Guinea

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République de Guinée
Republic of Guinea
Flag of Guinea Coat of arms of Guinea
Motto"Travail, Justice, Solidarité" (French)
"Work, Justice, Solidarity"
Anthem: Liberté (French)
"Freedom"

Location of Guinea
Location of Guinea within the African Union
Capital
(and largest city)
Conakry
9°31′N 13°42′W
Official languages French
Vernacular languages Pular, Mandinka and Susu
Demonym Guinean
Government Presidential republic
 -  President Alpha Condé
 -  Prime Minister Mohamed Said Fofana
Independence
 -  from France¹ October 2, 1958 
Area
 -  Total 245,857 km² (78th)
94,926 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) negligible
Population
 -  July 2009 estimate 10,057,975[1] (81st)
 -  1996 census 7,156,407 
 -  Density 40.9/km² 
106.1/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $10.807 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $1,046[2] 
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $4.633 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $448[2] 
Gini (1994) 40.3 (medium
Currency Guinean franc (GNF)
Time zone (UTC+0)
Internet TLD .gn
Calling code +224

Guinea, officially Republic of Guinea, is a nation in West Africa formerly known as French Guinea. Guinea's territory has a curved shape, with its base at the Atlantic Ocean, inland to the east, and turning south. The base borders Guinea-Bissau and Senegal to the north, and Mali to the north and northeast; the inland part borders Côte d'Ivoire to the southeast, Liberia to the south, and Sierra Leone to the west of the southern tip. It encompasses the water source of the Niger, Senegal, and Gambia rivers.

The name Guinea is used for the region of most of Africa's west coast south of the Sahara Desert and north of the Gulf of Guinea. Guinea is sometimes called Guinea-Conakry per its capital, to differentiate it from the neighboring Guinea-Bissau (whose capital is Bissau).

Contents

Guinea possesses major mineral, hydroelectric, and agricultural resources, yet remains an underdeveloped nation. The country possesses over 30 percent of the world's bauxite reserves and is the second-largest bauxite producer. With proper management, Guinea has the resources to lift it from poverty and develop a system enriching to its people.

Geography

Guinea is roughly the size of the United Kingdom and slightly smaller than the states of Michigan or Oregon. There are 200 miles (320 km) of coastline. The total land border is 2,112 miles (3,399 km). The countries bordering Guinea include Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.

The country is divided into three main regions: the lowlands along the coast, the mountains that run roughly north-south through the country, and the forested jungle regions in the south and east. Guinea's mountains are the source for the Niger, Gambia, and Senegal Rivers, as well as the numerous rivers flowing to the sea on the west side of the range in Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire.

The highest point in Guinea is Mont Nimba at 5,748 ft (1,752 m). Although the Guinean and Ivorian sides of the Nimba Massif are a UNESCO Strict Nature Reserve, a portion of the so-called Guinean Backbone continues into Liberia, where it has been mined for decades.


Fouta Djallon

Fouta Djallon is a highland region in the center of Guinea. The indigenous name is Fuuta-Jaloo (sometimes spelled Fuuta Jalon; Fouta Djallon is a French spelling; in English it is sometimes also written Futa Jalon).

Fouta Djallon consists mainly of rolling grasslands, at an average elevation of about 3,000 feet (900 meters). The highest point, Mount Loura, rises to 4,970 feet (1,515 meters). The plateau consists of thick sandstone formations that overlie granitic basement rock. Erosion by rain and rivers has carved deep jungle canyons and valleys into the sandstone.

It receives a great deal of rainfall, and the headwaters of three major rivers, the Niger River, the Gambia River and the Senegal River, have their sources on it. It is thus sometimes called the watertower of West Africa. Some authors also refer to Fouta Jallon as the Switzerland of West Africa.

This area has been subject to excessive burning, and the lower slopes are characterized by secondary woodland, much sedge, and expanses of laterite; the higher plateaus and peaks have dense forest, and some plants found nowhere else in the world have been reported on them.

