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Bioko (spelled also Bioco) is an island off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, part of Equatorial Guinea. In colonial times it was known as Fernando Pó or Fernando Poo, and under the Africanization policy of dictator Masie Nguema Biyogo it was renamed Masie Ngueme Biyogo Island (sp. Francisco Macías Biogo); on his overthrow in 1979 it was named Bioko. It is known as Otcho to the Bubi people.


The island was inhabited in the middle of the first millennium B.C.E. by Bantu tribes from the mainland which formed the Bubi ethnic group. The first European discovery of the island was made in 1472, by the Portuguese navigator Fernão do Pó. It was at first named Formosa Flora ('Beautiful Flower'), but in 1494 was renamed for its discoverer (Fernando Pó or Fernando Poo). Unlike other islands in the area, Bioko had an indigenous (African) population. Still a distinct ethnic group on the island today, these indigenous people, the Bubi, speak a Bantu language; the island was probably inhabited by this or other Bantu-speaking groups since before the 7th century BC.
In 1642 the Dutch East India Company established its trade bases on the island without Portuguese consent, temporarily centralizing from there the trade of slaves in the Gulf of Guinea, although the Portuguese appeared once again on the island in 1648, replacing the Dutch Company by one of their own dedicated to the same trade and established in its neighbour island Corisco. Parallel with this establishment began the slow process of establishing the core of a new kingdom on the island 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.

Bioko in the distance from Limbe, Cameroon

Portugal ceded to Spain Fernando Poo, Annobón and the Guinea coast (modern Equatorial Guinea) in 1778, with the Treaty of El Pardo, signed between Queen Mary II of Portugal and King Charles III of Spain, in exchange for territory in the American continent. Spain then mounted an expedition to Fernando Poo, led by the Conde de Argelejos and stayed for four months. In October 1778 Spain installed a governor on the island that stayed till 1780 when the Spanish mission left the island.
Molambo was succeeded by another local chief, Lorite (1760-1810) who was succeeded by Lopoa (1810-1842). From 1827 to 1843 the British leased bases at Port Clarence (modern Malabo) and San Carlos for their anti-slavery patrols. Juan José Lerena in March 1843 put the Spanish flag in Malabo, ending British influence on the island. Madabita (1842-1860) and Sepoko (1860-1875) were principal local chiefs during reestablishment of Spanish rule on the island. This period was also marked by immigration of several hundred Afro-Cubans as well as tens of Spanish scholars and politicians.
In 1923-30 the League of Nations investigated the shipment of migrant labour between Liberia and the Spanish island colony of Fernando Po. Although the League concentrated its attention on Liberia, a closer examination reveals labour abuse as very much the product of conditions on Fernando Po itself. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, black planters on the island shifted from palm oil trading to cocoa cultivation. Dependence on migrant labour and increasing competition from Europeans resulted in economic crisis in the first years of the twentieth century, with detention of labour and the nonpayment of contracts as the outcome. The eventual investigation of the trade was the product of a desire to conserve Liberian labour for use on the African mainland, rather than an attempt to relieve its abuse.
The island was used as a base for flights into Biafra during the Nigerian civil war.

(Source Wikipedia)