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The Portuguese explorer Fernão do Pó, seeking a path to India, is credited as being the first European to discover the island of Bioko in 1472. He called it Formosa ("Beautiful"), but it quickly took on the name of its European discoverer. The islands of Bioko and Annobón were colonized by Portugal in 1474

From 1493 king John II of Portugal took the title of Lord of Guinea and Corisco (Señor de Guinea y Señor de Corisco, and Corisco was colonized in 1494. Bioko was renamed Fernando Pó.

In 1641 the Dutch West India Company established on Bioko, be it without any consent. They were chased by the Portuguese in 1648 and substituted by their own Compañía de Corisco.

Parallel with this establishment began the slow process of establishing the core of a new kingdom on the island of Bioko  formed by Bubi clans, especially after the activity of some local chiefs like Molombo (approx. 1700–1760) during a period of harsh enslavement in the region, a situation that forced local clans to abandon their coastal settlements and settle in the safer interior of the island. In 1778, the island, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger and Ogoue Rivers were ceded to Spain in exchange for territory in the American continent (Treaty of San Ildefonso and El Pardo, between Queen Maria I of Portugal and King Charles III of Spain). From then, the territory of Equatorial Guinea depended administratively on the viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata, (founded in 1776) with its seat in Buenos Aires, until its liquidation in 1810.


From 1827 to 1834, the United Kingdom established a base on the island to combat the slave trade, which was then moved to Sierra Leone upon agreement with Spain in 1843. In 1844, on restoration of Spanish sovereignty, it became known as the Territorios Españoles del Golfo de Guinea Ecuatorial. The mainland portion, Rio Muni, became a protectorate in 1885 and a colony in 1900. Conflicting claims to the mainland were settled by the Treaty of Paris (1900), and periodically, the mainland territories were united administratively under Spanish rule. Between 1926 and 1959 they were united as the colony of Spanish Guinea. (Guinea Española).

Until 1956 the isles of Fernando Poo and Annobon were part of Spanish Guinea. On 21 august of that year these territories became provinces with the name of Provincia del Golfo de Guinea.

In 1959 the status of the Spanish territories in the Gulf of Guinea was changed into Spanish provinces overseas. By law of 30th of July 1959 the name of Región Ecuatorial Española for the teritories was officially adopted and the region was divided in two provinces: Fernando Poo and Río Muni. The region was ruled by a governor general who exercized all civil and military power



As a consequence of a referendum of  15  December 1963 the region became an autonomous territory with the name of Comunidad Autónoma de Guinea Ecuatorial.

In March 1968 Spain announced that it would grant independence. A constitution was adopted on 11 August 1968 and the independence of the República de Guinea Ecuatorial was proclaimed on 12 October 1968. Capital: Malabo (formerly: Santa Isabel)

In 1973 the then president Francisco Macías Nguema proclaimed a new constitution and in the years following established a dictatorship that lasted until a coup d’état on 3 August 1979. On 29 September 1979 Macías was taken prisoner, sentenced to death and immediatley executed.




Just like in other countries of Black Africa the local rulers in Equatorial Guinea do not figure in heraldry at all. In fact, heraldry begins there with the Portuguese occupation of Bioko. This part of Africa was in the sphere of interest of the Portuguese Seaborne Empire until 1778. The Portuguese presence was only interrupted for a short time by the settlement of a Dutch trading post of the West Indian Company, with its main settlement in Fort Elmina, today in Ghana, also captured from the Portuguese.


For a very short time the flag of the British Navy was seen in Fernando Póo.



From 1808 the British needed a base in western Africa for their campaign against slave trade and Freetown was the obvious choice. It had one of the best natural harbours on the coast, and it became the seat of a British governor and of anti-slave-trade courts and the headquarters of the navy’s western African squadron. Freetown’s only serious disadvantage was that it was at one end of the slave-exporting coast. In 1827, therefore, the British navy also began to use the island of Fernando Poo in the Gulf of Guinea as an alternative base and freed-slave settlement. But this activity aroused the interest of the Spanish government, which had had a legal claim to the island since 1778, and in 1834 the settlement was abandoned.


Nevertheless the acting superintendents in Fernando Pó were British until 1855.[1]


During the period of Spanish colonialism the symbols of the Spanish state were used in the territory. For example, in the time of the Spanish Republic (1931-1939):


On some stamps from this period we see the royal Spanish arms: Quarterly of Castilla, León, Aragon and Navarra, enté en point of Granada and an escutcheon of Bourbon. Crowned with the royal crown and surrounded by the collar of the Order of the Fleece.


The Guardia Colonial


In 1904 the Spanish Territories of the Golf of Guinea (Territorios Españoles del Golfo de Guinea) were founded, administrated by a governor general. In the Law of Estimates of the same year a native police force was created, instructed and commanded by members of the Guardia Civil. After three years the Ministry of War ordered the corps to be reorganized and named Civil Guard of the Spanish Territories of the Golf of Guinea (Guardia Civil de los Territorios Españoles del Golfo de Guinea). One year later the corps was renamed  in Colonial Guard (Guardia Colonial) and in 1932 was incorporated in the Spanish Army.

In 1960 a Mobile Company of the Civil Guard of the Territory (Compañia Movil de la Guardia Civil para el Territorio) was created, encamped in Bata. The next year a new company was encamped in Santa Isabel.


