Independent fromFrance since 1958, Guinea did not hold democratic elections until 1993 when Gen. Lansana CONTE (head of the military government) was elected president of the civilian government. He was reelected in 1998. Unrest inSierra Leone has spilled over into Guinea, threatening stability and creating a humanitarian emergency.
Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone
:11 00 N, 10 00 W
Area: Total: 245,857 sq km ;water: 0 sq km;land: 245,857 sq km
Climate: Generally hot and humid; monsoonal-type rainy season (June to November) with southwesterly winds; dry season (December to May) with northeasterly harmattan winds
Coastline: 320 km
: 7,775,065 (July 2002 est.)
: 0-14 years: 42.8% (male 1,660,795; female 1,669,850)
15-64 years: 54.5% (male 2,067,991; female 2,165,625)
65 years and over: 2.7% (male 86,968; female 123,836) (2002 est.)
: Noun: Guinean(s); adjective: Guinean
:Peuhl 40%, Malinke 30%, Soussou 20%, smaller ethnic groups 10%Languages
: French (official), each ethnic group has its own language
Guinea possesses major mineral, hydropower, and agricultural resources, yet remains an underdeveloped nation. The country possesses over 30% of the world's bauxite reserves and is the second largest bauxite producer. The mining sector accounted for about 75% of exports in 1999. Long-run improvements in government fiscal arrangements, literacy, and the legal framework are needed if the country is to move out of poverty. The government made encouraging progress in budget management in 1997-99, and reform progress was praised in the World Bank/IMF October 2000 assessment. However, escalating fighting along the Sierra Leonean and Liberian borders has caused major economic disruptions. In addition to direct defense costs, the violence has led to a sharp decline in investor confidence. Foreign mining companies have reduced expatriate staff, while panic buying has created food shortages and inflation in local markets. Multilateral aid - including Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief - and single digit inflation should permit 5% growth in 2002.
Industries: Bauxite, gold, diamonds; alumina refining; light manufacturing and agricultural processing industries
Conventional long form: Republic of Guinea
conventional short form: Guinea
local short form: Guinee
former: French Guinea
local long form: Republique de Guinee
Government type: Republic
2 October 1958 (from France)
Legal system: Based on French civil law system, customary law, and decree; legal codes currently being revised; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
chief of state: President Lansana CONTE (head of military government since 5 April 1984, elected president 19 December 1993)
head of government: Prime Minister Lamine SIDIME (since 8 March 1999)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; candidate must receive a majority of the votes cast to be elected president; election last held 14 December 1998 (next to be held NA December 2003); the prime minister is appointed by the president
election results: Lansana CONTE reelected president; percent of vote - Lansana CONTE (PUP) 56.1%, Mamadou Boye BA (UNR-PRP) 24.6%, Alpha CONDE (RPG) 16.6%,
Telephones - main lines in use:
Telephones - mobile cellular:
Internet users :
Total: 1,086 km;standard gauge: 279 km 1.435-m gauge;narrow gauge: 807 km 1.000-m gauge (includes 662 km in common carrier service fromKankan to Conakry, of which 36 km are usable and the rest are deteriorating (2000 est.)
Total: 30,500 km;paved: 5,033 km ;npaved: 25,467 km (1996)
Around 85% of the population is Muslims while 5% following local native tribal beliefs and 1.5% are Christians, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.
Islam is demographically, socially, and culturally the dominant religion. According to credible estimates, some 85 percent of the population adheres to Islam, 10 percent follow various Christian faiths, and 5 percent hold traditional indigenous beliefs.
Muslims in the country generally adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam; adherents of the Shi'a branch remain relatively few, although they are increasing in number. Among the Christian groups, there are Roman Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh - day Adventist, and other Christian evangelical churches active in the country and recognized by the Government. There are small numbers of Hindus, Buddhists, and practitioners of traditional Chinese religions among the expatriate community. Few, if any, citizens profess atheism.
Geographically, Muslims are a majority in all four major regions. Christians are most numerous in the capital, in lowerGuinea, and in the forest region. Christians are found in all large towns throughout the country, with the exception of the Fouta Jallon region of middle Guinea, where the Puhlar (or Fulani or Peuhl) ethnic group opposes the establishment of religious communities other than Islamic ones. Traditional indigenous religions are most prevalent in the forest region.
The country's large immigrant and refugee populations generally practice the same faiths as citizens, although those from neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone have higher percentages of Christians and adherents of traditional indigenous religions.
Between the 13th and the 15th centuries, Guinea was part of the Empire of Mali, which dominated most of the Sahel region. Around the 15th century, Fulani herders started migrating into the area, and after the Holy Islamic War of 1725 gained control over the Fouta Djalon area. The Portuguese arrived at the coast during the 15th century, and the slave trade followed hot on their heels.
The French arrived in this part of Africa early in the 19th century, proclaiming the coastal region a French protectorate in 1849. In 1958, French President de Gaulle offered the West African French colonies autonomy as separate countries in a Franco-African community, or immediate independence. Sekou Touré was the only West African leader to reject the autonomy path, declaring, perhaps a little rashly, that Guinea preferred 'freedom in poverty to liberty in chains'. Poverty is what the country got for the next 40 years, although the freedom part is debatable. In a fit of pique, de Gaulle immediately withdrew the French administration, and the colonial bureaucrats destroyed all the civilian archives and military equipment - they even ripped out telephone lines. French citizens fled with massive amounts of capital, and the economy disintegrated.
In a bid to be rid of all things French, and with France turning its back on the country economically anyway, Touré jumped into bed with the Soviet Union. He introduced a new currency, the syli, but the ménage à deux with the USSR was over quickly. The Soviet ambassador was thrown out of the country in 1961 for 'interfering in the internal affairs of the country', but Touré's government was not to be swayed from socialism. The party now chose a path for the country more akin to the Chinese model, and in 1967 it even had its own mini cultural revolution.
Three days after Touré died of heart failure, a group of colonels, with Lansana Conté at their head, staged a coup. They denounced Touré and released 1000 political prisoners, promising the restoration of an open society and a return to the holy grail of Market Rules OK. In 1985, after a failed coup, Conté invoked austerity measures and invited the IMF to come in and apply their template. Incomes of some Guineans have consequently skyrocketed, but for most of the population they have plummeted or remained the same. Under the UN's Quality of Life Index, Guinea has ranked last in the world (or next to last) in every year since 1990. Living standards are generally miserable, and the government still spends far more on defense than on health or education. There were allegations of vote-rigging at the 1993 presidential election, which may have been true, and an attempted coup-cum-mutiny over army pay in 1996 failed to unseat the government. The next presidential election is set for 1999.
Taken From: www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/africa/guinea/history.htm