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Bubi people

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Bubi people

The Bubi people, also known as Voove, Pove, Bobes, Boobes, Boobees, Boobies, Boubies, Adeeyahs, Adeejahs, Adijas, Ediyas, Eris, Fernando Poans, Fernandians, and Bantu Speaking Bubi are a Bantu group of Central Africa who are indigenous to Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. Once the majority group in the region, the population experienced a sharp decline due to disease and outright killing sprees during Portuguese expeditions. By the end of Spanish colonial rule in the mid 20th century, and after substantial intermarriage with newly introduced populations, such as Afro-Cubans, Krio people, Portuguese people, and Spaniards, the Bubi people, again, experienced a great decline in number. Seventy-five percent perished due to tribal/clan rooted political genocide during a civil war that led to Spanish Guinea's independence from Spain. This, too, sparked mass exodus from their homeland with most of the exiles and refugees immigrating into Spain. The indigenous Bubi of Bioko Island have since been outnumbered—first by non-indigenous Krio Fernandinos; and then by members of the Fang ethnic group, who have immigrated in large numbers from Río Muni. Once numbering over 3 million, the Bubi currently number less than 100,000 worldwide.


The Bubi people have long held little political power. However, recently appointed government officials, such as the former Prime Minister Miguel Abia Biteo Borico and several other members of the current Equatorial Guinea government, are of ethnic Bubi descent. Despite this, the majority of Bubi descendants, both living in Equatorial Guinea and exiles abroad, hold little political and economic stake in their native land.

Most Bubi people that remain on Bioko Island, as well as those native to Gabon, speak the Bube language. Many of the islanders also speak Spanish as a secondary language. Those native to Cameroon (known as Bobe, or Ewota) speak Bubia.


The name applied to the tribe, "Bubi", did not originate from within the tribe. It was given to them by pre-colonial (European?) visitors to the island of Bioko. It has been suggested that the term "bubi" was derived from the bubi word boobè (the people from the south of the island use moomè) which means "man". More than likely, the term was taken from Europeans who had heard the manner in which the indigenous people of Bioko Island greeted one another. "A boobe, oipodi" translates into "good morning, man". From the word "boobè", meaning male, the term Bubi was derived by foreigners. Subsequently, the term "bubi" was adopted by the indigenous people.

What the Bubi named themselves

Originally the Bubi referred to themselves as "people of the land who are among the living". In the Bubi language, the translation of this phrase varied per region within the Bubi Kingdom:

  • North"bochoboche"; plural "bechoboche"
  • Northeast"bosoboiso"; plural "besoboiso"
  • East"boschosboricho"; plural "bachosboricho"
  • South"mochomorischo"; plural "bachoboricho"
  • Southwest"menchomoboncho"; plural "bandiobaboncho"
  • History

    The Bubi people are subdivided into a number of tribes and subtribes that go back centuries. Indigenous Bubi folklore indicate that the tribe immigrated to Bioko Island some 3,000 years ago as a means of escaping servitude. However, according to archaeological evidence, the Bubi immigrated to Bioko Island some time during the 13th century, some 200 years before it was discovered and claimed by the Portuguese. Other reports suggest that the tribe arrived between the 5th and the 18th centuries from southern Cameroon and the mainland area of the Rio Muni.

    One perspective offers that the Bubi were once enslaved by a single continental African tribe, likely another Bantu ethnic group that once occupied areas along the shores of West Africa. Another suggests those who immigrated to Bioko 3,000 years ago descended from enslaved members from a number of ethnic groups that existed up and down the West-Central African region during that time. In essence, the tribe is a result of an amalgamation of small tribal groups who immigrated to Bioko Island in several waves, and each group established its own enclave upon the island. Throughout their history, these groups engaged in brutal battles for supremacy, though the fighting was not relegated strictly to inter-clan rivalries. The Bubi were known to have had long battles against one another on an individual, family, district, city, and tribal level—this led to a near constant state of warfare on the island.

    With the arrival of Portuguese explorer Fernando Po, life changed drastically for the native Bubi. Some sources claim that a full 80% of tribespeople were killed by foreign plagues and fever, brought along with the Europeans aboard their ships. Other sources suggest that the high death ratio is a result of genocide. For several centuries, Europeans attempted to penetrate the island of Bioko. They, however, were met with staunch resistance, purported savagery, by the Bubi. A German Gold Coast merchant wrote "The island of Fernando Po is inhabited by a savage and cruel sort of people," and that Europeans did not dare to dock upon their beaches, for fear of surprise attacks from natives with dart-weapons. Surprise attacks on explorers and colonists were a common phenomenon during this period—in fact, the Bubi had a system of social rank that depended largely on how many rivals a man had killed through stealth or subterfuge. Because of this, the Bubi remained unconquered by European imperialism until the start of the 20th century. Led by their kings, the Bubi were well aware of the slave trade in the region and, for centuries, were highly guarded of outsiders. This was later reduced when the island leadership began to trade and barter with the Europeans, thus the Europeans were able to infiltrate the island's social and political structures.

    Gradually, European influence on the island increased. Portugal laid claim to it, and then traded it to Spain. By the early 19th century, Bioko was a short-term integral point in the transfer of slaves from mainland Africa to the Americas. However, the flow of humans trafficked through the port was constantly intervened by indigenous groups who organized to steal and free many of those transported. The port was closed by the end of the 19th century at the order of the British government who set up military occupation of the port for the latter half of the century. Over time, the influence of the Bubi has greatly diminished, and they are now a minority upon the island, as well as in the nation of Equatorial Guinea itself.

    Later, during the reign of Francisco Macías Nguema, his troops slaughtered the Bubi.

