Spain manufactures its own Black Legend in Equatorial Guinea

Atalayar met with the Guinean opposition leader Severo Moto Nsá, president for 37 years of the Progress Party, outlawed by the regime of Teodoro Obiang Nguema, to discuss the situation in his country after independence
Atalayar_Severo Moto

 -   Severo Moto, Guinean opposition leader

Part of Guinean public opinion and former Spanish officials who lived through the last moments of Spanish colonisation in Equatorial Guinea are shocked and scandalised by the Spanish television series 'Dos Vidas' (Two Lives), which portrays the atmosphere of cruelty, contempt, racism and exploitation experienced in what was once Spanish Guinea, more akin to a new Black Legend, this time fabricated from Spain.

When today's Equatorial Guinea gained independence following an agreement with Spain in 1968, it was a prosperous country, with the highest GDP per capita in Africa, and a health and education system worthy of the most developed countries.

Atalayar has sought the opinion of Guinean opposition leader Severo Moto Nsá, president for 37 years of the Progress Party, which was outlawed by the regime of Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

The Spanish TV series 'Dos Vidas' (Two Lives) is partly set in Equatorial Guinea during the Spanish era. Do you believe it portrays the truth as it was?

I was born in "La Guinea Española" (1942); in the decade before Spain initiated the great and decisive steps of Spanish decolonisation in what is now Equatorial Guinea. By the time I was born, it was Spanish Guinea.

The nearly two hundred years of colonisation carried out by Spain in the African territories of what was then called "Spanish Guinea", were two hundred years marked by the so-called "Colonial Laws" with which Spain (Queen Isabella the Catholic) stopped the excesses and outrages of the Spanish colonists, with large fines, imprisonment and, above all, extradition to the country of origin; and the Church led, with its Christian doctrine, some (colonists) and others (colonised) along the path of civilisation, education, evangelisation, culture and preparation for the future.

The multiplicity of Christian-Catholic Colleges, Rural Schools, School Groups, Institutes, High Schools (fertile cradle of primary school teachers, administrative assistants and graduates, arts and crafts... which at the end of the 50s overflowed and jumped the maritime and air borders, in search of a higher level, perfection and the pride of the academic titles with which Spain crowned its efforts in "The Peninsula". A large number of autonomous, indigenous businesses, based on the exploitation of plots of coffee, cocoa, palmaste, rubber, dried cassava (flour), etc., protected and financed by Spain, made "Spanish Guinea" a promotional refuge for many African countries.

Atalayar_Severo Moto 2
Severo Moto, Guinean opposition leader

And then came independence...

When Spain decided to grant independence to that corner of Africa with the name of "Republic of Equatorial Guinea", after five years of Spanish provinces and four years of autonomy, the world awarded Spain and Equatorial Guinea with the laurel of Model Colonisation in Africa.

This is the Equatorial Guinea that I know, of which the Guineans of the time were very proud; until we fell into "independence"; the Spanish Guinea of which Spain should be proud. Despite having served, as a documentary maker, in RTVE (Torre España), I admit that I am not a "goer" (aficionado) of my former place of work... When in a film or series about Equatorial Guinea, such as "Two Lives", there are no faces of Equatorial Guinean people, it loses, for me, its credibility. 

What are the most relevant flaws you see in this approach to our history?

I reiterate that I think it is false to talk about the supposed realities of a country using faces and characters from other ethnic groups or tribes. There are many ethnic groups and tribes in Guinea! They may not speak Spanish well, but they are immediately recognisable. And the scenarios or events that are reflected bear the mark of self-interested exaggeration. It seems that images of a "model colonisation" are forbidden. The Guineans of today are a thousand times more interested in Spain, through RTVE reports and films, to talk about the sad, dreadful and shameful state my country has been left in, after falling into independence, first with Macías Nguema and Obiang Nguema (11 years) and then with Obiang Nguema (43 years).

Why do you think TVE is broadcasting this series at this time, and is there any intention behind it?