Map of Guinea

Flora and fauna

Dense mangrove forests grow along Guinea's river mouths. The vegetation of Lower Guinea is woodland with many woody climbers and bushes. Gum copal is common near streams.

Savanna woodland characterizes Upper Guinea, with only tall grass in large areas; trees include the shea nut, tamarind, and locust bean. There is rain forest along the border with Liberia.

The elephant, hippopotamus, buffalo, lion, leopard, and many kinds of antelope and monkey are to be found in Guinea, as well as crocodiles and several species of venomous snakes. Birds are plentiful and diverse. [3]

Climate

Guinea's coastal region and much of the inland area have a tropical climate with a long rainy season of six months, a relatively high and uniform annual temperature, and high humidity. Conakry's year-round average high is 29°C (84°F), and the low is 23°C (73°F); its average rainfall is 430 cm (169 in) per year. April is the hottest month; July and August are the wettest. Rainfall in the Fouta Jallon is much less (about 150–200 cm/60–80 in) and more irregular, and temperatures are lower; moreover, the daily temperature range is much greater, especially during the dry season. In Upper Guinea, rainfall is lower than in the Futa Djallon; the average daily temperature range is as great as 14°C (25°F), and greater in the dry season. Rainfall in the highlands averages about 280 cm (110 in) annually; temperatures are relatively equable owing to the altitude, although with an average daily range of 18° C (32°F). [4]

History

The land today's Guinea occupies has been part of a series of empires, beginning with the Ghana Empire which came into being c. 900. This was followed by the Sosso kingdom in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Mali Empire came to power in the area after the Battle of Kirina in 1235 and prospered until internal problems weakened it, and its states seized power in the fifteenth century. One chief state was the Songhai state, which became the Songhai Empire. It exceeded its predecessors in territory and wealth, but it too fell prey to internal wrangling and civil war and was eventually toppled at the Battle of Tondibi in 1591.

The area then fragmented until an Islamic state was founded in the eighteenth century, bringing some stability to the region. Another important event was the arrival of Fulani Muslims in the highland region of Fuuta Jalloo in the early eighteenth century.

Europeans came to the area during the Portuguese discoveries that began the slave trade, beginning in the fifteenth century.

Present-day Guinea was created as a colony by France in 1890. The capital Conakry was founded on Tombo Island in 1890. In 1895 the country was incorporated into French West Africa.

On September 28, 1958, under the direction of Charles de Gaulle, France held a referendum on a new constitution and the creation of the Fifth Republic. Its colonies were given a choice between immediate independence and the new constitution. All except Guinea voted for the new constitution. Thus, Guinea became the first French African colony to gain independence, at the cost of the immediate ending of all French assistance.

After independence Guinea was governed by dictator Ahmed Sekou Toure. Touré pursued broadly socialist economic policies and suppressed opposition and free expression with little regard for human rights. After his death in 1984, Lansana Conté took power and immediately changed the economic policies but kept the close grip on power. The first elections were held in 1993, but their results and those of subsequent elections were disputed. Conté faces regular criticism for the condition of the country's economy and for his heavy-handed approach to political opponents.

Guinea still faces very real problems; according to the International Crisis Group, it is in danger of becoming a failed state. President Conté fired his prime minister in April 2006 and failed to appoint a new one until the end of January 2007. During 2006, there were two strikes by city workers, both quickly resolved by conceding more favorable wages to city employees, and ten students were killed to squelch a demonstration, ending that minor uprising. However, by the beginning of 2007, trade unions called new strikes to protest rising living costs, government corruption, and economic mismanagement. These strikes drew some of the largest demonstrations seen during Conté's tenure and resulted in over a hundred deaths and large-scale destruction. After initially appointing a prime minister seen as an ally, Conte eventually accepted a candidate proposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS): Lansana Kouyate, a former United Nations under–secretary-general. Another positive sign is that the Parliament overturned the state of emergency that Conte had declared.


