In the Rio Muni region there is believed to have been a widespread pygmy population, of whom only isolated pockets remain in the north. Bantu migrations between the 17th and 19th centuries brought the coastal tribes and later the Fang.
The Portuguese explorer FernÃ£o do PÃ³, 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 Fernando PÃ³ and AnnobÃ³n were colonized by Portugal in 1474.
In 1778, the island, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger River and Ogoue Rivers were ceded to the Spanish Empire in exchange for territory in the American continent. From 1827 to 1843, 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 EspaÃ±oles del Golfo de Guinea Ecuatorial. The mainland portion, Rio Muni, became a protectorate in 1885 and a colony in 1900. Between 1926 and 1959 all three regions were united as the colony of Spanish Guinea.
Equatorial Guinea gained independence from Franco's Spain in October 1968. Since then, it has been ruled by two men. Francisco MacÃas Nguema, the first president, was a brutal dictator who despised intellectuals, killed a large number of the ethnic Bubi minority, banned fishing, and awarded himself a huge number of grandiose titles including President for Life. He was overthrown by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in 1979 and later captured and executed by shooting. Obiang's rule has seen less violence, but his regime is still brutally repressive. Political power is centralized in his small mainland clan, and most senior members of the government are related. The discovery of oil reserves offshore in 1996 has brought considerable wealth to the country, giving it one of the highest GDP per capita in the world, yet much of the money goes into the hands of a thuggish and corrupt government, with majority of the people remaining very poor.