.[1] As of 2024, he is the second-longest consecutively serving current non-royal national leader in the world (after Paul Biya in Cameroon).

After graduating from military school in Zaragoza, Spain, Obiang held multiple positions under the presidency of his uncle, Francisco Macías Nguema, including director of the notorious Black Beach prison. He ousted Macías in a military coup in 1979 and took control of the country as president and chairman of the Supreme Military Council. After the country's nominal return to civilian rule in 1982, he founded the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) in 1987, which was the country's sole legal party until 1992. He has overseen Equatorial Guinea's emergence as an important oil producer, beginning in the 1990s. Obiang was Chairperson of the African Union from 2011 to 2012.

Obiang is regarded as an authoritarian leader.[2][3] He has been widely accused of corruption and abuse of power. Under his rule, Equatorial Guinea continues to have one of the worst human rights records in the world. In marked contrast to the trend toward democracy in most of Africa, Equatorial Guinea is currently a dominant-party state, in which Obiang's PDGE holds virtually all governing power in the nation and has held all or almost all seats in the legislature since its creation. The constitution provides Obiang sweeping powers, including the right to rule by decree, effectively making his government a legal dictatorship. Obiang has placed family members in key government positions.[2]

Early life[edit]

From a family of the Esangui ethnic clan, he was born in the town of Akoacám (Mongomo district, Wele-Nzas province),[4] belonging to the colony of Spanish Guinea, on the current border with Gabon, within the Continental Equatorial Guinea. Son of the Gabonese Santiago Nguema Eneme Obama and María Mbasogo Ngui, Obiang was the third of ten brothers, among whom are also the National Security Delegate Armengol Ondo Nguema Mbasogo and former National Defense Minister Antonio Mba Nguema Mikue. Obiang's parents emigrated from Gabon to avoid paying capitation taxes and take advantage of the good economic situation in Spanish Guinea. After the death of María Mbasogo Ngui, Obiang and his brothers were raised by his father and his new wife Carmen Mikue Mbira.

Obiang completed his first studies at the Cardenal Cisneros School Group in Ebibeyin and at the La Salle Center in Bata (now the Enrique Nvo Okenve National College), where he obtained a degree in labor administration.

Obiang joined the Colonial Guard during Equatorial Guinea's colonial period and attended the General Military Academy in Zaragoza, Spain. He achieved the rank of lieutenant after his uncle, Francisco Macías Nguema, was elected the country's first president. Under Macías, Obiang held various positions, including the governor of Bioko and leader of the National Guard.[5] He was also head of Black Beach Prison, notorious for severely torturing its inmates.[6]


Coup and aftermath[edit]

Obiang and Spanish prime minister Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo in 1982

After Macías ordered the murders of several members of the family they shared, including Obiang's brother, Obiang and others in Macías's inner circle feared the president had become insane. Obiang overthrew his uncle on 3 August 1979 in a bloody coup d'état,[5] and placed him on trial for his actions, including the genocide of the Bubi people, over the previous decade. Macías was sentenced to death and executed by firing squad on 29 September 1979. A new Moroccan presidential guard was required to form the firing squad, because local soldiers feared his alleged magical powers.[7]

Obiang declared that the new government would make a fresh start from Macías's brutal and repressive régime. He granted amnesty to political prisoners, and ended the previous régime's system of forced labor. However, he made virtually no mention of his own role in the atrocities committed under his uncle's rule.[5]

New constitution[edit]

The country nominally returned to civilian rule in 1982, with the enactment of a slightly less authoritarian constitution. At the same time, Obiang was elected to a seven-year term as president; he was the only candidate. He was reelected in 1989, again as the only candidate. After other parties were nominally allowed to organize in 1992, he was reelected in 1996 and 2002 with 98 percent of the vote[8] in elections condemned as fraudulent by international observers.[9] In 2002, for instance, at least one voting district was recorded as giving Obiang 103 percent of the vote.[6]

He was reelected for a fourth term in 2009 with 97% of the vote, again amid accusations of voter fraud and intimidation,[10] beating opposition leader Plácido Micó Abogo.[11]

Obiang (1st row, 2nd from left) at Kim Il Sung's 80th birthday anniversary in April 1992

Obiang's rule was at first considered more humane than that of his uncle. By some accounts, however, it has become increasingly brutal, and has bucked the larger trend toward greater democracy in Africa. According to most domestic and international observers, he leads one of the most corrupt, ethnocentric and repressive regimes in the world. Equatorial Guinea is essentially a one-party state dominated by Obiang's Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE). The constitution grants Obiang sweeping powers, including the power to rule by decree.