The banner of the Colonial Guard had the crowned ancient arms of Spain on a Burgundian Cross in the center, surrounded by the legend GUARDIA COLONIAL DE GUINEA. It was embroidered by the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, some time before the Republic (1907-1932). [2]

The ancient arms of Spain were: Quarterly of Castilla and León, enté en point of Granada and with an escutcheon Bourbon.


This banner may be inspired by some ancient flags from the time of the Vice Kingdom of Rio de la Plata. Some of these flags were red with the crowned Spanish arms in the middle, others showed the cross of Burgundy on a white background.




Embroidering the banner of the Colonial Guard.

The legend reads: Niñas indígenas bordando la bandera de la guardia colonial bajo la dirección de las hermanas concepcionistas


The officers of the Guard wore special uniforms. Only the Mobile Company of the Civil Guard of the Territory (1960-’69) had a clear badge which consisted of a dark blue enameled five-pointed star with the cypher GT in silver lettering. This badge was worn on the shoulder patches. [3]



Shoulder patch badge of the Compañia Movil de la Guardia Civil para el Territorio, 1960-’69


Región Ecuatorial Española 1959 - 1963





The arms of the province of Fernando Póo were:

Within a bordure compony of twenty four, the arms of Castilla and Leon alternately, parted per fess, in chief Argent a mountain proper, and a base parted per pale, the dexter Sable the cypher “Y” Or, and the sinister parted in fess wavy, in chief Or the word BIAFRA Sable and the base barry wavy of eight Sable and Argent, over all an anchor Or per bend.

On the shield is a crown of nine leaves and eight pearls.


The coat of arms shows Santa Isabel Peak (3007 m.), the highest mountain on the Island. The cypher “Y” is for Santa Isabel, queen of Portugal (*1271-†1336) the saint after which the city of Santa Isabel was named. In the third quarter the anchor and the waves are for the Bight of Biafra  (Gulf of Guinea).



The arms the province of Rio Muni were the arms of Bata,  the capital of Rio Muni. On it is a silk-cotton or mangrove tree. In 1843 King Bonkoro I, of Benga (Bata) came to an agreement with the spaniard J. J. Lerena y Barry under such a tree. [4]



The Arms of Bata


The arms are:

Under a blue sky the coast of Rio Muni proper (Vert), and in base the Atlantic, depicted blue with white waves engrailed, over all a mangrove tree proper.

On the shield is a crown of five large and four small fleurs de lys.


On a Spanish stamp with the arms of Rion Muni the sky is Argent.


Independence 1968


The coat of arms of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea is a modification of the arms of Bata.

The arms, adopted on 12 October 1968 are:


Arms: Argent, a mangrove tree proper.

Crest: Six six-pointed stars Or.



ð See illustration in the head of this essay.


The sixpointed stars are for the six provinces of the republic:  Bioko (formerly: Fernando Pó), Great Elobey, Little Elobey, Corisco, Annaboni and Mbini (formerly: Rio Muni).


Tyranny 1973 - 1979




The emblem of the Republic was changed in 1973. The new emblem consisted of an arrangement of a pick and shovel, a sword, a club and a battle-axe in saltire, and a dagger, all proper. Above the arrangement, as a crest, is a cock, the emblem of the PUNT (Partido Único Nacional de los Trabajadores), the party of Macías created in 1970. The motto reads: TRABAJO  UNIDAD  PAZ  JUSTICIA. (Work, Unity, Peace, Justice)




Sculpture of Equatorial Guinean ebony-wood


In the electoral campaigns for president after the proclamation of Independence on 12 October 1969, the (elected) anti-spanish Francisco Macías Nguema had had Atanasio Ndongo Miyone, who propagated strong relations with Spain, as his adversary. The party of Macías, the IPGE, had a cock as its emblem and the party of Ndongo a lamb. When in March 1969 Macías decided to cut off all relations with Spain, the first thing he did was to change the emblem of his party into a “cock devouring a lamb”. The symbolism is clear: a cock (a small animal) devours a lamb (a big animal). With this, Macías intended to say that the small republic of Equatorial Guinea was superior to Spain. 





10 Ekuele-coin (1975): shield with cock, symbol of the PUNT.



1 Ekuele coin (1975): Emblem composed of tools, symbol of Equatorial Guinea.


In 1979 the ancient arms of the republic were restored. [5]


© Hubert de Vries2008-11-11


[1] )  See:  List of  Colonial Heads of Equatorial Guinea.

[2] )  www.bioko.net/.../displayimage.php?album=8&pos=0, ð lista de albums, ð buscar: Guardia Colonial.

[3] ) www.el-rastro.com/almacencolonias.htm   &  www.polinsignia.com/sahara.htm

[4]) Bonkoro I died in 1846 and was succeeded by his son Bonkoro II, but due to rivalries on the island, Bonkoro II moved to Sao Tome, and Munga I ruled in Corisco 1848 to 1858, his son Munga II taking over.

[5]) The constitution of Equatorial Guinea provides:

Artículo 4 : La lengua oficial de la República de Guinea Ecuatorial es el Español. Se reconoce las lenguas aborígenes como integrantes de la cultuta nacional.

La Bandera Nacional es verde, blanca roja en trés franjas horizontales de iguales dimensiones y un triángulo azul en el extremo más próximo al mástil. En el centro de la Bandera está grabado el Escudo de la República.

El Escudo de la República es el que establece la Ley.

El lema de la República es : UNIDAD PAZ Y JUSTICIA.

…but does not define the coat of arms.

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