Equatorial Guinea: Where the Dead Find Peace… and a Final Paycheck

Equatorial Guinea, a tiny oil-rich nation on the Gulf of Guinea, offers a unique blend of beauty, mystery, and a controversial practice connected to its colonial past – the payment of "final salaries" to deceased workers in the afterlife. This curious tradition has drawn scrutiny and fascination in equal measure.

A Land of Contrasts

Equatorial Guinea boasts breathtaking landscapes, lush rainforests teeming with wildlife, and pristine beaches. Its abundance of oil wealth has brought prosperity, but also casts a shadow of inequality and dependence on this finite resource. The nation grapples with high poverty and corruption, alongside burgeoning infrastructure and an improved standard of living.

The Tradition of Final Salaries

During Spanish colonial rule, Equatorial Guinea witnessed widespread forced labor. Workers forced to toil on plantations and infrastructure projects received meagre pay, often going unpaid for their toil. This practice continues in a controversial form after colonial rule ended. Families of deceased workers are often presented with a document outlining the deceased’s "final salary" – typically a sum of money owed to them by the government.

Controversy and Debate

This tradition is ethically questionable and violates basic human rights. Human rights groups condemn the practice, calling it extortion and exploitation of grieving families. Some families are forced to accept these payments to cover burial costs or other financial burdens. Others are coerced by government officials to accept the payments, fearing repercussions.

Beyond the Controversy

Despite the controversy, the tradition persists. Many families see the payment as a form of closure and a way to provide for their deceased loved ones. The government officially denies coercion, claiming the payments are voluntary.


1. Is the practice legal?

The legality of final salaries is disputed. While not explicitly illegal, the practice lacks transparency and accountability, raising concerns about its ethical and legal implications.

2. How much are final salaries typically paid?

The amount varies depending on the individual’s salary and the government’s discretion. Reports suggest payments can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands.

3. Who is eligible for a final salary?

The definition is ambiguous, but it often includes laborers, farmers, and civil servants who died while employed by the government or state-owned enterprises.

4. What are the criticisms of the practice?

Critics argue that it violates human rights, exploits grieving families, and perpetuates inequality.

5. What is the government’s response to the criticism?

The government denies coercion and claims the payments are voluntary, though they provide little evidence to support this claim.


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