Although opposition parties were legalized in 1992, the legislature remains dominated by the PDGE, and there is no substantive opposition to executive decisions. There have never been more than eight opposition deputies in the lower house, while the PDGE has held every seat in the Senate since its inception in 2013. For all intents and purposes, Obiang holds all governing power in the nation.

The opposition is barely tolerated; indeed, a 2006 article in Der Spiegel quoted Obiang as asking, "What right does the opposition have to criticize the actions of a government?"[6] The opposition is severely hampered by the lack of a free press as a vehicle for their views. There are no newspapers and all broadcast media are either owned outright by the government or controlled by its allies.[citation needed]

Relations with the United States and other nations[edit]

Condoleezza Rice with Obiang in 2006

Equatorial Guinea's relations with the United States cooled in 1993, after Ambassador John E. Bennett was accused of practicing witchcraft at the graves of 10 British airmen who were killed when their plane crashed there during World War II. Bennett left after receiving a death threat at the U.S. Embassy in Malabo in 1994.[12][13] In his farewell address, he publicly named the government's most notorious torturers, including Equatorial Guinea's Minister of National Security, Manuel Nguema Mba, another Obiang uncle. No new envoy was appointed, and the embassy was closed in 1996, leaving its affairs to be handled by the embassy in neighboring Cameroon.

Things turned around for the Obiang regime after the terrorist attacks in 2001 on New York and Washington, after which the United States re-prioritized its dealings with key African states. On 25 January 2002, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, a neoconservative Israeli-based think tank, sponsored a forum on 15 May 2006.[14] Speaking at the IASPS forum, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Walter H. Kansteiner said, "African oil is of national strategic interest to us, and it will increase and become more important as we move forward."[15]

Obiang with other African leaders and US President Joe Biden at the United States–Africa Leaders Summit in December 2022

In a lengthy state visit from March to April 2006, President Obiang sought to reopen the closed embassy in the US, saying that "the lack of a U.S. diplomatic presence is definitely holding back economic growth."[16] President Obiang was warmly greeted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who called him a "good friend".[17] Public relations company Cassidy & Associates may have been partially responsible for the change in tone between Obiang and the United States government. Since 2004, Cassidy had been employed by the dictator's government at a rate of at least $120,000 a month.[18]

By October 2006, however, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had raised concerns about the proposal to build the new embassy on land owned by Obiang, whom the United Nations Commission on Human Rights accused of directly overseeing the torture of opponents.[6] The new embassy chancery opened in 2013.[19]


Equatorial Guinea has cordial relations with neighbouring Cameroon, although there was criticism in Cameroon in 2000 about perceived mistreatment of Cameroonians working in Equatorial Guinea. Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea have an unresolved maritime border dispute. The majority Fang ethnic group of mainland Equatorial Guinea extends both north and south into the forests of Cameroon and Gabon. Cameroon exports some food products to Equatorial Guinea and imports oil from Equatorial Guinea for its refinery at nearby Limbe.[citation needed]

In December 2008, Equatorial Guinea security forces killed a Cameroonian fisherman and abducted two immigrants, Cameroon closed its border in response.[citation needed]

North Korea

Obiang and President of Iran Hassan Rouhani in 2015

In the 1970s Equatorial Guinea signed military, technical and economic agreements with many socialist states, which included North Korea. North Korea sent troops to Equatorial Guinea so they could be used as advisors. After Francisco Macías Nguema was overthrown and executed by his nephew Teodoro Obiang in 1979, his family fled to Pyongyang, where his three children were raised by the North Korean government. One of them, Mónica, left the DPRK in 1994 after fifteen years.

