Built under Spanish rule in the forties, this building is located in a coastal area of Malabo, the capital, near the beach called Black Beach. According to several sources, the name refers to the sewage running down the river that flows into the beach. "The beach is always dirty and full of rubbish", they say.
During the Spanish rule, there were only ordinary prisoners. However, after the electoral victory of Francisco Macias Nguema in 1968 as the first president of an independent Equatorial Guinea, Black Beach began to earn its fame. Only three months after the country's independence, the fomer president of the government of the Spanish province and electoral opponent of Macias, Bonifacio Ondo Edu, was imprisoned and murdered in Black Beach.
He was not the only one. Other officials and leaders, including the vice president of the coalition government that helped Macias himself to the presidency, Edmundo Bossio, were taken to Black Beach. Many died or committed suicide while in prison, after being tortured with extreme brutality. It is estimated that, under the dictatorial regime of Macias, between 20,000 and 50,000 people died, ie between 6% and 15% of a population of 350,000. Many of them were sent to Black Beach.
In Macias' time, Black Beach was directed by his nephew, Teodoro Obiang Nguema. "No doubt, he was the diretor of all prisons throughout the country," said Moto. For a decade, between 1968 and 1979, tens of thousands of Guineans were accused of "discontent" or "attempted coup". No evidences were needed. Those who were supposedly not happy with the regimen were taken to Black Beach prison, or to the prison of Bata, tortured and executed.
Severo Moto was sent to prison in 1976 after participating in the government of Macias. "I was jailed for three years, but spent most of this time working on farms, and in the fields of Obiang and his people to where they took the prisoners who were in hard labor. I remember them beating me in the morning and then again at night for no particular reason. It was terrible, "says today's opposition leader.
On August 3, 1979, Teodoro Obiang himself leads a coup against his uncle, who took refuge in the jungle. However, Macias was captured, tried and shot weeks later. But things in Equatorial Guinea and Black Beach did not change much. "Obiang Nguema was for eleven years the head of the country's prisons, which made him believed that he was the absolute master of the lives of Guinean people. This blind faith still endures," said Severo Moto.
One of the most feared corners of Black Beach is the room known as the Office. Both at the time of Macias as in the present, there are mock trials carried out in the evening by Obiang himself after long and grueling interrogations that include all kinds of torture. The numerous death sentences are carried out in the woods near Malabo or through more gruesome ways: "fights between convicts are organized to have them killing each other. The survivor is murdered."
One of the most famous crimes committed in this prison was the so-called "Mokom dance", where Teodoro Obiang, days before the coup, executed in the backyard of the prison of a group of political prisoners who could hinder his rise to power. Among them were Buenaventura Ochaga, the priest Jose Esono, Jose Alfonso Oyono, Pablo Nseng, etc. up to a group of fifteen people.
Severo Moto, however, was appointed by Obiang to be Minister of Information after the coup of 1979. "I was one of the few journalists who could do that job," said Moto. He served for three years and in the nineties decided to create his own political party. In January 1995, Obiang sent him again to Black Beach, where he spent seven months between January and August. "This time I went to jail sentenced to death, I was convinced I was going to die. However, there was a lot of pressure from the Church, the Spanish Government and the international community and I was finally released on August 3. I was going to run for the mayoralty of Malabo, but the elections were on 17 September and there was no time to organize anything," claims Moto.
The opposition leader remembers his time in Black Beach as an ordeal. "There were all kinds of torture. They hung prisoners by the ankles, they tied them in unlikely positions, beat them without warning and at any time they wanted. The Black Beach guards had only the task of beating the prisoners," he says. Another problem was the food: it was scarce. Many prisoners died of starvation. "And the smell. The cells were so narrow that a person could not stretch in one and they were always in the dark, and their smell is very strong, unbearable. Sometimes I thought about killing myself."
The reality of Black Beach is known outside its walls. Amnesty International has produced several reports warning of the dire conditions of the prison and the existence of torture and killings inside, while the Foreign Office has included it in its list of the worst prisons in the world and, of course, the one with the worst reputation in Africa. Today, hundreds of political prisoners languish in this prison of Equatorial Guinea, many without medical assistance and little food.
A month ago, four people who were at Black Beach were sentenced to death and executed on a rural road in the capital of Equatorial Guinea for allegedly having participated in an attempted coup. According to the opposition in exile, they were savagely tortured.
SIMON MANN AND NICK DU TOIT
Two of the most famous prisoners held in this prison were Simon Mann and Nick du Toit, two mercenaries (British and South African) involved in organizing a coup against Obiang, in 2004, to overthrow the dictator and put Severo Moto in his place. The son of Margaret Thatcher, Mark Thatcher, was also implicated in the coup. Mann was jailed in Zimbabwe until 2008, when he was extradited to Black Beach. However, on November 2, 2009 he was released by a presidential pardon on humanitarian grounds. The image of Du Toit extremely thin and shackled in his cell at Black Beach was seen all over the world. One of the alleged coup plotters, the German Gerhard Eugen Nershz, died few days after of being admitted to Black Beach. Authorities said that he had contracted cerebral malaria; however, as reported by witnesses, he had severe injuries in hands and feet caused by torture.