Guinea

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Africa; African Countries

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

Location of Guinea
Capital
(and largest city)
Conakry
Official languages French
Demonym Guinean
Government Republic
 -  President Lansana Conté
 -  Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souaré
Independence
 -  from France 2 October 1958 
Area
 -  Total 245,857 km² ( 78th)
94,926  sq mi 
 -  Water (%) negligible
Population
 -  July 2005 estimate 9,402,000 ( 83rd)
 -  1996 census 7,156,406 
 -  Density 38/km² ( 164th)
98/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2005 estimate
 -  Total $18.879 billion ( 111th)
 -  Per capita $2,035 ( 142nd)
Gini (1994) 40.3 (medium
HDI (2007) 0.456 (low) ( 160th)
Currency Guinean franc ( GNF)
Time zone GMT
Internet TLD .gn
Calling code +224

Guinea, officially Republic of Guinea (pronounced /ˈgɪni/, French: République de Guinée), is a country 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 north-east; the inland part borders Côte d'Ivoire to the south-east, Liberia to the south, and Sierra Leone to the west of the southern tip. Its water sources include the Niger River">Niger, Senegal, and Gambia rivers. Guinea is sometimes called Guinea-Conakry (Conakry being its capital) to differentiate it from the neighboring Guinea-Bissau (whose capital is Bissau).

History

The land composing present-day Guinea was part of a series of empires, beginning with the " Ghana Empire" which came into being around 900 CE. This was followed by the Sosso kingdom in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Mali Empire took control of the region after the Battle of Kirina in 1235, but grew weaker over time from internal conflicts, which eventually led to its dissolution. One of the strongest successor states was the Songhai state, which became the Songhai Empire. It exceeded its predecessors in terms of 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.

A chaotic period followed, until an Islamic state was founded in the eighteenth century, bringing some stability to the region. A simultaneous important development was the arrival of Fulani Muslims in the highland region of Fuuta Jalloo in the early eighteenth century.

Europeans first came to the area during the Portuguese Discoveries in the fifteenth century, which saw the beginning of the slave trade.

Guinea was created as a colony by France in 1890 with Noël Balley as the first governor. The capital Conakry was founded on Tombo Island in the same year. In 1895 the country was incorporated into French West Africa.

Monument to commemorate the 1970 military victory over the Mercenaries invasion.
Monument to commemorate the 1970 military victory over the Mercenaries invasion.

On 28 September 1958, under the direction of Charles de Gaulle, Metropolitan France held a referendum on a new constitution and the creation of the Fifth Republic. The colonies, except Algeria, which was legally a direct part of France, were given the choice between immediate independence or retaining their colonial status. All colonies except Guinea opted for the latter. Thus, Guinea became the first French African colony to gain independence, at the cost of the immediate cessation of all French assistance.

After independence Guinea was governed by the dictator Ahmed Sékou Touré. Touré pursued broadly socialist economic policies, suppressed opposition and free expression with little regard for human rights. Under his leadership, Guinea joined the Non-Aligned Movement and pursued close ties with the Eastern Bloc. After Toure's death in 1984, Lansana Conté assumed power and immediately changed his predecessor's economic policies, but the government remained dictatorial. The first elections since independence were held in 1993, but the results and those of subsequent elections were disputed. Conté faces domestic criticism for the condition of the country's economy and for his heavy-handed approach to political opposition.

While on a visit to France with his family in 2005, Prime Minister François Fall resigned and sought asylum, citing corruption and increasing interference from the President, which he felt limited his effectiveness as the head of the government. Fall's successor, Cellou Dalein Diallo, was removed in April of 2006, and Conté failed to appoint a new one until the end of January 2007 after devastating nationwide strikes and mass demonstrations. During 2006, there were two nationwide strikes by government workers, during which 10 students were shot dead by the military; strikes were suspended when Conté agreed to more favorable wages to civil servants and a reduction of the cost of certain basic amenities (rice and oil).

At the beginning of 2007, citing the government's failure to honour the terms of previous agreements, trade unions called new strikes, protesting of rising costs of living, government corruption, and economic mismanagement. Lasting for more than 2 weeks, these strikes drew some of the largest demonstrations seen during Conté's tenure and resulted in some 60 deaths. Among the unions' demands was that the aging and ailing President name a consensus Prime Minister, to fill the post vacant since Diallo's removal, and relinquish to him certain presidential responsibilities. Conté reluctantly agreed to appoint a new prime minister and lower fuel and rice prices, and the strikes were subsequently suspended.