Despite this, close relations continued after the coup, and remain active. In 2011 Yang Hyong-sop, Vice President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, made a four-day visit to Equatorial Guinea. In 2013 President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was presented the first International Kim Jong-il Prize by a North Korean delegation.[citation needed] In 2016, Kim Yong-nam of North Korea visited Equatorial Guinea and held amicable talks with President Teodoro Obiang. In 2018, Equatorial Guinea reported that it had severed economic ties with North Korea and repatriated North Korean workers in line with United Nations sanctions. However, North Korea reported continued friendly relations. [citation needed]


In August 1979, Spain offered to help Francisco Macías Nguema during the coup. Between 1979 and 1983, Spain sent Equatorial Guinea 15 million Spanish pesetas for the development of the nation. Relations between both nations almost severed again due to debt renegotiation in 1983 and the fact that Equatorial Guinea owed Spain over 6 million Spanish pesetas. Agreements were made before more drastic measures were taken. During the 2004 coup d'état attempt, President Obiang accused Spain of knowing about the coup attempt and for sending two Spanish warships to the region, however, Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar denied the allegations that the ships were there to assist in the coup.

In 2016, trade between Equatorial Guinea and Spain totaled €748 million Euros.[20] 90% of Equatorial Guinea's exports to Spain is in oil. Spain's main exports to Equatorial Guinea include: drinks, furniture and lamps, mechanical equipment, automobiles and trucks, and electronic material.[20] Spain's has €3 million Euros of investment in Equatorial Guinea, mainly in the construction industry. At the same time, Equatorial Guinea's investment in Spain totals €4 million Euros.[20] Equatorial Guinea is Spain's ninth biggest trading partner from Africa (78th largest globally). Spain is Equatorial Guinea's third biggest trading partner globally (after China and the United States).[20]


The economy of this small nation continued to struggle under President Obiang, with the country depending mostly on foreign aid to pay its bills. This changed in 1995 when Exxon-Mobil, the American oil giant, discovered oil in the country. Massive offshore discoveries over the past decade have boosted oil to about 380,000 barrels per day, ranking Equatorial Guinea behind only Nigeria and Angola among Sub-Saharan African producers.

As expected, income from petroleum led to a boom and the country experienced rapid economic growth. According to UNESCO, the country has the highest adult literacy rate in sub-Saharan Africa, with an average of 95 per cent.[citation needed] It also has the highest per capita income in Africa. More than three-quarters of the population live below the poverty line, according to data from the World bank.[citation needed] This wealth is distributed extremely unevenly and most of it is concentrated in the hands of the ruling family.

President Obiang has a net worth of $600 million, according to Forbes, meaning he is easily one of the world’s richest heads of state,[citation needed] while the country's HDI ranks 145th out of 191. The vast majority of the oil revenue of Equatorial Guinea has been siphoned under the guise of funding large infrastructure projects executed by contractors with ties to President Obiang’s inner circle. Education and health receive an average of 2–3 per cent of the budget, while extraction has already been declining since 2012 and oil reserves are estimated to dry out by 2035.[21]

New capital city[edit]

The planned city's location was chosen for its easy access and milder climate. It is notably on the mainland, in contrast to Malabo, which is on the island of Bioko. It was designed by the Portuguese Studio for Architecture and Urbanism FAT – Future Architecture Thinking. It is projected to have around 200,000 inhabitants,[22] a new Parliament building, a number of presidential villas and an area of 8150 hectares.[23][24] The construction of this new capital has been criticised by the political opposition to Obiang, the driving force behind the initiative. The Government of Equatorial Guinea began to move to the city in early 2017.[25]

Funding is provided through the AICEP. The plans come from a Portuguese architectural office. The construction work will be supported by China, Poland, Brazil and North Korea.[26] Construction faces delays such as, according to unconfirmed reports, President Obiang ordered a building to be moved because he did not like the view.[26] Additionally, all materials are imported.[26]

Human rights[edit]

In 2006, Obiang signed an anti-torture decree banning all forms of abuse and improper treatment in Equatorial Guinea, and commissioned the renovation and modernization of Black Beach prison in 2007 to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners.[27] However, human rights abuses have continued. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International among other non-governmental organizations have documented severe human rights abuses in prisons, including torture, beatings, unexplained deaths and illegal detention.[28][29]

In their most recently publishing findings (2020), Transparency International awarded Equatorial Guinea a total score of 16 on their Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). CPI ranks countries by their perceived level of public corruption where zero is very corrupt and 100 is extremely clean. Equatorial Guinea was the 174th lowest scoring nation out of a total of 180 countries.[30] Freedom House, a pro-democracy and human rights NGO, described Obiang as one of the world's "most kleptocratic living autocrats", and complained about the US government welcoming his administration and buying oil from it.[31]

