Bioko is an island in the Gulf of Guinea. It once formed the most populated portion of Equatorial Guinea. West African Union forces occupied the island in 2006. Today the island is independent, but the WAU still has forces on the island and supports its government.
Bioko was settled by the Bubi people before the year 1000. The Bubi were in the process of forming a new kingdom when Portuguese, Dutch, and English sailors began to partially colonize the island. Spain gained possession of the entire island in 1778 together with the rest of Equitorial Guinea.
Equatorial Guinea became independent in 1968. Its first dictator, Francisco Macías, drove the country into the ground. He abrogated the constitution, closed the schools, and drove as much as a third of the population into exile, including most of the people with education and technical knowledge. Macías also persecuted the Bubi people, who had previously dominated the island, in favor of his fellow Fang people. Many Fang were moved to the island while many Bubi fled, mostly to Spain. The WAU has officially dubbed Macías' rule on Bioko an act of genocide.
When Macías destroyed a large part of the fishing fleet in a vain attempt to keep people from fleeing the country, many citizens of the island lost their livelihoods and their access to the rest of the world. A Spanish-backed coup in 1979 put Macías' nephew Teodoro Obiang in charge, but Obiang's policies were not noticeably different from his uncle's.
Equatorial Guinea was absolutely isolated, undemocratic, and poor: it could scarcely have sunk much lower, and the Doomsday event therefore had few immediate effects on Bioko. The catastrophe prompted Obiang to enact even more heavy-handed policies. Unleashed from any need to please observers abroad, he scrapped the constitution, did away with any pretense of democracy, and ruled the country as his family's private estate.
The war did deprive Obiang of his access to foreign products. Arms were still available from international dealers, but their cost skyrocketed, as did the cost of fuel. Obiang had to find ways of administering his fiefdom with a dwindling supply of modern technology. Obiang was killed in a coup in 1985 and replaced by Lt. Col. Fructuoso Mbá Oñana - but this was strictly a family affair. Mbá, like Macías, was Obiang's uncle, and his administration was no less dictatorial.
The WAU nations were never comfortable with this unstable island just off their coasts. But military action had always been out of the question. In the 2000s, however, it became clear that Bioko was surrounded by some of the richest oil deposits on earth. The WAU Defense Council finally gave in to the economic temptation and invaded Bioko in 2006, forcing the Equatoguinean regime to flee to mainland Rio Muni.
The WAU helped set up the first-ever government for an independent Bioko. Early enthusiasm faded as many Bubi used the opportunity to exact revenge on the previously-dominant Fang people, and as the WAU engaged in policies that led many Biokeños to question just how independent they really were.
Four main languages are spoken on Bioko. The Bube language, spoken by the Bubi people, has been on the island the longest. The second, Pichi, is a mix of English creoles that arrived at various times during the colonial period and has been heavily influenced by Spanish. Pichi speakers are usually called Fernandinos, from the colonial name of the island.
Most speakers of the third language, Fang, arrived after the end of Spanish rule. Since the Fang-dominated Equatoguinean government was driven off, the Fang have faced heavy retributionary violence from Bubi. Protecting them has been one of the WAU's greatest challenges. As more and more Bioko Fang leave the island, particularly for Gabon, people have begun to question the language's designation as official.
The fourth language, Spanish, is spoken natively by only a small percentage, but it is deeply entrenched as a lingua franca. Under WAU influence, French is just beginning to play a larger role as well; however, the WAU has encouraged the use of Spanish as a form of Bioko identity. The Spanish language is one of the only things that all Biokeños have in common, and it also set them apart from other African countries. The WAU has also encouraged the adoption of the coined term Biokeño to refer to all the island's inhabitants; previously there was no common demonym.