    Ancient Bubi Kingdom

    Lasting over three thousand years, the Bubi Kingdom was divided into five regions: North, Northeast, East, South and Southwest. Each region had its own distinct Bubi vernacular and were further divided into various subgroups, perhaps states.

    Dynasties and Rulers


    Bahu Subgroups: Rebolanos, Basapos of Rebola, Basilés, and Banapás.

  • Bakake - Formed a subtribe with Bareka.
  • Bakake Subgroups: - later made up of Urekanos, Babiaoma, Balacha (of San Carlos), and the original Batete.

    Bariobatta Subgroups: Basupús, Basapos (of Basupú), Balveris, and Batoikoppos. 'Basakato Subgroups

    Batete Subgroup 1

    Batete Subgroup 2 This group divided into 3 subgroups: Ríobanda, Ríokoritcho, and Ratcha or Ruitche


    The Bubis are known for a particular type of tattooing that extends from the times of slave-trading and persists, though not as commonly, to the current day. Elder tribesmen carve grooves or lines into the faces of Bubi children - the original purpose of these markings was for self-identification among slave groups in the New World, and possibly to dissuade slavers from taking them in the first place, as the grooves look disfiguring to Western eyes.

    Bubi women are very important in gathering crops and other chores, but they are given a status below that of the men in the village. To the Bubi, there are two types of marriage: marriage by buying virginity, or ribala r'eotó, and marriage by mutual love, or ribala re rijole. The former is seen to be more legitimate than the latter, and all property of the wife passes to the husband upon marriage. Polygamy is practiced, particularly in the case of widows who remarry to men who already have wives, though her children remain the property and kin of the deceased husband's family. The majority of traditional Bubi marriages are based on principles of monogamy.

    The Bubi have never practised slavery, but there is a form of indentured servitude among the people called botaki—there are nobles who earn that status by virtue of birth, and lesser peoples are expected to serve and protect them. In fact, people from separate social classes are not permitted to eat together by Bubi law.

    Amalgamated ancestries

    Many present-day Bubi have inherited bloodlines from:

  • Slaves who escaped from Sao Tome in the 19th century;
  • Krio people, descendants of Americo-Liberians, also known as Fernandinos who arrived in the 19th century;
  • Cuban indentured servants/slaves brought to the region during the 17th century, and again in the 19th century;
  • Efik people who were instrumental businessmen on the island, as well as in Christian mission work;
  • Brazilian indentured servants/slaves brought to the region during the 17th century;
  • Asian workers who were brought to the island during the 19th century;
  • Spaniards and Portuguese;
  • Fang people who began immigrating in large numbers by the mid 20th century. Many helped run the Roman Catholic missions;
  • Krumen people from Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, as well as servants from Angola who worked the once lucrative maritime industry during the colonial era;
  • Other ethnic groups indigenous to Equatorial Guinea and West/Central Africa.
  • Furthermore, a part of the population may have bloodlines inherited from North African slaves traded into the region over centuries. Studies have shown considerable evidence of North African genetic markers among the region's indigenous population. As a result, the former city of Santa Isabel (Malabo) features a Creole cocktail of natives.

    Descendants of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

    The Bubi people are one out of fifty ethnic groups in Africa from which the African ancestors of most African descendants in the Americas originate. People extracted from the kingdom and forced into the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade were among 24.4% of all those exported out of the Bight of Biafra region. In the United States, genealogical research indicates that many African-American families are direct descendants of Bubi people.


    Traditionally, the Bube people had their own monarchy that emerged long before 17th century. At the beginning of 19th century, the island was divided into territories called cantons ruled by 'Botukus' or counts. The king ruled through 'Lojuá', recruiting a militia armed with spears.

    In the post-colonial society the Bubi hold little political power even though the Prime Minister of Equatorial Guinea Miguel Abia Biteo Boricó and other Cabinet members are Bubi, as the tribe has become politically dominated by the ethnic majority Fa or Fang.

    During the colonial period several nationalists initiatives were developed under the 'Bubi Union' or the 'Grupo Nacionalista Bubi'. The Movement for the Self-Determination of Bioko Island, (MAIB), led by Weja Chicampo Puye, is currently the main political force that unites the people's aspirations for Bubi self-identification.


    Francisco Macías Nguema was the first President of Equatorial Guinea, from 1968 until his overthrow in 1979. During his presidency, his country was nicknamed "the Auschwitz of Africa". Nguema's regime was characterized by its abandonment of all government functions except internal security, which was accomplished by terror; he acted as chief judge and sentenced thousands to death. This led to the death or exile of up to 1/3 of the country's population. Out of a population of 300,000, an estimated 80,000 had been killed, in particular those of the Bubi ethnic minority on Bioko associated with relative wealth and intellectualism. Uneasy around educated people, he had killed everyone who wore spectacles. All schools were ordered closed in 1975. The economy collapsed, and skilled citizens and foreigners left.

    On August 3, 1979, he was overthrown by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Macías Nguema was captured, tried for genocide and other crimes along with 10 others. All of them were found guilty, four received terms of imprisonment, while Nguema and the other six were executed a few weeks later on September 29.

    John B. Quigley in The Genocide Convention: An International Law Analysis points out that at Macías Nguema's trial for genocide that Equatorial Guinea had not ratified the Genocide convention and that records of the court proceedings show that there was some confusion over whether Nguema and his co-defendants were tried under the laws of Spain (the former colonial power), or whether the trial was justified on the claim that the Genocide Convention was part of customary international law. Quigley states that "The Macias case stands out as the most confusing of domestic genocide prosecutions from the standpoint of the applicable law. The Macias conviction is also problematic from the standpoint of the identity of the protected group."


    Bubi people Wikipedia

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