As of 2023 the current government has "limited ability of citizens to change their government; increased reports of unlawful murders of civilians by security forces; government-sanctioned kidnappings; systematic torture of prisoners and detainees by security forces; life threatening conditions in prisons and detention facilities; impunity; arbitrary arrest and detention and incommunicado detention; harassment and deportation of foreign residents with limited due process; judicial corruption and lack of due process; restrictions on the right to privacy; restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press; restrictions on the rights of assembly, association, and movement; government corruption; violence and discrimination against women; suspected trafficking in persons; discrimination against ethnic minorities; and restrictions on labor rights."[32]

LGBT+ rights[edit]

Although there are no laws against homosexuality in Equatorial Guinea, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) report "there is evidence that State intimidation of sexually diverse individuals persists." The criminal code in force in Equatorial Guinea is a revision of the Spanish Criminal Code that dates back to the Francoist era and is said to post-colonially carry homophobic undertones that influence those perception today.[33][34] The age of consent is set at 18, regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation.


Obiang with Brazilian president Lula da Silva in 2008

In July 2003, state-operated radio declared Obiang "the country's God" with "all power over men and things." It added that the president was "in permanent contact with the Almighty" and "can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and without going to hell." He personally made similar comments in 1993. His uncle and predecessor Macías had also proclaimed himself a god.[35]

Obiang has encouraged his cult of personality by ensuring that public speeches end in well-wishing for himself rather than for the nation as a whole. Many important buildings have a presidential lodge, many towns and cities have streets commemorating Obiang's coup against Macías, and many people wear clothes with his face printed on them.[36][37]

Like his predecessor and other African strongmen such as Idi Amin and Mobutu Sese Seko, Obiang has assigned himself several creative titles. Among them are "gentleman of the great island of Bioko, Annobón and Río Muni."[38] He also refers to himself as El Jefe (the boss).[39][citation needed]

In 2008, American journalist Peter Maass called Obiang Africa's worst dictator, worse than Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. While he was researching a book on the country's oil boom in 2004, Maass recalled that no one approached him on the streets. He believed that the only time he had encountered a more docile populace was in North Korea.[40]

In an October 2012 interview on CNN, Christiane Amanpour asked Obiang whether he would step down at the end of his current term (2009–2016) since he had been reelected at least four times in his reign of over thirty years. In his response, Obiang categorically refused to step down despite term limits in the 2011 constitution.[41]


President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle with Obiang and his wife, First Lady Constancia Mangue in 2009

Abuses under Obiang have included "unlawful killings by security forces; government-sanctioned kidnappings; systematic torture of prisoners and detainees by security forces; life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention facilities; impunity; arbitrary arrest, detention, and incommunicado detention."[42]

The few private media outlets in the country are largely owned by people close to Obiang. Freedoms of association and of assembly are severely curtailed, and the government imposes restrictive conditions on the registration and operation of nongovernmental organizations. The few local activists who work on human rights-related issues often face intimidation, harassment, and reprisals.[43]


Obiang and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2011

Forbes magazine has said that Obiang, with a net worth of US$600 million, is one of the world's wealthiest heads of state.[44]

In 2003, Obiang told his citizenry that he felt compelled to take full control of the national treasury in order to prevent civil servants from being tempted to engage in corrupt practices. Obiang then deposited more than half a billion dollars into more than sixty accounts controlled by himself and his family at Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C., leading a U.S. federal court to fine the bank $16 million for allowing him to do so.[45] A United States Senate investigation in 2004 found that the Washington-based Riggs Bank had taken $300 million in payments on behalf of Obiang from Exxon Mobil and Hess Corporation.[46]

The Obamas welcome Obiang and Constancia Mangue at the White House, 2014

In 2008, the country became a candidate for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative – an international project meant to promote openness about government oil revenues – but never qualified and missed the April 2010 deadline.[46] Transparency International includes Equatorial Guinea on its list of twelve most corrupt states.[46][47]