On 13 February 2007, upon the nomination of Eugene Camara to the post of Prime Minister, viewed as a close ally of Conté, violent demonstrations immediately broke out throughout the country. Strikes resumed, citing the President's failure to nominate a "consensus" prime minister as per the January 27th agreement. A state of martial law was declared after violent clashes with demonstrators, bringing the death toll since January to well over 100, and there were widespread reports of pillaging and rapes committed by men in military uniform. Government buildings and property owned by government officials throughout the country were looted and destroyed by angry mobs. Many feared Guinea to be on the verge of civil war as protesters from all parts of Guinea called for Conté's unequivocal resignation.

After diplomatic intervention from ECOWAS, neighboring heads of state, the EU, the UN, etc., Conté agreed to choose a new Prime Minister from a list of five candidates furnished by the labor unions and civic leaders. On February 26, Lansana Kouyaté, former Guinean ambassador to the UN, was nominated to the post. Strikes were called off, and the nomination was hailed by the strikers.

Government and politics

Politics of Guinea takes place in a framework of a presidential republic, whereby the President of Guinea is both head of state, head of government, and the commander in chief of the Guinean Military. The president is elected to a maximum of two 7 year term, although the current Guinee Lansana Conte who has been in power since 1984 continue to run for further terms. Executive power is exercised by the president and members of his cabinet. To be elected president of Guinea a candidate must be a Guinean born citizen by birth, be at least 35 years of age and must be able to speak and read the French language.

Legislative power is vested in the National Assembly. The National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) has 114 members, elected for a four year term, 38 members in single-seat constituencies and 76 members by proportional representation. Guinea is a one party dominant state with the Party of Unity and Progress in power. Opposition parties are allowed, but are widely considered to have no real chance of gaining power.

Regions and prefectures

Regions of Guinea

Guinea is divided into seven administrative regions and subdivided into thirty-three prefectures. The national capital, Conakry, ranks as a special zone.

  • Boké Region
  • Conakry Region
  • Faranah Region
  • Kankan Region
  • Kindia Region
  • Labé Region
  • Mamou Region
  • Nzérékoré Region

Largest cities

  1. Conakry (2,000,000)
  2. Labé (700,000)
  3. Kankan (439,017)
  4. Kindia (279,884 )
  5. Nzérékoré (247,855)
  6. Kissidougou (135,900)
  7. Guéckédou (116,541)
  8. Mamou (105,754)

Geography

Map of Guinea
Satellite image of Guinea, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library
Satellite image of Guinea, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library

At 94,919 square miles (245,857 km²), Guinea is roughly the size of the United Kingdom and slightly smaller than the U.S. state of 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, Sierra Leone. The country is divided into four main regions: the Basse-Cote lowlands in the west along the coast, populated mainly by the Susu ethnic group; the cooler, mountainous Fouta Djalon that run roughly north-south through the middle of the country, populated by Peuls, the Sahelian Haute-Guinea to the northeast, populated by Malinkes, and the forested jungle regions in the southeast, with several ethnic groups. Guinea's mountains are the source for the Niger, the 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 Ivory Coast.

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

Economy

Richly endowed with minerals, Guinea possesses over 25 billion metric tons (MT) of bauxite -- and perhaps up to one-half of the world's reserves. In addition, Guinea's mineral wealth includes more than 4-billion tons of high-grade iron ore, significant diamond and gold deposits, and undetermined quantities of uranium. Guinea has considerable potential for growth in the agricultural and fishing sectors. Soil, water, and climatic conditions provide opportunities for large-scale irrigated farming and agro industry. Possibilities for investment and commercial activities exist in all these areas, but Guinea's poorly developed infrastructure and rampant corruption continue to present obstacles to large-scale investment projects.

Joint venture bauxite mining and alumina operations in northwest Guinea historically provide about 80% of Guinea's foreign exchange. The Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinea (CBG) is the main player in the bauxite industry. CBG is a joint venture, in which 49% of the shares are owned by the Guinean Government and 51% by an international consortium led by Alcoa and Alcan. CBG exports about 14 million metric tons of high-grade bauxite every year. The Compagnie des Bauxites de Kindia (CBK), a joint venture between the Government of Guinea and Russki Alumina, produces some 2.5 million MT annually, nearly all of which is exported to Russia and Eastern Europe. Dian Dian, a Guinean/Ukrainian joint bauxite venture, has a projected production rate of 1 million MT per year, but is not expected to begin operations for several years. The Alumina Compagnie de Guinée (ACG), which took over the former Friguia Consortium, produced about 2.4 million tons of bauxite in 2004, which is used as raw material for its alumina refinery. The refinery supplies about 750,000 MT of alumina for export to world markets. Both Global Alumina and Alcoa-Alcan have signed conventions with the Government of Guinea to build large alumina refineries with a combined capacity of about 4 million MT per year.

