History of Malabo

Published on 30th January 2007

Malabo is the capital city of Equatorial Guinea. With a population of approximately 100,000, the city is located on northern coast of Bioko Island (formerly Fernando Póo) at 3°45' North, 8°45' East. The city's main industry is fish processing while cacao and coffee are the leading exports. It is the republic's commercial and financial centre.

Malabo was founded in 1827 by the British on land leased from Spain as a base for the suppression of slave trade. Back then it was called Port Clarence, or Clarencetown. Many newly freed slaves settled here, prior to the establishment of Sierra Leone as a colony for freed slaves. Even though many of them later relocated to Sierra Leone, some of their descendants can still be found in Malabo and the surrounding area. They constitute a distinct ethnic group speaking their own Afro-Portuguese pidgin dialect. 

Malabo was renamed Santa Isabel when the island revert to complete Spanish control.  In 1969, Malabo replaced the mainland town of Bata as the capital of Equitorial Guinea. In 1973, Bata was renamed Malabo as part of President Francisco Macías Nguema's campaign to replace European place names with "authentic" African ones.

Macías Nguema led a near-genocide of the country's Bubi minority, which formed the majority on Bioko Island, and brought many of his own tribes’ people, the Fang to Malabo during his reign. In the final years of his rule, when Equatorial Guinea was sometimes known as the "Auschwitz of Africa," much of the city's population fled.  

Malabo has been significantly affected by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo's growing cooperation with the oil industry. The country's production has reached 360,000 barrels/day as of 2004, an increase which had led to a doubling of the city's population.

Notable buildings in Malabo include Malabo Cathedral and the Malabo Court Building. The city is also home to an international airport, while ferries sail from its port to Douala and Bata.



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