Politics

Monument to commemorate the 1970 military victory over the Portuguese invasion

Guinea has had only two presidents since independence was declared on October 2, 1958. Under Ahmed Sékou Touré the country went into political and economic isolation as a consequence of the withdrawal of French assistance. This lasted until economic necessity called for an opening of the economy in 1978 [5]. Lansana Conté took control of the country in 1984 after the death of Sekou Touré. Conté was elected president in 1993, then again in 1998 and 2003. But the validity of those elections is contested, since Conté has not tolerated potential adversaries.

The unicameral People's National Assembly has 114 seats; members are elected by direct, popular vote to serve five-year terms.

Administrative divisions

Guinea is divided into seven administrative regions and subdivided into 33 prefectures. The national capital, Conakry, ranks as a special zone. The regions are Boké, Faranah, Kankan, Kindia, Labé, Mamou, Nzérékoré and Conakry.

Armed forces

Guinea's armed forces numbered about 9,700 in 2002, including 8,500 in the army, 400 in the navy, and 800 in the air force. The People's Militia had 7,000 and 2,600 in the gendarmerie and Republican Guard. Opposition forces numbered approximately 1,800 in the Movement of the Democratic Forces of Guinea.

Defense spending in 2001 was $137.6 million or 3.3% of GDP. The military's equipment was predominately Soviet–made. [6]

Economy

Guinea possesses major mineral, hydroelectric, and agricultural resources, yet remains an underdeveloped nation. The country possesses over 30 percent of the world's bauxite reserves and is the second-largest bauxite producer. The mining sector accounts for about 70 percent of exports.

Long-run improvements in government fiscal arrangements, literacy, and the legal framework are needed if the country is to move out of poverty. Investor confidence has been sapped by rampant corruption, a lack of electricity and other infrastructure, a lack of skilled workers, and the political uncertainty due to the failing health of President Conté. Guinea is trying to reengage with the IMF and World Bank, which cut off most assistance in 2003, and is working closely with technical advisors from the U.S. Treasury Department, the World Bank, and IMF, seeking to return to a fully funded program. Growth rose slightly in 2006, primarily due to increases in global demand and commodity prices on world markets, but the standard of living fell. The Guinea franc depreciated sharply as the prices for basic necessities like food and fuel rose beyond the reach of most Guineans. Dissatisfaction with economic conditions prompted nationwide strikes in 2006 and 2007.

In September 2006, the government signed a production-sharing contract with an American company to explore for offshore petroleum resources.

In 2006, Transparency International ranked Guinea as the most perceived corrupt nation in Africa and one of the most corrupt countries in the world, ranking alongside Myanmar, Iraq and Haiti.

Transportation

The railroad that once operated from Conakry to Bamako in Mali has been abandoned. As of 2006, all travel is by plane or automobile. Most vehicles in Guinea are some 20 years old, and cabs are any four-door vehicle the owner has designated as for hire. Locals, nearly entirely without vehicles of their own, rely upon these taxis (which charge per seat) and small buses to take them around town and across the country. Horses and donkeys are also found pulling carts, though this is primarily used to transport construction materials.

Demographics

The Road between Conakry and Katon

The majority (85 percent) of the population is Muslim, with Christians 8 percent and indigenous beliefs 7 percent.

Ethnic groups

Several ethnic groups make up the population of Guinea, including three larger ones and a number of others:

  • Fulɓe People; who are chiefly found in the mountainous region of Fouta Djallon
  • Maninka (or Malinke, also known as Mandinka or Mandingo), mostly inhabiting the savanna of Upper Guinea and the Forest region
  • Susu people or Soussous.
  • Several small groups, including Gerzé, Toma, and Kissis, in the forest region
  • Bagas Peoples, including Landoumas and Koniagis, in the coastal area

West Africans make up the largest non-Guinean population. Non-Africans total about 30,000 (mostly Lebanese, French, and other Europeans).

Languages

Seven national languages are used extensively; the major written languages are French, Fula or Peuhl, and Arabic. Other languages have established Latin orthographies that are used somewhat, notably for Susu and Maninka. The N'Ko alphabet is increasingly used on a grassroots level for the Maninka language.