Diamonds and gold also are mined and exported on a large scale. AREDOR, a joint diamond-mining venture between the Guinean Government (50%) and an Australian, British, and Swiss consortium, began production in 1984 and mined diamonds that are 90% gem quality. Production stopped from 1993 until 1996, when First City Mining of Canada purchased the international portion of the consortium. By far, most diamonds are mined artisanally. The largest gold mining operation in Guinea is a joint venture between the government and Ashanti Gold Fields of Ghana. SMD also has a large gold mining facility in Lero near the Malian border. Other concession agreements have been signed for iron ore, but these projects are still awaiting preliminary exploration and financing results.

The Guinean Government adopted policies in the 1990s to return commercial activity to the private sector, promote investment, reduce the role of the state in the economy, and improve the administrative and judicial framework. Guinea has the potential to develop, if the government carries out its announced policy reforms, and if the private sector responds appropriately. So far, corruption and favoritism, lack of long-term political stability, and lack of a transparent budgeting process continue to dampen foreign investor interest in major projects in Guinea.

Reforms since 1985 include eliminating restrictions on agriculture and foreign trade, liquidation of some parastatals, the creation of a realistic exchange rate, increased spending on education, and cutting the government bureaucracy. In July 1996, President Lansana Conté appointed a new government, which promised major economic reforms, including financial and judicial reform, rationalization of public expenditures, and improved government revenue collection. Under 1996 and 1998 International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank agreements, Guinea continued fiscal reforms and privatizations, and shifted governmental expenditures and internal reforms to the education, health, infrastructure, banking, and justice sectors. Cabinet changes in 1999 as well increasing corruption, economic mismanagement, and excessive government spending combined to slow the momentum for economic reform. The informal sector continues to be a major contributor to the economy.

The government revised the private investment code in 1998 to stimulate economic activity in the spirit of free enterprise. The code does not discriminate between foreigners and nationals and provides for repatriation of profits. While the code restricts development of Guinea's hydraulic resources to projects in which Guineans have majority shareholdings and management control, it does contain a clause permitting negotiations of more favorable conditions for investors in specific agreements. Foreign investments outside Conakry are entitled to more favorable benefits. A national investment commission has been formed to review all investment proposals. The United States and Guinea have signed an investment guarantee agreement that offers political risk insurance to American investors through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). In addition, Guinea has inaugurated an arbitration court system, which allows for the quick resolution of commercial disputes.

Until June 2001, private operators managed the production, distribution, and fee-collection operations of water and electricity under performance-based contracts with the Government of Guinea. However, both utilities are plagued by inefficiency and corruption. Foreign private investors in these operations departed the country in frustration.

In 2002, the IMF suspended Guinea's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) because the government failed to meet key performance criteria. In reviews of the PRGF, the World Bank noted that Guinea had met its spending goals in targeted social priority sectors. However, spending in other areas, primarily defense, contributed to a significant fiscal deficit. The loss of IMF funds forced the government to finance its debts through Central Bank advances. The pursuit of unsound economic policies has resulted in imbalances that are proving hard to correct.

Under then-Prime Minister Diallo, the government began a rigorous reform agenda in December 2004 designed to return Guinea to a PRGF with the IMF. Exchange rates have been allowed to float, price controls on gasoline have been loosened, and government spending has been reduced while tax collection has been improved. These reforms have not slowed down inflation, which hit 27% in 2004 and 30% in 2005. Depreciation is also a concern. The Guinea franc was trading at 2550 to the dollar in January 2005. It hit 5554 to the dollar by October 2006.

Despite the opening in 2005 of a new road connecting Guinea and Mali, most major roadways connecting the country's trade centers remain in poor repair, slowing the delivery of goods to local markets. Electricity and water shortages are frequent and sustained, and many businesses are forced to use expensive power generators and fuel to stay open.

Even though there are many problems plaguing Guinea's economy, not all foreign investors are reluctant to come to Guinea. Global Alumina's proposed alumina refinery has a price tag above $2 billion. Alcoa and Alcan are proposing a slightly smaller refinery worth about $1.5 billion. Taken together, they represent the largest private investment in sub-Saharan Africa since the Chad-Cameroun oil pipeline. Also, an American oil company, Hyperdynamics, has recently signed an agreement to develop Guinea's offshore oil deposits.

