The Republic of Guinea-Bissau (República da Guiné-Bissau) is a country in western Africa, and one the smallest countries in continental Africa. It is bordered by Senegal to the north, and Guinea to the south and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west. Formerly the Portuguese colony of Portuguese Guinea, upon independence, the name of its capital, Bissau, was added to the country's official name in order to prevent confusion between itself and the Republic of Guinea.
Main article: History of Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau was once the kingdom of Gabù, part of the Mali Empire; parts of the kingdom subsisted until the 18th century. Though the rivers and coast of this area were among the first places colonized by the Portuguese, who began the slave trade in the 17th century, the interior was not explored until the 19th century. A rebellion beginning in 1956 by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) consolidated its hold on the country by 1973. Independence was unilaterally declared on September 24 1973, and then recognised following the Portuguese revolution of 1974. The country was controlled by a revolutionary council until 1984. The first multi-party elections were held in 1994, but an army uprising in 1998 led to the president's ousting and the Guinea-Bissau Civil War. Elections were held in 2000 and Kumba Yala was elected.
In September 2003 a coup took place in which the military arrested Yala, because "he was unable to solve the problems". After being delayed several times, legislative elections were held in April 2004. A mutiny of military factions in October 2004 resulted in the death of the head of the armed forces, and caused widespread unrest.
Main article: Politics of Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau has a multi-party National People's Assembly, as well as a president, both elected by popular vote. The president appoints the prime minister after consultation with the parties in the assembly. The former president, Kumba Yala, belongs to the Social Renovation Party or PRS; other parties in the assembly include the Guinea-Bissau Resistance and PAIGC.
Main article: Regions of Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau is divided into nine regions (regiões):
- Bafata Region
- Biombo Region
- Bissau Region
- Bolama Region
- Cacheu Region
- Quinara Region
- Tombali Region
Main article: Geography of Guinea-Bissau
This small, tropical country lies at a low altitude; its highest point is 300 metres. The interior is savanna, and the coast line is swampy plain. Its monsoon-like rainy season alternates with periods of hot, dry harmattan winds blowing from the Sahara. The Bijagos Archipelago extends out to sea.
Main article: Economy of Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau is among the 20 poorest countries of the world. Its farming and fishing economy was badly disrupted by the 1998-99 civil war. It has a foreign debt of $US 921 million and is subject to an IMF structural adjustment program.
One of Guinea-Bissau's important income sources is cashew nuts, of which it exports 90,000 tons per year. In January 2005 the government announced that a locust swarm was threatening this vital crop, and that the country did not have the resources to tackle the infestation .
Main article: Demographics of Guinea-Bissau
The population of Guinea-Bissau is ethnically diverse with distinct languages, customs, and social structures. The main spoken language is Portuguese creole (44%); the Portuguese language is spoken by 14%. Most people are farmers, with traditional religious beliefs (animism); 45% are Muslim, principally Fula and Mandinka speakers concentrated in the north and northeast. Other important groups are the Balanta and Papel , living in the southern coastal regions, and the Manjaco and Mancanha , in the central and northern coastal areas.
Main article: Culture of Guinea-Bissau
See also: List of writers from Guinea-Bissau
- Richard Andrew Lobban, Jr. and Peter Karibe Mendy, Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, 3rd ed. (Scarecrow Press, 1997) ISBN 0-8108-3226-7 Includes extensive bibliography
Last updated: 07-30-2005 17:00:37
Last updated: 09-03-2005 18:37:12