Beginning in 2007, Obiang and several other African state leaders came under investigation for corruption and fraudulent use of funds. He was suspected of using public funds to finance private mansions and other luxuries for both himself and his family. He and his son, in particular, owned several properties and supercars in France. Several complaints were also filed in US courts against Obiang's son. Attorneys stressed that the funds appropriated by the Obiangs were taken quite legally under Equatoguinean laws, even though those laws might not agree with international standards.[48]

The U.S. Department of Justice alleged that Obiang and his son had appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars through corruption.[49] In 2011 and early 2012, many assets were seized from Obiang and his son by the French and American governments, including mansions, wine collections, and supercars. The United States, France and Spain have all investigated the Obiang family's use of public funds.[49] The corruption investigation is ongoing.[48][50]

Obiang at the Third GECF summit in Tehran, Iran, 2015

Obiang, his cabinet and his family allegedly have received billions in undisclosed oil revenue each year from the nation's oil production. Marathon Oil purchased land from Abayak, Obiang's personal investment vehicle, for more than $2 million; in June 2004 the sale was pending but Marathon had already made a $611,000 first payment with a check made out to Obiang. Marathon also was involved in a joint venture to operate two gas plants with GEOGAM, a quasi-state firm in which Abayak controlled a 75% stake.[51]

Although the cabinet has made moderate increases in social spending, these remain far overshadowed by the spending on, for instance, presidential palaces.[49] In addition, the Obiang administration has been characterized by harassment of dissenters and foreign officials seeking to report on conditions.[52]

Obiang filed a libel lawsuit in a French court against an organization he believed was demeaning his image by saying that his government had committed such acts, but the case was dismissed.[49][53]

Obiang with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Russia–Africa Summit in Sochi in 2019

Obiang has made several pledges to commit to open governance, reduce corruption, increase transparency, and improve the quality of life and uphold the basic freedoms of his citizens.[citation needed] Critics say that Obiang's government has made very little progress toward this goal, however.[49][52][54] Several international groups have called for Obiang to:

  • increase fiscal transparency and accountability by publishing all government revenues, and conducting and publishing annual audits of government accounts, including those abroad, and forcing officials to declare assets
  • Disclose natural resource revenues
  • Greatly increase spending alleviation of poverty
  • Uphold political freedoms and rights
  • Allow judicial practices to meet international standards
  • Cease harassing and hindering his critics
  • Allow foreign inspectors and groups to travel freely, unhindered and unharassed.[49][52]
Indian president Ram Nath Kovind at a banquet hosted by Obiang in 2018

The U.S. Justice Department has alleged that Obiang's son also extorted funds from lumber and construction companies by inflating contractor payments by as much as 500%, then funnelled the funds into a private accounts for his own use. Obiang and his cabinet have defended Kiki, as his son is known. Lawyers uphold his innocence in both US and French courts, saying he received the funds legally though legitimate business enterprises.[49][55]

Shortly after the emergence of these allegations, Obiang named his son Equatorial Guinea's deputy permanent delegate to UNESCO, possibly giving him diplomatic immunity from prosecution. Obiang has created an independent audit task force to review the expenditures and financials of public figures in the government, screen for corruption, and increase financial transparency. The head of this task force, however, was appointed by Obiang himself.[49]

He also owns 2 mansions in the United States one in Los Angeles and the other in Washington, D.C. He usually goes there for meetings and when he’s not there is a caretaker.[citation needed]


Obiang with the president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in 2019

Obiang had a close relationship with the Washington DC-based Riggs Bank. He is said to have been welcomed by top Riggs officials, who held a luncheon in his honor.[56] Publicity regarding this relationship would later contribute to the downfall of Riggs.[57]

On 10 November 2010, the Supreme Court of France ruled that a complaint filed by Transparency International in France on 2 December 2008 was admissible to the court system there. The decision allowed the appointment of an investigating judge and a judicial inquiry into claims that Obiang used state funds to purchase private property in France.[58]

A 2010 article published in Forbes magazine suggested that Obiang gathered roughly $700 million of the country's wealth in US bank accounts.[59]

Personal life[edit]

On December 12, 1968, Obiang married Constancia Mangue Nsue Okomo (born August 20, 1951).[60]

In 2006, it was reported that Obiang favoured his son Teodoro Nguema to succeed him.[61]



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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by President of Equatorial Guinea
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Chairperson of the African Union
Succeeded by