The west coast of Africa is now ripe for oil development, and Guinea is actively being courted in this endeavor. Hyperdynamics and Guinea signed a psa in 2006, and have been diligently bringing oil exploration into the final stages. It is thought by many of the large oil companies that the west coast of Africa, which Guinea centers, might be able to supply the United States with near thirty percent of oil within ten years.

Transportation

The railway which used to operate from Conakry to Kankan, ceased operating in the mid-1980s. Domestic air services are intermittent. Most vehicles in Guinea are some 20 years old, and cabs are mostly any 4-door vehicle which 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. There is some river traffic on the Niger and Milo rivers. Horses and donkeys are also found pulling carts, primarily to transport construction materials.

Development of iron ore deposits at Simandou in the south east of the country in 2007 are likely to see the construction of a new heavy duty standard gauge railway and deepwater port.

Demography

The population of Guinea is estimated at 9,947,814. Conakry, the capital and largest city, is the hub of Guinea's economy, commercial, educational and culture.

Languages

The official language in Guinea is French. Other significant languages spoken are Fula, Maninka, Susu, Arabic, Insula, Kissi, Kpele, and Loma.

Ethnicity

The population of Guinea comprises about 24 ethnic groups. The three largest and most dominant are the Fulani (also known as Fula), comprising 40% of the population. They are mostly found in the Futa Jallon Region. The Mandinka (Also known as Mandingo), comprising 30% of the population, are mostly found in eastern Guinea and are concentrated around the Kankan and Kissidougou Prefectures. The Soussou, comprising 20%, are predominantly in areas around the capital Conakry, Forécariah, and Kindia. Smaller ethnic groups make up the remaining 10% of the population.

Military

The Guinean armed forces are divided into four branches:

The Guinean Army

By far the largest branch of The Republic of the Guinea Armed Forces, with an active force of about 15,000 personnel. The army is mainly responsible for protection of the state borders, the security of administered territories and defending the national interests of Guinea.

The Guinean Air Force

A branch of the Guinean Armed Forces, that primarily conducts aerial warfare. Air force personnel total about 700; its equipment includes several Russian-supplied fighter planes and transport planes.

The Guinean Navy

A branch of the Guinean Armed Forces, The navy has about 900 personnel and operates several small patrol craft and barges.

The Guinean Gendarmerie

A branch of the Guinean Armed Forces responsible for internal security; though, they are not police officers.

Healthcare

Guinea has been reorganizing its health system since the Bamako Initiative of 1987 formally promoted community-based methods of increasing accessibility of drugs and health care services to the population, in part by implementing user fees. The new strategy dramatically increased accessibility through community-based healthcare reform (including community ownership and local budgeting), resulting in more efficient and equitable provision of services. A comprehensive approach strategy was extended to all areas of health care, with subsequent improvement in the health care indicators and improvement in health care efficiency and cost.
Guinea's public health code is defined by Law No. L/97/021/AN of 19 June 1997 promulgating the Public Health Code. The law provides for the protection and promotion of health and for the rights and duties of the individual, the family, and community throughout the territory of the Republic of Guinea.

HIV/AIDS in Guinea

The first cases of HIV/AIDS in Guinea were reported in 1986. Though levels of AIDS in Guinea are significantly lower than in a number of other African countries, as of 2005, Guinea was considered by the World Health Organization to face a generalized epidemic.
An estimated 170 000 adults and children were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2004. The spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Guinea was attributed to factors such as proximity to high-prevalence countries, a large refugee population, internal displacement and subregional instability. Polygamy, the low status of women and low rates of condom use have also contributed.

Culture

Like other West African countries, Guinea has a rich musical tradition. The group Bembeya Jazz became popular in the 1960s after Guinean independence. 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.

  • List of writers from Guinea

Sports

Guinea's main sport is football (soccer) and although the national team has never made the FIFA World Cup, it has appeared at eight African Nations Cup finals; it was a runner-up in 1976 and reached the quarter-finals in 2004 and 2006. The current national coach is Robert Nouzaret. Swimming is popular near the capital, Conakry, and hiking is possible in the Fouta Djallon region.

Notables

  • Bobo Balde
  • Lansana Conté
  • Mohammed Camara
  • Mohammed Sylla
  • Titi Camara
  • Teresa Chikaba
  • Amadou Diallo
  • Lansine Kaba
  • Djibril Tamsir Niane
  • Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori
  • Alfa Yaya of Labé
  • Samori Touré
  • Soumaoro Kanté
  • Sékou Touré
  • Umar Tall
  • Katoucha Niane model



  • Shekou Thomas: prominent and rich Guinean during the 1800s and early 1900s.


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