Facts and figures

Population: 9,690,222 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 44.4 percent (male 2,171,733/female 2,128,027)
15-64 years: 52.5 percent (male 2,541,140/female 2,542,847)
65 years and over: 3.2 percent (male 134,239/female 172,236) (2006 est.)


Population growth rate: 2.63 percent (2006 est.)

Birth rate: 41.76 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate: 15.48 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
note: as a result of conflict in neighboring countries, Guinea is host to approximately 141,500 refugees from Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone (2006 est.)


Gender ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2006 est.)


Infant mortality rate: 90 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 49.5 years
male: 48.34 years
female: 50.7 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate: 5.79 children born/woman (2006 est.)

Nationality:
noun: Guinean(s)
adjective: Guinean

Ethnic groups: Fula 40 percent, Malinke 30 percent, Susu 20 percent, smaller ethnic groups 10 percent

Religions: Muslim 85 percent, Christian 8 percent (mainly Roman Catholic, indigenous beliefs 7 percent.

Official census does not break in ethnicity or religion

Languages: French (official), each ethnic group has its own language

Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 35.9 percent
male: 49.9 percent
female: 21.9 percent (1995 est.)

Society and culture

Like other West African countries, Guinea has a rich musical tradition. The group Bembeya Jazz became popular in the 1960s. The Vancouver-based guitarist Alpha Yaya Diallo hails from Guinea and incorporates its traditional rhythms and melodies into his original compositions, for which he has won two Juno Awards.

Guinea's main sport is football (soccer). Swimming is popular near the capital, Conakry.

Religion

About 85 percent of all Guineans, particularly the Fulani and Malinké, are Muslims; about 10 percent follow various Christian faiths; and most of the remaining 5 percent practice traditional African religions. Most Muslims belong to the Sunni sect, and practices, particularly public prayers and the prescribed fasts, are often combined with animist beliefs and ceremonies. Christian missions were established in the 19th century, but converts have been few. Among Christian groups are Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, and various other evangelical churches. There are a small number of Baha'is, Hindus, Buddhists, and observers of traditional Chinese religions.

In May 1967, President Sékou Touré ordered that only Guinean nationals be allowed to serve in the country's Roman Catholic priesthood. The Catholic archbishop in Conakry was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor in 1971 for allegedly plotting against the state; he was released in August 1979. In 1984 private education, long prohibited by the government, was again permitted.

Certain holidays of both Islam and Christianity are recognized as public holidays. [7]

Role of women

Guinea's laws prohibits discrimination based on gender, but are not effectively enforced. Violence against women is common, but the courts rarely intervene in domestic disputes. Women traditionally play a subordinate role in family and public life. Inheritance customs favor male children over female children.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice that is both painful and often life-threatening, continues to be practiced in all parts of the country. In 1997 the government launched a 20-year plan to eradicate FGM. [8]

Notes

  1. Central Intelligence Agency (2009). Guinea. The World Factbook. Retrieved January 28, 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Guinea. International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 2011-04-21.
  3. Guinea Flora and Fauna, Encyclopedia of the Nations, Thomson Corporation. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  4. Guinea Climate, Encyclopedia of the Nations, Thomson Corporation. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  5. Reader's Digest Association (Great Britain). 1995. Guide to places of the world. (London: Reader's Digest Association. ISBN 0276422139)
  6. Guinea Armed Forces, Encyclopedia of the Nations, Thomson Corporation. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  7. Guinea Religion, Encyclopedia of the Nations, Thomson Corporation. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  8. Guinea Social Development, Encyclopedia of the Nations, Thomson Corporation. Retrieved April 4, 2007.

References

  • Cutter, Charles Hickman. 2006. Africa, 2006. World today series. Harpers Ferry, WV: Stryker-Post Publications. ISBN 1887985727
  • Guinea Top News, AllAfrica Global Media. Retrieved March 19, 2007.
  • Background Note: Guinea, U.S. State Department. Retrieved March 19, 2007

External links

All links retrieved January 22, 2014.

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