There are plenty of reasons for this. I don't think it is a gesture of recognition or repentance for the excesses that colonisation may have committed; it is strange the guilt that Spanish colonists attribute to themselves for the colonial past in the Spanish-speaking world, which contributes so little to the development of these countries! I remember the statement made to me by an old Spanish colonist, regarding the coup d'état that brought the current President Obiang to power: "I don't know if you know that we Spaniards are capitalist socialists in Equatorial Guinea"! It could be that with "Two Lives" they are trying to denounce one of these groups; or capitalist socialists.

Atalayar_Colegio Salesiano en Guinea Ecuatorial 2
Salesian College in Equatorial Guinea

Spaniards, especially those in their fifties, know nothing about the history of Spain in Equatorial Guinea. Don't you think that the public media, such as TVE and RNE, should contribute to making history known, instead of adulterating it?

When the coup d'état took place on 3 August 1979, under the title of "coup for freedom", the biggest surprise that Spain offered the Guinean people was the historic opening of the African dimension for Equatorial Guinea, on Radio Exterior de España. Led by the great Spanish journalist, Doña Rafaela de la Torre (Rafi), the broadcast brought Equatorial Guinea to a standstill (at 5 p.m.). Through its news and interviews with Guinean society, the latter was relieved of its tragedies by hearing how the arbitrariness of the dictatorial regime, reinstated after the assassination of Macis Nguema, was denounced. Unfortunately, this oasis of information was short-lived; the powerful hand of the dictator Obiang Nguema fell on Radio Exterior de España radio station. Those involved in the closure of Radio Exterior for Equatorial Guinea claim that the news and programmes had too much of a socialist tinge... Equatorial Guinea sank back into the terrible chest of "Reserved Matter" that it always was for Spain. Spaniards do not know about it for the simple reason that that beautiful and juicy African corner has always been the object of a secret monopoly for some. Nor even the proclaimed and vaunted independence was and is not able to open the way to tourism...

How do you feel as an Equatoguinean when you see this kind of report?

I am not, nor have I ever been, an Equatoguinean (a strange and derogatory nickname given to us by our Gabonese neighbours, when we plunged into our unfortunate independence and ceased to be the prestigious "Pañá" (Spaniards), and fell into the hands of the Nguema (Macías and Obiang). I was, have been and will always be Guinean, Guinean, Guineo-Ecuadorian or Equatorial Guinean. By the official language, I am Spanish... (the ethnic groups or tribes call ourselves by the language we speak) As a Hispanic-African, of civilization, Guinean of origin, this type of reporting is as offensive as it is out of place...

Atalayar_Teodoro Obiang y Nicolás Maduro
Teodoro Obiang and Nicolás Maduro

Neither you, nor your party, were ever well regarded by the Spanish socialists. Now that the PSOE is in government together with Podemos, do you think that some government office wants to sacrifice your head for the sake of a rapprochement with Teodoro Obiang's regime?

The statement is so absolutely true that either you have very good information, or you are simply an attentive and keen observer. From the day after 25 February 1983, when I launched the foundation of the Progress Party (PP), both I (from my country) and the Progress Party have been the object of strong rejection and siege by socialism. The first diatribe and denunciation was because the Party, being "Progress", had to be progressive and socialist. However, since its foundation, the PP has been immersed in the "baptismal political waters" of Christian Democrat ideology. Since then, my stubborn faith and confidence that Christian democracy connected and connects with the soul and political being of the Guinean people, I have had to fight - honest, humble, incapable and alone - with the powerful socialists. I was assured - ignorant of me - that to be a Christian Democrat was to be right-wing. A good socialist mayor friend of mine challenged me, between jokes and deep racist derogatory tic: " How comes a little black man is a right-winger?" Regarding the second part of his question, after Don Felipe González, and since May 2005, my relations with the socialist political world have been marked by my humble and impotent silence; and the hatred or abandonment of others. In Spain, I refused to change my political doctrine. In Guinea, I was forced to resign and I resigned, accused by Obiang Nguema of not accepting communism and not being pro-communist. Any plan that "from some government office of the current socialist and communist government, against me, to satisfy Obiang Nguema, sacrificing me, even physically... is absolutely possible; as we have seen on so many and so many occasions.... I confess, and I say it publicly: everything I have received from Spain, especially before the independence of Equatorial Guinea, and until 2005, in terms of civilisation, culture, studies, professionally (ex-seminarian, primary school teacher and Spanish journalist), through friendships, political support (centre-right Christian Democrat) and freedom. All this I care for, preserve and keep in order to serve my people, in Equatorial Guinea, as I have shown in my trips to Guinea, in other times, with other Spanish governments... This care, love and respect for my people and for Spain is something I take care of above and beyond all circumstances, no matter how adverse they may be...

