The Republic of Guinea by Sharyn Alden
Guinea, a former French colony in West Africa, is a tropical country about the size of Oregon. Conakry, a natural seaport and the country’s largest city, is located on the western coast, on the Atlantic Ocean. Guinea is sometimes confused with other countries of similar names. When you look at a map of Africa, you’ll see that Guinea borders the North Atlantic Ocean, and is located between the countries of Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone. Other Guineas in the world include: Equatorial Guinea, a Spanish colony in Central Africa, and Papua-New Guinea, a former British colony in the Pacific Ocean, as well as Guineas neighbor, Guinea-Bissau, once a Portuguese colony.
Guineas hot and humid climate is divided into two seasons. Imagine having only two seasons a year, each one defined by rain. Guineas dry season runs between November and May. Once the dry season vanishes, the wet season descends upon the country, pouring rain over the landscape, on and off between May and November.
Rich Natural Resources
Guinea has great economic potential because of its abundance of water, agricultural resources, and mineral deposits. The majority of Guineas population of 7,466,200 people are subsistence farmers who live off the land. Eighty percent of the labor force is involved in agriculture. They grow rice, coffee, pineapples, palm kernels, cassava (tapioca), bananas and sweet potatoes. They also herd cattle, sheep and goats. Guinea also has sizable deposits of iron ore and bauxite. Bauxite, the principal source of aluminum, is an earthy mix of aluminum oxides, iron and silicon. The country possesses two thirds of the worlds bauxite reserves. Abundant deposits of gold, diamonds, platinum, nickel, and uranium are hidden beneath Guineas soil, but mining and export production haven’t been fully developed.
There are four recognized regions of Guinea: Lower Guinea, Middle Guinea, Upper Guinea, and the Forest Zone. Lower Guinea is the wettest part of the country, and often has 200 inches of annual rainfall. The area is rich in tropical fruits, iron ore and bauxite. Middle Guinea is characterized by dramatic rock formations and high plateaus. Spectacular river valleys can be viewed from rocky water towers in the highlands. This area is potentially rich for developing tourism, because of low rainfall and humidity. This interior section is rich in precious stones and bauxite. The Upper Guinea region, a basin of the Niger River, is a grassy savanna, punctuated with plains and rolling hills. The scorching hot dry season, from February to May, makes the savanna look desolate and austere.
During other months of the year, when there is rain, area farmers grow millet and rice. The landscape is filled with gold and diamonds, the areas chief mineral resources, but there are also tsetse flies here, which carry sleeping sickness. Along the countrys southern border is the Forest Zone. Here are the highest mountains in the country, with the centerpiece being Mt. Nimba at 5,748 feet. Coffee and pineapple plantations, iron and diamonds, characterize the regions economy. In recent years, the country has been a temporary home to several thousand refugees from the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. At the beginning of 2000, most of the refugees had returned to their native countries.
Even though Guinea is an unindustrialized country, it is linked to the world beyond its borders. In 1997, the country gained full Internet connectivity. Telephone communication within the country is not up to the standards of many Western countries, but it is steadily growing and improving. Guinea has four AM radio stations, eight FM stations, and six TV stations.
Ethnic Groups and Language
Guinea is a melting pot of eight main ethnic groups. Each group has its own culture and language. Consequently, Guinea is a country of eight official national languages. The languages are Malinke, Susu, Fulani, Kissi, Basari, Loma, Koniagi, and Kpelle. The Fulani are the largest group and make up about 40% of the population. Next are the Mande, (about 30%) who live in northeastern Guinea, and the Susu, (20%) who live along the coastal area. You may wonder if these diverse groups of people get along with each other. The answer is they do because they consider themselves Guineans first. To add to the complexity of the countrys population, each of the eight ethnic groups is made up of smaller ethnic groups. One of these is the Jahanke, who primarily live along the northern border near Senegal. This group, which is 100% Muslim, claims to be descendants of a renowned fifteenth century religious figure. The group is well known for its highly regarded Muslim scholars. Over three quarters of the population of Guinea is Muslim. In recent years, the country has been a temporary home to several thousand refugees from the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. At the beginning of 2000, most of the refugees had returned to their native countries.
Important Dates in Guineas History
1898 - Guineas borders are defined according to agreements with Britain, Portugal and Liberia.
1958 - The country achieves independence. Formerly a territory of French West Africa, Guinea gained its independence under President Sekou Toure.
1958-1984 - Toure kept a firm hold on the country until his death in 1984. During his leadership, he was obsessed with conspiracy plots, which he believed to be aimed at destroying his government. An untold number of people were arrested and condemned at conspiracy trials.
1984 (April 5th) - General Lansana Conte declares a military government which he continues to head until 1993.
1990 (December 23rd) - Guineas Constitution is created.
1993 (December 19th) - Conte is elected president when Guinea holds democratic elections for the first time.
1998 - Conte is re-elected president of Guinea despite controversy surrounding his jailing of a major opposition leader.