How did your Progress Party justify "retiring" you after many years leading it? Who wants to remove you and why?

My political activity in exile - Spain - is much more unpleasant and uncomfortable than in Equatorial Guinea. Fortunately, this is quite normal. There are decisions that the dictator takes against the Progress Party in Spain that he could not have taken while I was in Equatorial Guinea, as in the case of his demand that I should be rejected as president. As soon as I have the opportunity to return freely to my country, I will be ready to resume my political activity in the service of the great people who are waiting for me and appreciate me so much. My party has not retired me, nor have I retired. I have stepped aside to make way for the peaceful transition project that was announced for my country and I did not want to be an easy excuse for this process, which I have worked so hard for, to be lost because Obiang Nguema opposes my presence as president of the Progress Party. The joy expressed by the dictator Obiang at my sidelining, to the point of shouting to his people "I have already annulled the opposition!!!", is the great sign of his fear and political weakness in the face of a Progress Party that humiliated him in the municipal elections on 17 September 1995. Given the interim nature of the Progress Party, since Obiang Nguema banned its legal activity in the country, we were forced to return to exile; and we ask our many militants to "keep the party in their hearts"; this interim will be automatically annulled when we return - hopefully this year - to meet our people. Hopefully, God willing, and provided the enemies don't put anything in my liver or reduce me to misery...

Atalayar_Teodoro Obian y Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
Teodoro Obiang and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

President Obiang boasts that he is in dialogue with groups critical of his government. Has he done so with the Progress Party? Could his sacrifice be the price to be paid for his party to be legally recognised in Equatorial Guinea?

My return to Equatorial Guinea, ten years after my first exile (1982-1988) and four years after my second (1992-1996), was a great challenge to the dictatorship; a sign of my willingness to enter into dialogue with the dictator. The dictator's response, both violent and cowardly, has always been to invite or force me to join his PDGE party or to join the ranks of his government or to go to Black Beach prison. For Obiang Nguema, to join the PDGE or his government means to be annulled at all levels. All six calls made by Obiang Nguema to hold "dialogue tables" in Equatorial Guinea have ended in the so-called "no agreement agreement"; and they have justified, by themselves, my absence and that of the Progress Party. To attend Obiang Nguema's dialogue tables would be to receive what he calls "my wise guidance" (he always admits that although he has not studied much, he does provide wise guidance).

The letter I sent to Obiang Nguema, signed by me and with a signature of receipt, which was taken to Obiang Nguema by his ambassador in Brussels, Carmelo Nvono Nká, in which I proposed a meeting in Equatorial Guinea, accompanied by a great personality in the field of human rights, to discuss my personal situation and that of the Progress Party, outlawed or banned by him, is stored in my folders and archives. This letter was answered by Mr. Alejandro Evuma Owono Asángono, the eternal Minister of Special Missions on behalf of the Head of State, warning me that I could go to Equatorial Guinea; accompanied by whomever I wanted; that Obiang Nguema would even receive me, as a simple citizen; not as president of the Progress Party (banned); and finally, the letter closed by reminding me that there is a jail sentence (a hundred and some years...) pending for me in my country, accumulated by Obiang Nguema's justice. It is quite possible that the dictator Obiang Nguema will once again legalise the Progress Party, now that Severo Moto Nsá has sided and opened the current interim presidency of the Guinean political party, until he returns to the country.